Author Topic: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?  (Read 1982 times)

Happy in Paradise

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Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« on: November 20, 2017, 09:27:37 AM »
This is a question geared toward those that travel home for the holidays, and have to balance their time between multiple households due to a parental divorce. This is NOT a financial question, as my trip back home is completely free thanks to a company vehicle with company paid maintenance, insurance, and gasoline. Also, I really don't buy much of anything for holiday gifts. Since I travel, my presence is my present. 😂

Backstory: My parents have been divorced for almost 20 years now, and were married for almost as long.. I was in high school when they split, and it wasn't pretty. Sure I've seen worse, but my parents completely checked out at an integral time and left me to "adult" at a very young age. I have played mediator for years between my parents to manage the chaos of the holidays, but it no longer works. There is one HUGE problem that gets in the way... My father's extended family. They are fantastic!!! So fantastic in fact, that BOTH of my parents want to be at all of the family functions. Knowing this, my dad will call  them up and guilt them into not inviting my mom because he won't go otherwise. This puts my extended family in a weird position, and then I get the call to mediate again. One year when i got this call, I just decided not to go home for the holidays to avoid the drama. I resent the fact that I have to miss out on the most enjoyable time with my extended family simply because my parents are so selfish, they can't think of how their inflexibility has hurt myself or my brother over the years.

My mother is remarried with a life of her own, and yet she sees my father's family regularly for meetups and such, likely more than he does.  The woman has no sense of boundaries (with anyone really), and despite incredible efforts to create boundaries in certain area, I am not successful. She plays victim and lays on the guilt trips. It is honestly exhausting, and it has strained our relationship greatly over time. On the other hand, my father is not remarried and resents my mother for still hanging around his life and keeping close contact with his family. He is stubborn and selfish, and like my interactions with my mother, unwilling to sacrifice anything for his children to be happy. Thhere is no reasoning with this man either.

The rub: I have anxiety about going home for the holidays now. I get guilt trips from both sides if I do not spend enough time with either (whatever that means), stay at one or the orher's house long enough, etc. My mom lays on the guilt nice and thick, and my dad pulls the silent treatment and becomes non-responsive (just another more painful way to guilt and punish others).

How does everyone else deal with their own divided family dramas around the holidays? Do you not visit at the holidays, and only visit at other times of the year? Do you give Xmas Eve to one parent and Xmas day to the other, or split them somehow? I would love to hear how you all manage!

My current solution is to go home on Thanksgiving, visit my Dad and extended family that day as my mom has other obligations with her family that day. I also stop in for a few hours at their Thanksgiving meal so I can see everyone on her side as well. I think I may try to avoid Xmas Eve and just show up late on Xmas and stay through New year's Eve. Not sure yet. Thank you all for your help!


RidetheRain

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2017, 09:47:10 AM »
This is a question geared toward those that travel home for the holidays, and have to balance their time between multiple households due to a parental divorce. This is NOT a financial question, as my trip back home is completely free thanks to a company vehicle with company paid maintenance, insurance, and gasoline. Also, I really don't buy much of anything for holiday gifts. Since I travel, my presence is my present. 😂

Backstory: My parents have been divorced for almost 20 years now, and were married for almost as long.. I was in high school when they split, and it wasn't pretty. Sure I've seen worse, but my parents completely checked out at an integral time and left me to "adult" at a very young age. I have played mediator for years between my parents to manage the chaos of the holidays, but it no longer works. There is one HUGE problem that gets in the way... My father's extended family. They are fantastic!!! So fantastic in fact, that BOTH of my parents want to be at all of the family functions. Knowing this, my dad will call  them up and guilt them into not inviting my mom because he won't go otherwise. This puts my extended family in a weird position, and then I get the call to mediate again. One year when i got this call, I just decided not to go home for the holidays to avoid the drama. I resent the fact that I have to miss out on the most enjoyable time with my extended family simply because my parents are so selfish, they can't think of how their inflexibility has hurt myself or my brother over the years.

