Dealing with Holiday Stress

How to Deal with Holiday Stress | CorporetteI’ve seen a lot of friends Facebooking and posting about holiday stress, so I thought we’d have a discussion about it today.  Here are the questions:  Do you get stressed out around the holidays, and why?  (Seeing family? Leaving on vacation? Year-end office stress? Gifts?) How do you deal with the stress? (Mantras? Better personal care, such as working out more regularly or treating yourself to a massage?)  On the flip side — for those of you NOT so stressed, share with us what you like about the season! What do you enjoy the most?

For my $.02, I tend to enjoy the holidays more than stress about them, but that hasn’t always been true.  We almost always spend the holidays visiting my family in Ohio, and back in my law firm days it was always hectic trying to get out of the office on time (and without feeling like I needed to ship a box of paperwork to my parents’ address).  In my single days it seemed to make me feel my most un-coupled (I won’t say lonely since I was always surrounded by family and friends, but not being coupled can be a source of stress in and of itself); now that I do have a husband and child it can be stressful to get the right thing or create the right environment.  (For the first time in my adult life I have a Christmas tree (pictured)!  Amazing!)  As for what I enjoy, I love seeing the cards and messages that come from family and friends, and I love to take stock of how the year has gone (for the business, for the family, for the apartment, etc, etc).  In terms of how I get through it — we try to eat healthy and avoid alcohol on the days that we don’t have social events, and I try to get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day because, everyone can find 20 minutes somewhere, right?

Readers, how about you — is the ending of the year a source of stress or happiness for you?  How do you get through it?

Comments

  1. Stress: Dating a guy who makes less :

    I have a dating-related threadjack:

    My bf and I have been dating for 5 months. We’ve had a series of “serious topic” discussions lately (e.g. household sharing, biological clock discussions, etc.). Bf has known for some time that I make more money than he does. He does not know *how much* more. I’ve been curious for some time how he would feel about being a SAHD if circumstances warranted. Was pleasantly surprised that he was open to it…but then the conversation turned to my current income. He guessed that I made X. I did not respond, and he took that to mean that he was in the ballpark. He was floored, and then confessed that he felt like “a loser,” was “jealous” (though he well knows that I spent time and $$$ on the graduate degree that enables my income – time and $$$ that he is *not* willing to spend on a similar path), wondered why I was such a “cheapskate” since I made all this money…and then cracked a joke or two about my putting him on an allowance. All of this made my pretty uncomfortable, especially since I make more than double the number that made him react in this way.

    How should I deal with this? I think his reaction indicates that our relationship would be in big trouble if he ever knew the truth. I’m thinking he is just not the right partner for me based on last night’s events.

    Oh, I’m 33 and he is 29 if that matters…thanks ladies.

    • Anonymous :

      I’d try not to jump to conclusions…it sounds like the number (or the 1/2 real number) came as a big surprise, in which case he might just have been sputtering nonsense in shock as opposed to saying things that really represented his feelings. We all say dumb stuff when caught off guard. I’d give it a few days, see if he brings it up again, or if he doesn’t, bring it up again yourself after a few days pass. Maybe bring up the real number at that time, and see how he responds now that he’s had a few days to adjust to the news. GL!

      • Santa Barbarian :

        Yeah, but sometimes that first gut reaction tells you more about how they truly feel than after they’ve had time to process it and rationalize it. In my experience, the jerky knee-jerk reaction indicates that, at the end of the day he is not actually ok with your making significantly more money than he does and this will become a constant source of conflict even if he comes back and says what he thinks are all the right things. You want someone who, in that moment of being floored, says something way more positive (like “wow! that’s impressive!”) than putting himself down and calling you a cheapskate.

        Ask me how I know.

        • Anonymous :

          +1000

        • Sometimes, yes, but not always. I know I have had my share of first reactions to a wide variety of topics that, upon further examination, were not in line with what I thought at all. (I then apologize when necessary, of course, and reflect on my tendency to react like that.)

