Splitsville: Sharing Holidays

Let’s face it, there’s a hierarchy of holidays. Any day that you get to miss work is definitely a holiday. Depending on the food served, the traditions honored and even the gifts given (don’t act like it’s not important, this is a safe place), we all have our favorites. My mother is a Christmas nut. She literally plans all year round for that single day of the year. So on Christmas, we have to see my mother. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is attached to Easter. She has more bunnies in her house than Beatrix Potter. Because its her favorite, we make sure to see her on Easter. Thank goodness, these two wonderful ladies aren’t devoted to the same day.

It’s lot of fun to juggle holidays between my family and my in-laws. It’s even more fun to throw in my daughter’s father’s schedule. Suddenly, there’s a whole new set of favorites and preferences to consider. On any given holiday, here’s the list of family obligations my three year old is supposed to honor: her immediate family, her mother’s parent’s, her mother’s father’s parents, her mother’s mother’s parents, her step-father’s parents, her father, her father’s father, her father’s mother, her father’s father’s parents and her father’s mother’s parents. Now sometimes, grandparents and great-grandparents are seen simultaneously, but not always. So for a single holiday, my pre-schooler has ten households that want a fraction of her time.

On some days, I feel like I’m managing Justin Bieber’s appearance calendar. There are just too many people vying for too little time. It’s only been three years of juggling, and I’ve dropped a whole lot of balls, but I’ve learned a couple things about balancing the hectic social life of a child with separated parents.

  • Mom and Dad split time evenly. It doesn’t matter if one family has more grandparents to visit or another doesn’t do a huge celebration for Thanksgiving. The minute you start negotiating time with your ex based on extended family needs, it’s going to get messy. My ex’s mother has actually called me to plead her case. But he has to deal with his family and I have to deal with mine. As long as we split our holiday weekends fairly, no one on either side gets to feel cheated.
  • Plan ahead. It may seem silly to plan Thanksgiving before the 4th of July, but for families that don’t all live in the same area, holidays are a time of travel. You need to give everyone enough notice to plan effectively. So try to lay out a yearly schedule of holidays and visitation.
  • But be flexible. All that planning helps, but sometimes emergencies pop up. Or work schedules shift. You need to be willing to work with each other. If one of you makes concessions first, it’ll be easier the next time things don’t work out exactly according to plan. So be the bigger person and take the first step.
  • Remember, holidays are supposed to be fun. Holidays are a time to celebrate. They are a time to be with family and friends and all the people we love. Don’t let the hectic schedules and resentment ruin the time you do have. Cherish your day grilling and playing catch, even if you don’t get to watch the fireworks with your little one later.

Holidays are important because we build so many family traditions around them. But even if we have to adjust them to accommodate our shifting schedules, they still mean the same thing. The emotion behind them doesn’t change. So enjoy the time you have and try to keep things positive. Your ex will appreciate it, but most importantly, your child will love it.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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