My mother is remarried with a life of her own, and yet she sees my father's family regularly for meetups and such, likely more than he does.  The woman has no sense of boundaries (with anyone really), and despite incredible efforts to create boundaries in certain area, I am not successful. She plays victim and lays on the guilt trips. It is honestly exhausting, and it has strained our relationship greatly over time. On the other hand, my father is not remarried and resents my mother for still hanging around his life and keeping close contact with his family. He is stubborn and selfish, and like my interactions with my mother, unwilling to sacrifice anything for his children to be happy. Thhere is no reasoning with this man either.

The rub: I have anxiety about going home for the holidays now. I get guilt trips from both sides if I do not spend enough time with either (whatever that means), stay at one or the orher's house long enough, etc. My mom lays on the guilt nice and thick, and my dad pulls the silent treatment and becomes non-responsive (just another more painful way to guilt and punish others).

How does everyone else deal with their own divided family dramas around the holidays? Do you not visit at the holidays, and only visit at other times of the year? Do you give Xmas Eve to one parent and Xmas day to the other, or split them somehow? I would love to hear how you all manage!

My current solution is to go home on Thanksgiving, visit my Dad and extended family that day as my mom has other obligations with her family that day. I also stop in for a few hours at their Thanksgiving meal so I can see everyone on her side as well. I think I may try to avoid Xmas Eve and just show up late on Xmas and stay through New year's Eve. Not sure yet. Thank you all for your help!

I don't have a divided family, but I think this is a problem a lot of people face outside of that constraint (in-laws vs parents, etc). For my little family, we don't travel during the actual holidays. Since I have to fly halfway across the country prices are usually ridiculous, airports are a mess, and life generally sucks. So I call and wish a very happy Christmas and make plans to visit mid-February. Prices are as cheap as can be, airports are clearer, and I get to spend more time with them because my boss isn't organizing everyone's PTO to have coverage over the holiday. Once everyone gets over the fact that you won't be around for the arbitrary special day it's a much nicer vacation. I imagine roads would be nicer for driving too since that's what you do.

zinnie

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2017, 09:57:45 AM »
Wow, how immature that they are laying guilt trips on an adult child about these kinds of things! Don't mediate for them--you can just simply inform them that you don't feel comfortable being put in the middle like that, and that you expect them to work out these issues among themselves. No explanation needed, just inform them of your boundaries and remind them if they forget. This really isn't your problem and in my experience setting clear, firm, direct boundaries can help your own mental state.

I have a similar situation with divorced parents and one getting hurt if it seems like I spend less time with them. When I visit home, I split the time exactly in half and send them both the same message ahead of time via email: "I'll be in town six nights so I'll plan to spend the first three with mom, and the last three with dad." Christmas eve/ Christmas day is a nice split for me.

It's also ok to not go home, if you feel you are overall better off. But you seemed upset that the drama was keeping you from something you wanted to be involved in.

And one thing on families and family drama--just let it go. It's not fair, and it hurts, but you can't control someone else's behavior. And they probably won't ever change. So let it be and focus on what you can control: how you respond and what you allow to eat at you. I highly recommend meditation for better handling family drama anxiety, too :)

And sorry you're going through this! I've had SO much ridiculous family drama in the past ten years, so I can relate. It seems to hit especially hard when it's family.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2017, 09:59:16 AM by zinnie »

neil

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2017, 10:25:33 AM »
I don't manage it.  My attention is earned and I am not obligated to give it.  It's not that the people in my family are bad or anything; but when my mother died I stopped going "home" every year.  They are on the east coast and I live in California.  No one comes to see me for the holidays.  I'm not saying they should, but a one-sided situation is not a relationship.  And I was never going to grow a family of my own if I give my existing one my full attention.  I am married now and all these theoretical "obligations" have doubled.  It is not feasible to simply add on the responsibility of every individual with any remote connection to you.

For the most part, people understand I have my own life to live and grow.  Others have commented on my lack of attention to family matters.  But this is a family used to having everyone in a five mile radius and I am 3000 miles away.  Traveling is more than monetary costs; it's essentially a nasty form of commuting and you have to spend precious vacation time to do it.  Family that remains local don't realize how disruptive this can be on lifestyle.  If it comes up, I plainly ignore it.

