Managing Family Expectations During the Holidays

Updated: Nov 28, 2018

We are blessed. Blessed with the wonderful gift of family. I know people who live far away from their families and would love to have some of the stress that comes with having your family close, so know that I do recognize that.

We have SO much family that lives here in Phoenix with us.

My side is simple, my immediate family (13 in total) and one set of grandparents. My husband’s side, is well… more complicated. Immediate family of 17 people and then two sets of extended family. All in all, if I invited all family members that lived in the valley to an event, it would total FIFTY-TWO people. We LOVE our family. We LOVE having events with everyone invited, but the second you cram a million traditions into one month, things get a little crazy….. ​As young married adults we struggled with attending every family function during the holidays. We were young and had loads of free time, and still struggled to fit it all in. As we are now knee deep in raising three kids (5, 3 and 1 years old) we cannot sustain attending all of the events. It becomes so overwhelming since SO much more work has to go into the act of “showing up” for an event. ​ ​The traditions on both sides of our family runs deep.

We have many things we love to celebrate about Christmas and there is meaning behind each and every event. But the reality is, that there are fewer nights of the week than events on our calendar. We have tried and tried and tried to attend everything, but someone is ALWAYS unhappy. We can NEVER please everyone; whether it is me, my husband, or another family member, someone is upset with a decision regarding an event. So after a few years of realizing that if no one is ever completely happy, what’s most important is that my husband, my kids, and I are happy, we have started sticking to some guidelines come Christmas time. Here are a few tips for trying to manage the family expectations during the holidays:


  1. Talk about it early. My husband and I start our conversations about holiday plans in September. We try to remember what was successful about the prior year and what was not. We talk about the start of our expectations for the season. What days off should he take? When should we schedule time for just our family of five and when can we allocate days to do events with friends and family... etc..We try to lay out all that we can before anyone else talks to us about it.

  2. Prioritize events with your husband. If you are talking about your schedule of events early, chances are, nothing has been set in stone by other family members yet. Every year, we prioritize our favorite or most cherished events. We make lists separately, then compare. THIS is where the showdown begins. But no one ever said marriage is easy. Christmas tends to be the season of compromise in our family.

  3. Remember your family unit. You do what is best for you, your husband, and your kids. Those are the people you have to go home with. You now have to go through bedtime routine with over exhausted and overstimulated toddlers. If staying up past one of your child’s bedtimes is detrimental to their night’s sleep, then remember that. I remember one year I had to nurse my baby on the floor under a table because that is where my toddler was melting down.Sometimes everyone else doesn’t see your reality. You have to choose sacrifices that fit your family, but you do not need to justify those reasons to anyone else. You do what is best for your family unit, no matter who has something to say about it.

  4. CREATE YOUR OWN TRADITIONS. PLEASE make sure that you remember that it is not about reliving all of yours and your husband’s childhoods. It was really important to me to start my own family traditions and not just get caught up in continuing old traditions that might not work for us. Make room for the new. Make room for what your family loves to do.

These are just some of the guidelines my family has followed to make sure our holiday season is not so focused on filling up the calendar, but rather, creating meaningful experiences. We LOVE spending as much time as we can with all of our family, but as always, sometimes too much of a good thing can turn to bad.


At the end of the day, we LOVE our family. We LOVE that our family does Christmas BIG. We love all of it, but in the trenches of toddlerhood we have to make changes that fit our current lives.


I hope you savor and ENJOY every minute of your Holiday season with your little elves!

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