          It just seems that not everything is as black-and-white as one moment/post makes it out to be. I think you should talk to him seriously about why his reaction bothered you and let him rationally explain it. You may even get to know each other better. The allowance joke is killing me, though, I find it so funny.

          • Agree with Yugo18, I also make a ton more than my significant other and he has at times made similar comments (and I was always upfront about my entire income) but at the end of the day we deal with it quite well (despite some occassional sourpuss comments when he is feeling down in the dumps because he is not conforming to societal expectations about men as breadwinners, which we ALL feel at times whenever we fall outside the norm on anything). Plus he contributes a lot to our household in non-monetary ways. It is not so black and white as Santa Barbarian made it seem (though of course, some people would fall under that category). But do keep a watch for red flags as they come, and he will need to know the entire truth soon enough so see how he reacts *then* again.

    • Yeah, honestly that’s a red flag to me. Though I know some people disagree, I don’t think making a lot more money than a guy is inherently a problem. I currently make more than double what my husband does and my earning potential for the future is way more than double his. However, he loves his career (which required a lot of education) & he would never have reacted this way to finding out what I make. I think you’re probably right to read his reaction as telling you he’s not the kind of guy that’s going to be truly ok with this.

      • Agree (and I have a similar income situation). The only time I would ever have heard anything about him feeling like a “loser” would be in the context of “Well, I guess I should feel like a loser because my wife makes more, but really, it’s awesome!”

      • Stress: Dating a guy who makes less :

        Thanks ladies. LH, I do think a big part of the problem is that my BF does not love his job at all. He has held his current job for 4 years, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a future. He does not want to go back to school…but he also doesn’t really cook, do laundry, etc., and based on his comments last night I’m not sure the SAHD thing would be his cup of tea – or that he would excel at keeping a house.

        • Senior Attorney :

          Honestly? I would run the other way from a guy like that. It’s not so much the money as the lack of ambition and the apparent inability to be an equal partner in any way.

          • This. He’s right in his self-estimation. He sounds like a loser and it’s his complacency that’s the problem. He doesn’t like his situation and doesn’t f-all to change it. He doesn’t do much in the way of housekeep because, what, he expects a woman to take care of him? Ugh. Run away, OP, run far, run fast.

          • kjoirishlastname :

            now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, and the additional comment you provided, OP, I’d get the heck outta dodge.

          • CapHillAnon :

            +1

          • Oh yeah, forget about the benefit of the doubt I was providing above. RUN!

        • Baconpancakes :

          If he hates his job, it’s easy for jealousy to color comments about your SO’s great job and earnings. Neither my SO nor I like our jobs, but he recently accepted a new position with a better company and better paycheck, and I’m neon green with envy. I’m very, very careful to not say anything negative about it, but inside my head I”m pretty bitter (because I want to leave my job so, so, so much).

        • Girl, you run away and find something better!

        • I’d be more concerned about these issues than about the money thing per se. Do you want your life partner to be a person who is already in a rut at age 29? It would be one thing if he had a low-paying job that he finds fulfilling, or if he wasn’t ambitious in his career because he wanted to focus on other interests (and maybe really wanted to be a SAHD). But this sounds like a guy who might just lack the initiative to ever make himself happy, and could eventually become a bitter and resentful spouse.

        • National_Anthem :

          I was in this relationship for the last four years, more or less (problem developed a bit more slowly because I finished school and then my earning got much higher, after already being in the relationship for a while). If your guy is anything like mine was (and they sound very very very similar), this will not improve. The longer it went on, the more insecure he got, but the insecurities were based on his personal choices/inability to take any action regarding advancement. The more insecure he got, the more worried he was about losing me, and the more possessive he became. It was not a fun road.
          It’s totally possible your guy would handle this better, but if I could go back in time, I would caution my former self to sit down and think about whether the problem would ever realistically improve.

