I knew that marrying someone with children and becoming a step-mom would add an interesting twist to the holidays. I grew up in a blended family and had the typical Christmas Eve with my dad, Christmas day with my mom, every other Thanksgiving was split, and so on with other holidays.
An additional twist to our holiday celebrations is that neither my husband nor I have family in Wisconsin. If we want to see family for the holidays, we or family are required to travel. We generally don’t travel for Christmas because we want to see my step-daughters on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day.
Some years, I long for the ability to simply drive twenty minutes down the road and enjoy Christmas with our extended family and other times I am happy to have a small Christmas with my husband, my step-daughters, our crazy beagle, and my dad who comes to visit every couple of years.
Whatever your Christmas looks like as a blended family, make the best of it. As step-moms, there is often very little that we can do to change the situation, we can only control how we react to the situation and last-minute changes (because they happen) and adjust our expectations and standards.
Tips to enjoy a blended family holiday season:
- Know the custody schedule well in advance and ask your spouse to speak with his ex to confirm days/times of drop off and pick up so that everyone can enjoy their holiday time together. There is no fun in being upset because you miss an extended family celebration that you’ve been looking forward to for a couple of weeks due to a lack of communication. (Disclaimer: you know your situation best! If the best thing is to follow the custody schedule and adjust your celebrations to that schedule, then stick with what works for you and your family!)
- Be prepared! Don’t wait until the last minute to shop, wrap gifts and figure out what you’re cooking. Ask the kids what they’d like to eat as part of the Christmas dinner. They are more willing to eat what’s on the table when they’re included and ask them to help cook the dish of their choice. Discuss a Christmas budget and holiday shopping with your husband. Who is purchasing gifts and stocking stuffers for the step-kids? Who is going to mail out the holiday cards and wrap all the gifts? There are fewer surprises when you communicate and you shouldn’t be expected to do all of this just because you’re a female!
- During holiday celebrations, adjust your expectations and roll with it! Your kids and/or step-kids will not be on their best behavior the entire holiday, you’ll probably have to prompt them to say thank you and don’t assume they’ll eat the holiday meal, especially if they’re coming from a celebration earlier in the day! Adjust your expectations.
From National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation:
Ellen: “You set standards that no family activity can live up to.”
Clark: “When have I ever done that?”
Ellen: “Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays, vacations, graduations…”
Don’t be Clark Griswold!
- If you’re about to lose it, practice a quick few minutes of self-care. Take a 10-minute break in your bedroom, go for a walk around the block, or simply drive around for a few minutes to cool off and shift your perspective. Wake up 30-60 minutes early in the morning to have some peace and quiet to yourself before the madness begins.
- Have fun!! Drive around and look at Christmas lights (there is a new light display at Brown County Fair Grounds), bake cookies, have a family movie afternoon with popcorn and Christmas treats from the stocking, and share your childhood holiday memories and photos with your family and step-kids.