That doesn't mean it gets easy to deal with parents and siblings because the relationship is closer; but they are as capable of visiting you (money/time/job is no more of an excuse for them as it is you) if they really care and want to spend the time with you.  The effort cannot simply be on one side.

arob54600

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2017, 10:49:50 AM »
I have to admit, I HATE the pressure of holidays. So much so that a couple of Easters ago there was a big blow out between my father and stepmother, and my self. 
I was wishy-washy about showing up and told them as much over the phone, ( I'm 30 years old by the way, not a child and an atheist to boot! IDGAF about easter).
And my step-mom threw a complete fit. Threatened to call the cops, because obviously I had been abducted.. Not just a tired and anxiety ridden adult who worked 60 hours a week and wanted to enjoy a peaceful day alone.
I have not had a relationship with them since.
Nobody owns me and I don't owe anyone my time.  I am my own person and I sure as hell don't want to have the cops to my door because I'm not falling in line with family expectations.

I spend time with the other side of the family, the side that understands the holidays stress me out and I just want to decompress. The one that understands holidays aren't a competition on being the best "family".
And I am better off.
#stillbitter

BAM

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2017, 10:59:17 AM »
Ugh - divorce drama!

We choose not to visit during holidays anymore. We've thought about Thanksgiving but it hasn't worked out but I will not ever go back for Christmas.
Last time we did go back, it was for Thanksgiving and we split the time evenly between the three families (my mom/stepdad, my dad/stepmom, my husbands family). Everyone was assigned a day and that's what they got. I asked them ahead of time for any preferences but made sure to mention that those preferences might not be able to be worked with. Then we told everyone when we would be where. Within reason, we let them choose what they wanted to do on the day we were visiting them so we had a couple days of holiday meals, a few activities, etc. Surprisingly, it worked out really well.

I would decide what you want to do and how you want to split the time up and then just let them know. If they cause problems/throw fits/give you attitude/etc, just cut back their time with you. It might be miserable for this visit but I bet they figure it out and behavior improves on the next visit so they can have their time with you. You almost need to treat it like having a couple temper tantrum throwing two year olds. Take away what they are hoping to get by throwing the tantrum. 

Frankies Girl

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2017, 11:02:29 AM »
Your parents are acting like children, so that may be the best way to think about interactions with them. Your father pouts and pulls the silent treatment? He's being a big silly, and should be treated as such. Your mother steamrolls and throws tantrums? Sternly but kindly tell her she's out of bounds and enforce consequences for her poor behavior including time outs (where you tell her she's being childish so you're leaving/done with talking to her).

One note tho: If your mother is being invited to the family gatherings, then it is fine for her to attend. I don't understand why they have to cut her off if she loves spending time with them and they do with her. It sounds like she is still considered a friend/family member, and as such, your father needs to grow up and accept that he isn't the boss of his own family members and can't tell them who they can and can't be friends with. Sure, in cases of abuse, cheating, or neglect it would make sense for his family to have cut her out, but if it was just a bitchy divorce situation where both of them were asses then her former inlaw family is fine to decide if they want to hang out with her for the holidays. In other words - who is invited is also not your choice or decision to make.

So I'd do some reading - I loved Susan Forward's books like Toxic Parents and Emotional Blackmail to figure out the what and why and how to deal with crappy parents yourself.

And I'd start working on a basic script. Might even help to write it down and refer back to it frequently. Something like:

Mom/Dad, I get that you still are angry with formerspouse and don't want to be around them, but they are also my parent and I don't want to hear you say bad things about them any more. I am spending X time with you, and Y time with otherparent. I am tired of you getting mad at me for doing perfectly normal things with my own parent. I love you both, and I'm not doing this any more. If you don't stop, I'm going to get off the phone/leave/stop talking to you and go hang out with otherrelative.


