Dear Daisy: How Can I Keep All The Family Happy This Christmas?

Dear Daisy: How Can I Keep All The Family Happy This Christmas?


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

Dear Daisy is our new agony aunt column, where Daisy Buchanan answers all of your big questions, from how to be more assertive to how to move on from sexual assault. Daisy's first job in journalism in her twenties was on the problems page at Bliss Magazine. This week she answers how to keep the family happy at Christmas...

Dear Daisy,

For the last five years, my husband and I have spent the Christmas fortnight haring from one side of the country to the other. This year, we're planning to drive to my Dad's after I finish work on Christmas Eve and stay overnight, then go on to my Mum's on Christmas morning after breakfast. I suspect she's sad about us not spending all of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day with her, but she'd never say anything directly. Then on Boxing Day we'll drive on again to my husband's family, and stay there for a few days. To be honest, the prospect of it is exhausting. It doesn't feel like anyone wins - we spend the whole holiday in the car, but still only see people for a few hours.

**I also want to be with my brother - my only sibling - to whom I'm very close. **

Oh, and there's also my oldest friend, who lives where we grew up, hours from any of the other people. And my grandma, who's alone too.

**I love my mum, but she can be quite emotionally needy - I feel guilty even writing that - and it sometimes feels like nothing other than us spending all of Christmas with her and having the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER will do. How can I deal with this? **

Just reading your letter makes me want to climb into bed with a litre bottle of Baileys, pull the duvet up to my chin and not come out and actually talk to anyone until the middle of February. That is an exhausting seasonal conundrum, and one that I suspect hundreds and thousands of us are facing. Christmas is the ultimate battle of love and logistics, when perfectly reasonable relatives see fit to bring on the emotional manipulation.

Divorces and break ups are incredibly distressing and difficult, but you’re the child and it isn’t up to you, or your brother, to shore things up and make it the best Christmas ever - especially when you have a sneaking suspicion that nothing is ever going to be quite good enough for her anyway.

It’s really hard, and it’s a brutal way to talk about your own Mum, but you need to train her out of it. If she hints at the fact that she’s not getting everything she wants, that she wishes things were the way they used to be, that it’s a hard time of year for her, do not play ball. Don’t respond. Let her words hang in the air for a bit, and then change the subject. It will be hard and horrible, but if you can start this year, it will get much easier during Christmasses Yet To Come.

Your brother sounds like a great ally when it comes to dealing with family issues, and if he can join you for the parental bits, you’ve got a strong source of support. Spending Boxing Day driving doesn’t sound like much fun, but if you can stay in the same place for a few days once you’ve arrived, that’s the part to focus on. Depending on what your partner’s family are like, you can usually relax a bit more around your in laws, because you’re more of a guest than you are in your own home. If it all gets too much, never feel bad about having a ‘work emergency’ and sneaking off with a book for an hour (although it depends on your job - it’s harder to do if you’re a hairdresser or a plumber.)

Presumably your Grandma is the mother of your Mum or Dad, and it’s down to them to bring her into the festivities and make sure she’s involved. If she can’t leave her home for health reasons, it’s a bit trickier, but if she’s just determined not to leave the house, plan a visit for early January, and spend some quality time with her then. She might enjoy it more, as she won’t feel pressured to go all out on Christmas hostessing - perhaps you can take her out to dinner. Similarly, your best friend is the person who should understand how impossible Christmas is, and be happy to make a date to see you at a different point in the year when you can catch up properly. If she’s desperate to spend time with you, maybe she can travel up to where your in laws are and meet you for lunch. She might be as busy and time pressured as you, and be happy to postpone a visit until you’ve both got a bit more mental energy.

Christmas is the one time of the year in which everyone is supposed to relax. You’ve worked hard all year, and you deserve time to recharge and recuperate before work starts again in January. Learning how to say ‘no’ and managing your family’s expectations is initially hard and horrible, but once you start, you’ll be feeling far less frazzled by January 2nd. Finally, if it’s at all possible, don’t use all your holiday over the Christmas period. Save some of it so that you and your husband can go for a cheap, chilled minibreak as early as possible in the New Year. In January, we’ll start seeing ads for festive saving schemes that tell us that it’s time to start spreading the cost of Christmas 2016. You need to concentrate on spreading the emotional cost of Christmas and try to spend next year making sure that every member of your family recognises it isn’t fair to put you under this much pressure again.

Lots of love and luck - and I hope you manage to have a very merry Christmas!

Daisy X

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