Holidays - Oh Lord, The Holidays!
Let me first start by wishing you all a very happy, and HEALTHY Thanksgiving holiday! Wherever you are and however you have chosen to spend it :) I bring this blog to you today for two reasons, 1- because I struggle with holidays personally. And 2- because I know there are step-mommas out there probably tearing their hair out wondering if they are the only ones dealing with trying to understand how to manage their family holidays between more than one household!
Holidays have been very difficult for me for many years. Aside from my parents, I don't have any family. My children don't have the luxury of aunts and uncles and cousins and family dinners. It has usually just been me and the boys, which has always taken a very emotional toll on me whenever this time of year comes around. They are not getting the family traditions and holiday memories that they should be, or that they deserve, because there really has never been anyone around to give them those experiences. Their father and I tried during their younger years, but it was always hard and we still spent many holidays alone at home. I feel guilty at what they are missing out on because the memories I have of my childhood traditions at the holidays are some of the best. My grandmother never disappointed when it came to Thanksgiving and Easter and our family gatherings were typically very large during those times. I had an abundance of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other generational relatives that were always around - always a part of my life. My mother never missed a beat when it came to Christmas. The cookie decorating, the house decorating, the Christmas music on the weekends, the family time we had decorating the tree, my dad and his gigantic video recorder on Christmas morning. If it wasn't for all the hard work she put into those traditions year after year, I wouldn't have the great memories that I do today as an adult. And as hard as I tried to pass those same things onto my children, it just never happened. Emotionally and mentally it got to be quite challenging for me to try and create something for my boys on my own. To accept that we had no family to share the holidays with. To accept that Thanksgiving dinners were not always turkey and sometimes consisted of pizza and just a phone call from the grandparents. To accept that Christmas was over by 6am when the presents were open because there was no family to share the rest of the day with, no dinner, no house full of chaos. Many, many years I did not finish off either holiday without having at least one good cry and letting myself feel bad for my kids for at least a few minutes before I got over it and ended the day.
Eventually I learned that being alone on the holidays was, in and of itself, a small gift that I had to cherish. Learning be thankful for what I had and being happy and grateful that I even had a home to HAVE dinner in, or presents to GIVE my children. I learned to start focusing on those things every year when the time came around. When the emotions and depression kicked in. I taught myself that the importance of all of it was simply that my children and I had each other and that was it.
And then our whole world changed when I met my husband (2nd and CURRENT husband) and welcomed his 3 children into the mix along with his large extended family that was NOTHING short of accepting and welcoming of me and my children. I still feel like I have hit the jackpot when it comes to the in-laws department because my husbands family is absolutely amazing. The relationship I have with my parents and the bond we share is something I will never have with anyone else, because at the age of 39, I still don't like going a day without calling my mother or telling her stories of things in my life, or even calling to ask her about a recipe even though I can easily look it up on Google in 2 minutes. (Who cares? I want to know how SHE does it!) But my parents lead a different life of retirement that keeps them gone half the year and I don't get to share these times with them. So when my husbands family and 3 children came into the picture, I was grateful. They filled a void that had been wide open for many many years and gave my children and I nothing but time, attention, and love.
All that being said, however, holidays for this blended family are definitely not perfect just because we got married and now have 5 children together. They really are anything BUT easy and perfect. Some years we have children joining us, some years we have no idea if half the children will be with us. This year we have 0 children joining us. (A discussion for a whole other day!) It is hard. It does make me sad sometimes because the vision I had when I went into this second marriage with a large family was that I wouldn't have the endure those feelings of loneliness or depression anymore because, goodness, how could holidays possibly be lonely anymore with 5 kids and all of these people?! What I didn't take into account was the big whammy - custody. Yes friends, that dirty word that works it way into every blended family with a court order sitting around somewhere. Custody effects EVERYTHING and, in some cases, takes a massive toll on anything a family tries to do. Whether its a holiday or a vacation, you know you're not going about it in a normal manner if you have a custody agreement to maintain. And you certainly aren't going about it easily if you share that custody agreement with someone who has no desire to stray even 2 inches away from it. And unfortunately that is not something I took the time to think about when I envisioned the exciting plans for our future with this big new family. But it's okay. Because my husband and I have learned to be happy with Chinese food on holidays and text messages from our kids and family members that we don't see. We understand that just being thankful for the next times we will have together is better than being upset about the time we lose.
So, I leave you all with this. Whether you are preparing for a large family gathering that includes all of your children, or only spending time with some of your children, or whether you are alone and without any of your children this year, I feel you. If you have no family to share the holidays with and it IS just you and your children. I feel you. I feel you so very much. You are also 100% allowed to feel your emotions of joy and bliss over a house full of chaos and family if that is what you are blessed with this year. But if that is not the case, you are not alone in your emotions of not having your family together. Everything you go through as a mother, and/or as a step-mother during the holidays, is completely normal and most-likely warranted. Whatever situation you find yourself in from November-January, there is a whole world of blended families out there who are in the exact same form of emotions as you. (Some of us drink to get through those 2 months - some of us buy way too much chocolate and spend way too much on Amazon. It is what it is!)
Please feel free to reach out or comment if you would like to discuss your holiday stresses or situations any further! I am always happy to connect with any reader and any fellow blended family supporter!
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