      • Definitely a red flag. Been there done that — married him, ended up with all the debt when he split.

    • Men are SUCH A PAIN! Particulearley for high powered women like us who are very sucessful in our job’s either as attorney’s or as MBA’s. THEY WANT TO BE KING OF THE ROAST, but can not face it when we are doieng better then them. My philosophy is to be yourself, and not to cow-tow to men who are NOT superior in the wage department. After all, why should we be so carful to STROKE their ego’s when all they do is grab our boobies or tuchus and think they are better then we are. I say we have to find men who are sucesful and professional and do NOT treat us like china doll’s. After all, we are big girls and should be abel to take it as well as dish it out.

      Last week there was some guy who was unsure if he would have a LD relationship with one of our hive member’s who was goieng to be goiengto a big MBA school. I did NOT even know what he did, but she was SO worried about him. I told her to tell him to get lost if he did NOT want to suport her goeing for an MBA. For all we knew, he was some schlub that worked in his dad’s feed store! FOOEY on that!

      Yes we women MUST stick together, wether in the HIVE or out in the workplace. We are all VERY smart, and should NEVER forget it. YAY!!!!!!

    • Anonymous :

      I make twice what my fiance makes. We’ve been together for about 4 years (started dating when I was in law school) and I was always open with him about what I was making at my first job and when I got my current job (even though we weren’t married or engaged at the time). He jokes about how I am his sugar mama and how he is going to be a SAHD, but the reality is that he works (harder and longer than I do sometimes) and that, unless we ever hit a point where we weren’t coming out ahead after day care, we will always be a two-income family. The only reason I think our situation works is because we have 100% open communication, especially when it comes to money because we have very different spending habits. We are currently living together and pay our bills proportionately (which means I pay double what he does, but I also have way more debt with my student loans). I didn’t have any obligation to disclose my salary to him when we were dating, but as you have discovered, this can be a tricky situation (especially for some guys) so I figured it was better to have everything on the table so he could make an informed decision about whether he was secure enough to be in this relationship. Some guys just aren’t able to accept being with a woman who makes more than they do. You are better off putting all the cards on the table and finding out now than after investing several more years into the relationship and then discovering it isn’t going to work.

    • Suburban lady :

      Hmmm…his reaction is a bit alarming to me because I have found that disparate attitudes about managing money can be more problematic than income disparities alone. I dont like the idea that he thinks youre a cheapskate. That said, is it possible that having never made close to the amount of money you make, he’s not aware of how your budget, expenses and savings goals actually break down. (I thought my dh’s salary enough for a lavish lifestyle until i understood this.) An up front talk about money/ savings/ goals could change that and it is the kind of chat you’d need to have before a big commitment anyway. Is there else anything about his attitude behavior towards money that is contributing to your doubts?

    • kjoirishlastname :

      I think it is worthy of another discussion. I agree with previous poster that maybe those words came out of his mouth pre-filter, and that maybe if he knew exactly how much you make, if he were given enough time to think about it, he might come up with a more meaningful reaction. I’d be pretty floored if the BF I were seeing made more than 2x some giant number I dreamed out of a clear blue sky too.

      I think it’s worth the conversation to validate his feelings of jealousy and “loser” because they’re pretty legit. Maybe he loves his job, and is really good at it, but it just doesn’t have the earning potential that yours does.

      I suspect that geographical area has something to do with it–I can’t imagine that he is so floored if you all live in a very affluent area, (unless the number he threw out was “rich” for there, even). I feel I am not communicating this well…Our area has a median income around $60k. If I had thrown out a number like $100k, and found out that he earned more than 2x that much, I’d be floored too. On the other hand, if I said $60k, and it was double, then that’s not as shocking. Does that make sense?

      As for the jokes about cheapskate and allowance, I think they’re the same pre-filter musings too. You can justify cheapskate in that you’re financially savvy (how could you not be, with such a shocking income!) and trying to do your best to secure your future, and the future of your progeny.