And then do this. Get off the phone, go speak to someone else, do what you want to do and have no guilt because YOU ARE THE ONE BEING THE ADULT HERE. Your parents are immature brats, so treat them that way, think of them that way and let go of the idea that the somehow can be fixed or appeased if you only could be a better offspring/person/whatever.

It's basically going to work out to be both you standing up for yourself and making sure they understand that they don't get to guilt or manipulate you into being a party to their stupid dramatics because you will leave if they keep that crap up.

You wouldn't let a bratty kid get away with this stuff, so approach it from that dynamic. You love them, and want to spend time with them, but you're not putting up with the bratty shit any more. 

Cassie

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2017, 11:09:59 AM »
YOur parents are acting like children. Ugh!  When I divorced my husband after 22 years all the kids were grown.   WE live in different states but all come together for big events like weddings, graduations, etc.  We have each remarried. WE have them over and they do the same. WE each cook the other their favorite meal when they are a guest.  My boys said that really makes the divorce barable.   WE actually all have fun together and we each like the other's spouse.  Life is too short for this petty shit!

GreenSheep

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2017, 11:14:09 AM »
You have to draw the line before this gets worse. And obviously you're working on doing just that, since you posted here. As Frankie's Girl said, if your parents insist on behaving like children, then you have to treat them that way. Let them know there are consequences for bad behavior, and use your vacation time to do whatever makes you most happy, whether that's visiting both of them (whether split perfectly evenly down to the minute or not), one of them, or neither of them.

Also, as someone mentioned above, the planes do go both ways across the country, and they do it every day, not just at holidays. If they really want to spend time with you, they can travel to visit you. Perhaps I'm a little bit bitter about this because I live across the country from my parents, and they haven't visited in about 10 years, although I go home at least 1-2 times a year. Sure, it's my fault because I'm the one who moved, and they very much appreciate my visits, but they're retired and have a lot more money and time than I do. I'm starting to realize that I shouldn't have to be the one to make the effort every single time, and maybe that's something for you to think about, too.

Juslookin

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2017, 02:49:50 PM »
My advice is based on my own very bad experience with setting boundaries with my parents which happened years ago. Decide what you will and won't do and make it clear to all. Do not let them guilt you harass you or put you in the middle. And for those of you who feel obligated to do the traveling despite time or monetary limitations, don't do it.

One Thansgiving my mother harassed me and harassed me to travel to their house.  Again, theyre retired and have plenty of money to travel, but wanted me to take time off work, have DH take time off work and drag two toddlers 800 miles over the river and through the woods to her house. Of course she did, we had been doing it for years. Instead of just clearly stating why we wouldn't be coming I wimped out, gave excuse after excuse trying to cushion the blow until she pushed me one day and I lost my temper and yelled we are NOT coming we want to stay home.  Very undiplomatic, unkind and unfair since I should have just been upfront and honest (not that she wasn't partially to blame in this situation, but if I had done it the upstanding way I could now be saying she was 100% at fault) lol.

It went very badly and caused hurt feelings all around. I had never taken a stand before and my family had no idea that we felt the way we did.

So just be upfront, honest and stand your ground. Don't make excuses or rationalize your decisions, you don't have to, you're a grownup who gets to decide on your own. They won't always like it, but sometimes that's just the way it goes.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2017, 02:54:12 PM by Juslookin »

albireo13

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2017, 05:23:22 PM »
Last Christmas was a disaster at my house.  My elder M&D were over but my Mom cannot deal with anyone else getting attention.
She hid in the bedroom when anyone  came over and was crying when she didn't get full attention.

No more. This year we are not having family over, other than our kids.





surfhb

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2017, 06:47:38 PM »
My Aunt loves the whole family at her house.   We go around the room and open one gift from somebody and move on to the next ....this shit literally goes on for hours!    Been trying for years to end this godless ritual.   Even to the point that my gifts would be things like a roll of toilet paper or a razor, cheap lipstick, ect 

Now, Me and the lady go on vacation this time of year.   Done!  No more!

