Every Christmas was the same growing up. We always opened stocking as soon as we all were awake, went to my grandma’s house, saw my mom’s side of the family, opened presents, then went to bed. It seemed like we even had the same topics of conversation with the same people every year. This consistency was something I never thought much about, I just figured this is what family does and it was going to be this way forever.
My parents felt the same way. When I got married and moved to Pennsylvania, they assumed my husband and I would come to Michigan for all holidays and special occasions. However, my husband Ken is a full-time student and has a full-time job on top of being a father of two. It wasn’t realistic for us to pack up, take time off work and travel multiple times a year.
My first instinct is just to do whatever I must do to make the most people happy, even if that comes at the cost of my own happiness. So when my parents wanted us to come for Christmas, my first thought was to sacrifice my husband’s vacation days to make them happy.
But my husband I sat down together and talked about what we wanted our Christmas to look like. We both felt it wasn’t good to never have “us” time and to be constantly traveling the few times of the year he had any time off work. We agreed that when it’s not feasible, we would stay home to celebrate and start our own traditions with our growing family.
When I told my parents about our very practical decision, I felt like they took it very personally. Visiting when we could wasn’t enough, I felt pressured to be there for holidays.
It was very hard to fight my strong people-pleasing tendencies and the feeling that my parents were upset with me. My husband was a constant source of support for me, always there to talk things through as I tried to deal with my family. These conversations strengthened my self-confidence and my bond with my husband.
What was a difficult situation turned into a blessing. Standing up for myself, my marriage and my family actually strengthened my relationship with my parents. It took time and many arguments but my parents now understand that my life with my young family is in Pennsylvania. They support our decision to focus on our marriage before anything else and they have stopped pressuring us to come visit constantly.
We have stayed home for a few holidays and it has been an absolute blast! For Thanksgiving this year, my husband didn’t have much time off. We had the whole day to just be with each other as husband and wife with no other obligations.
We stayed home for Christmas this year too. This time of year is all about joy, love, and giving. Now that my entire family is all on the same page we can focus on what this season is all about. Letting go of past holiday traditions allows us to better love the people that matter most–even those who are far away.