      I’d proceed with caution, but I’d at least continue the conversation.

      • Suburban lady :

        Cosign! Also, while its a great idea to ask if he’d be open to being a sahd, I don’t think any parent truly knows whether they really want to stay at home until the kiddos come along. I think there is sometimes value to being a working parent even if you’re barely breaking even on child care. (I’ve watched friends stay home because it made financial sense at the expense of their happiness.) Also, I think there is value to being the working partner with a less crazy career. For example, I sometimes shrink the laundry, but I usually have dinner ready and the fridge is full when dh works super late.

    • BTDT. It’s a serious red flag that I wish I had paid more attention to sooner. I was in a relationship with someone who made far less than me. He had expensive tastes, lots of looming debt (5x his annual income), and wanted to quit his job to start his own business. We were together for 18 months and, while money wasn’t the only reason I dumped him, the way he thought we should be spending “our money” was a significant factor.

      I was also called a “cheapskate”. That hurt. I was working a lot of extra hours to make bonuses to pay for things he wanted to do (vacations, fancy dinners), to buy a house that was “not a dump”, and subsidize his housing and food costs. He still grouched that I was working too much and that his siblings weren’t helping him enough with his debt. He sabotaged his chores so much that I hired a housekeeper to keep the peace. So I know how much the “cheapskate” label can hurt.

      I’d have a serious follow-up talk about money management and how much “lifestyle inflation” you are comfortable with. If the two of you can’t agree, I’d be very wary about getting into a long-term relationship with him.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Re: the “cheapskate” label, I’ve found it’s very easy for people to think of ways for you to spend YOUR money, that YOU worked hard for, and very easy for them to resort to name-calling when you choose to follow your own priorities instead. HUGE red flag, IMO.

    • Some people respond to information differently. My SO is someone who when caught off guard can be a little weird. But by now I know that sometimes he just needs a bit of time to process the information. The important thing is not so much how he reacts initially, but that he comes to the right conclusions shortly thereafter.

      Maybe this guy is not for you and he’ll never be okay with how much money you make. Or maybe he will be someone you can build a life with. I think it’s too soon to tell. I would let him digest this and see what happens. If he continues being weird or making crass jokes, say something. If he seems back to his normal, good self, maybe bring it up and just say hey, here’s the situation and I need to know that this won’t be a weird issue for us.

      For better or worse, women have been conditioned to be really excited if they’re SO makes a lot of money (one of the first selling points when you’re being set up is usually “he’s got a great job!”), men aren’t given the same message (actually, they’re given the opposite one that equates their value with their net worth). Some of them just take a little adjusting to the unorthodox. I’ll just say that there are red flags that you should pay attention to, and then there are things you should give people a break for. I know that I am really glad I didn’t just throw my hands up and say “too different! he’s weird! whatever!” when my SO initially had some of his weirdness with me when we were dating over various little issues that he just hadn’t previously encountered.

    • Agree that this is a truer glimpse of what they really feel and think before they say what they think you want to hear to keep the relationship. His reaction is really, really offputting.

      I echo all the others who say this is a red flag.
      1) Someone you are thinking of building a life with should be happy for your successes. In this case, your financial and career success. That he’s thinking about himself, his ego, how it makes him “look” to what, judgy macho-sexist strangers? instead of how it is good for you and for him, is a bad sign. It’s a lack of generosity to be unable to be happy for someone else, especially someone you purport to love.

      2) The childish attitude about an allowance, calling you a cheapskate– these all point to another huge red flag. Different attitudes about money. Even if he made 10x more than you, or you two made exactly the same amount, it would be a problem. This is often a dealbreaker, but often realized after the fact– that one person’s default impulse whenever money is about to arrive is to spend it already or save it already — this is hard to square if you’re going ot build a life with someone. Every decision you make will affect the other, and a lot of the decisions touch on money. Tread carefully, OP.