Set boundaries and ignore the blowback

Slee_stack

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2017, 12:00:55 PM »
Sucks being in the middle.

I'm that way between my sister and mother.  I always get to hear how awful the other one is.

I zoned out long ago.  Its automatic now.  As soon as the bitch session starts, I go deaf and make inarticulate grunts and 'uh huh' sounds.  I seriously don't remember what is said anymore.

I don't negotiate anything  Not my circus, not my monkeys.  If they both accidentally show up somewhere...or both DON'T show up.  Whatever.  Not worrying about it.  That's THEIR problem.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2017, 12:50:55 PM »
My family has a history of the ex-wife "keeping" the in-laws ... to the point that when my paternal grandmother died last month, my mother was listed in the obituary as a survivor, and she hosted the after-the-funeral family gathering at her home (my dad is deceased - but he sure would have been pissed about it).  My own ex periodically rages at me for still being close with his family, but I just remind myself that the blessing of divorce is I don't have to listen to him anymore.

That said, I don't attend my ex's family gatherings unless they are centered on our children.  My mother refused to attend my grandmother's family gatherings unless my dad wasn't there (she'd go visit a little early and leave when he arrived so as not to make him uncomfortable).  My grandmother told her every single time to just stay and my dad could deal, but the rest of us knew better.

When my ex and I were married, both sets of our parents were divorced, and so was one set of his grandparents.  We lived 2.5 hours from the family - and they all lived within 30 minutes of each other.  Holidays were a freaking zoo.  We had a spreadsheet broken into 30-minute increments that told us where to be when, with time penciled in for driving.  If anyone complained, we'd show them the spreadsheet and tell them to suck it, we were doing our best.

We tried alternating Thanksgiving (this year with 1 family, next year with another), but everyone was mad. 

When my daughter was born, we threw in the towel. We hosted Thanksgiving at our house and invited everyone.  My parents both came and would hang out in separate rooms.  My ex's dad never attended because his mom was there, but that was HIS choice.

For Christmas, we'd usually go to where our families lived on Christmas Eve to see ex's dad and my grandmother (who didn't travel well).  Then we'd drive home and invite everyone else to our house for Christmas Day.  Sometimes, we'd actually have Christmas on New Years' with one set of family.

We never argued or negotiated or mediated.  Never.  It wasn't my place to be in the middle of their drama.

Now, I'm remarried and my husband and I host holidays at our house for both of our families.  We have a VERY loose definition of family (includes his brother's girlfriend's nephew's dad and my sister's ex).  Our kids spend Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other, and we alternate each year. 

The other holiday tip - on my dad's side, one person every year was assigned to bring hard liquor.  We needed it to get through the holiday gathering still speaking to each other.  God help you if it was your turn to bring the rum and you were running late.

FLBiker

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2017, 02:40:28 PM »
We spend time with people because we enjoy spending time with them, and if we don't, we see them less (family included).

As far as what that looks like in our life, we see my inlaws (who live ~ an hour away) less than they would like, because FIL is...challenging to be around.  (DW agrees.)  My family is far away (3 hour flight) so we only see them once a year (typically post-Xmas) or more if they come visit or we meet at a family event (ie wedding, funeral).  And we've skipped some Xmases completely to do our own thing, and likely will again.  I don't guilt people (family or otherwise) about relationship obligations, and I tend to shut down at guilt trips.  It's like salespeople to me -- the minute I feel the pushing / manipulation, I'm out.

Happy in Paradise

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Re: Making time for everyone at the holidays. How do you manage?
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2017, 11:39:18 PM »
As a newbie to this forum, I didn't know what kind of response I would receive from this post. However, I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative of those that took the time to write well thought out and constructive responses. The ones that did so with a bit of humor get double kudos! The outpouring of support is not only helpful, it is appreciated beyond words. I will be going back home with a new found sense that I have done all that I can to keep the peace, but as one poster said, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

I plan to take so much of what was shared with me in this thread and apply it to my own situation. Thank you so very much for those that have posted and perhaps others that may still. I hope you all have a fantastic Holiday Season!