      If you marry this one, get a pre-nup.

      • +10000

        When I first started dating my DH, I made 2 times his income. Granted, not “wow” money for my area, but enough for someone my age that some people give me the fancy pants/sugar momma comments. When we talked about money, lifestyle, etc. and he found out how much I made his response was wow, you work really hard and that is impressive. To this day, he is proud that I out-earn him in because I bust my hump bringing home the bacon. And I’m proud I ended up with a man who loves me enough to pick up the slack when I’m stuck at work for the Xth Saturday in a row.

        A partner should not make you feel bad for being successful. Combine with his own bad attitude of complacency, I’d say run for the hills.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Plus a million.

        And keep in mind that if you do marry him, and he does end up as a SAHD, in the event of a divorce it is quite likely that he will be given the house and primary custody of your children, and you will have visitation and a hefty support bill.

        Proceed with extreme caution.

    • You should be able to have a mature conversation about money–how much you each make, respective debts, spending/saving habits, etc. I agree that his initial reaction is alarming (default to uncomfortable jokes, rather than how awesome you are). If you want to give him a chance, sit down to seriously discuss money.

    • I was in a long term relationship with a guy who had an issue with how much we each made (we were in the same line of work and I made more) and it always an issue. Now I’m married to someone who makes a lot less than my previous boyfriend did and doesn’t care. He views everything as ours/joint but always lets me know before making large purchases. He’s actually cheaper than I am so it works out great and reins in my spending. I didn’t realize how much tension I had about my previous boyfriend hating that I made more until I was with someone who was so relaxed about it. We both have relatively stable jobs and that’s really all that matters to me. We have talked about my husband being a stay at home dad depending on daycare costs (he would prefer it to paying for expensive daycare, but I like the idea of not being the only person bringing in money in case of emergency. We’ll just have to see how actual prices shake out)

    • Man-child :

      Your stress isn’t about someone who makes less than you. It’s about someone who can’t man up for his responsibilities at home or at work.

    • Bankratty :

      I don’t like his reaction and agree it is a red flag. But if you like this guy as much as you seem to, I would attempt discussing the issue again and seeing how it goes. Perhaps try to explore why he reacted the way he did, and be sure to explain how his reaction made you feel. It’s possible he regrets his behavior, thought he was being funny, reacted at the end of a long/bad day. My spouse and I talk and think very differently about money as a result of our upbringing. I’m happily partnered, but probably wouldn’t be if not for all the second chances that my spouse and I have given one another.

  2. Just broke up w/ BF short of our one year anniversay (we met last New Year’s Eve). So I am spedning this holiday season trying to outrun sadness by keeping busy.

    • I feel you. the first and last song me and my ex danced to was the fairytale of new york so it’s a tough season. :/

    • Sorry to hear this :( I hope you have family and friends to be around for the holidays. Maybe try to make some fun NYE plans so you have something to look forward to and won’t be feeling sad thinking about your anniversary.

      Feel better!

    • Coincidentally running is a great way to deal with post-break up feelings! Crank up the tunes and go for a good hard run, it’s a positive way to channel that energy.

    • Baconpancakes :

      New Year, new opportunities, a great fresh new year, with no mistakes on it yet.

      It’s always sad to end things, but if you needed to do it, you’ll be better off, and I’m very proud of you for making the choice that needed to be made. Focus on the present with friends and family, and on the awesome new year that’s going to come.

    • Sorry to hear this, I had a breakup exactly a year ago today (reading this thread actually reminded me the date) and I have to admit the holiday season sucked a lot.
      See if you can join a gym, go to regular workout classes or go running. Going to daily workout classes with pumping music, other people around and getting sweat drenched was the best thing for me for several cold winter months after the breakup. And go to any NYE party without chance of running into your ex, I went to one with couple of former co-workers and ended up kissing a random cute guy at midnight, did not know his name and never met him again but felt great and liberating at the moment for not thinking of the ex.

    • Sorry to hear that – this is a tough time. Lately, I’ve been troubled with “flashbacks” about last NYE when my ex and I celebrated together (think it was the last time things were actually good with us before we broke up a couple months later).

      I’m trying to stay positive and busy and make plans for NYE so I don’t end up stewing and feeling lonely. Good luck – I hope things get better soon

  3. Gifting-related TJ:

    What’s a good gift for a boss in the $100-$150 range where 10-12 people are contributing $10ish? I know you are not supposed to gift UP, but he is throwing us a really awesome, expensive holiday party and we all love him so much. We were going to get him a Nike Fuelband, but he just bought one for himself.

    Ideas please! One idea that is being thrown around is a small fridge for his office….

  4. I avoid holiday stress by being in a different country from all of my family members and volunteering to be the poor sod stuck manning the office. Or, working remotely given the chance. Gotta say the Christmas of 2010 when I was getting double time sitting on my couch watching Doctor Who is probably still my best Christmas memory ever….

  5. Wish I were in NOLA :

    I give myself a break and remind myself that there are 12 days of Christmas (so that goes into Epiphany — early January). Somewhere in that timeframe, I do have time. And then it is parade season (until Mardi Gras, and then we have Lent — boo!).

    But it is nice to have a psychologically larger window (and a bonus holiday — Three King’s Day!).

  6. Anonymous :

    I was stressed right after thanksgiving because I was recently engaged (yay!) but felt like I needed to book a wedding venue and do all my holiday shopping and all.the.things. I try to finish my christmas shopping by the 15th, which I did this year, so I can just enjoy the break pre-christmas. We’re driving to see our families a lot this year which is busy, but not stressful.

  7. Christmas Tipping Threadjack! Two semi-related questions:

    I live in a very large apartment building in NY, and the list of employees handed around for Christmas tipping purposes totals 32 people! 6 doormen, then an assortment of porters, package escorts, handymen, the super, the building manager lady (who is a grump and acts put out if you ask for ANYTHING), etc. How much should I tip total? What’s the breakdown? I feel bad tipping the doormen more, but I understand that’s typical. I was thinking $50 each for the doormen, $40 for the super and building manager, and $25 for everyone else? Is that enough? Is that too much? Everyone else in the building is super nice, but there are so many people to tip – it’s insane!

    Second question – I’m a 6th year biglaw associate. Is the rule of thumb still $100 per class year? My secretary enters my time everyday and that’s it (and still manages to make mistakes nearly every single day), and generally just sits around watching netflix, so I’m not feeling that generous…

    I’m not stingy, I promise! I just gave our beloved dogwalker who does an incredible job a massive Christmas bonus!

    • That’s a very expensive building list! I think what you want to do sounds fine, but what I’ve always thought is the super gets the most, no matter how little he does relative to everyone else. So maybe I’d bump the super up a bit or at least give him same as the doormen.

    • I think that sounds fine. I’ve always tipped the super the same or less than the doormen.

  8. kjoirishlastname :

    I try to chill out, and just take it as it comes, but I figured out the KEY to our success:

    Travel early. We’re driving 3 hours to family on Saturday, spend Saturday evening @ my aunt’s party; spend the night with my mom; back to aunt’s for Sunday AM christmas & breakfast. Drive 1.5 hours to see ILs in the PM. Drive back to mom’s for dinner, sleep, leave to come home on Monday.

    then, it is OVER. (sorry, ellen)

    I have our gift-lists ready to start buying for our kids & family (a few items purchased). Then it’s just our little family unit for Christmas, and DH and I have both taken off work till January 6. Our nanny will still come on non-holiday weekdays so that we can get some time to really actually just chill.

    That is how I am avoiding stress. That and plenty of sleep. And Adult Recreation in a glass. I’ve actually asked for my gym membership to be put on hold till after the holidays, while it would be nice to get there, I can only get there in the early morning, and I just don’t want to do that right now.

    I also want to give a shout to whomever from the hive recommended Seche Vite as a topcoat for my mani-issue. Bought some the other day, did the mani last night, and BAM. Awesome.

  9. I try to buy gifts throughout the year as I see them. Doesn’t work for everyone but it helps. It also makes it feel much less expensive.

    I also don’t have a very big family, which probably helps with the stress.

    • I do the same. I also like the serendipity aspect — sometimes, when it’s not someone’s birthday or a holiday, I find something perfect for that person. Then, I scoop it up and stow it away. Depending on whether I think the person might enjoy a boost right now, I might give it to him or her. But these little finds along the year make the gifting process less of a huge undertaking and more like filling in the gaps a bit here and there.

  10. Anonymous :

    I’m currently in a great situation family-wise, work-wise, etc., but I wanted to share some hard-earned advice from some tough holidays in the past.

    If you’re going through something that makes you stressed/anxious/even depressed at the thought of the holidays— you’re not alone.

    If you’re not excited to go spend time with people in your family at the holidays because you know there will be some sort of terrible, horrible drama– you are not alone.

    If you look at TV shows, movies, commercials, and facebook and think, isn’t this supposed to be the most magical time of year? Why does my life suck when all these people are surrounded by tons of loved ones who are awesome and supportive? — You are NOT alone.

    I had several years when my family was going through some truly awful things and I HATED going home for the holidays. It’s easy to feel alone when you feel this way because we’re being bombarded by images of “perfect” holidays.

    If you’re having one of those years, this is my advice to you:
    – Set boundaries. If you can’t handle spending 5 days at home, don’t. Decide what you feel emotionally and mentally prepared to handle and commit only to that.
    – Remember that it won’t always be like this. REALLY!
    – Emotionally detach from certain situations if you have to.
    – Take care of yourself!!!!!

    • Thank you for this. I’ve been having “one of these years” for the last decade and no sign of relief on the horizon.

      The holidays are so awful that I only celebrate them every 24 months. On the “holiday year”, the fighting starts in August. Yes, August. This year, even though it is a “holiday year”, there was no way to satisfy anyone, so it’s going to be 36 months between holidays for me (see above, re boundaries).

      If you enjoy the holidays, please do not take offense at those of us who would rather pretend it wasn’t happening. Ask us about our “holiday plans” but not our “Christmas plans” or Christmas trees. Please do not assume that “visiting family” is a “vacation” or a happy thing. I am happy for you. But don’t expect me to be happy for me.

      For those can’t avoid “celebrating”, I can only recommend alcohol and not talking. Be the anthropologist. Be the annoying networker who only asks questions but doesn’t answer any herself. Be pleasant, smile, and help out with the cooking and clean-up. If you have a schedule that juggles competing sides of the family, be meticulous about following it to the minute–even giving three-minute warnings to put hats, coats, and boots on. Have a confidante who you can vent to away from the others and who can properly interpret all the slights, insults, and objectionable behavior.

    • kjoirishlastname :

      +1

      In part, my lack of stress came from finally standing up to My Mother. She’s oppressive, wants to be in on every conversation…the list goes on.

      Well, we decided that we would travel on the 21st to see all of them, and while on the phone with her relaying our plans, she asks, “when can I come and visit? I’ll be with your sister for Christmas proper, but I can come the next weekend.”

      To which I replied, “Do you really need to see us after we just came to visit???” The conversation died, and eventually fizzled out with other topics. She called later that afternoon to say, “You are right. There is no need for me to come visit when I’ll see you all weekend before Christmas.”

      You cannot imagine my delight and victory dance upon finishing that conversation with her.

      I won.

  11. more tipping :

    Another tipping question. We own a condo that with a gatehouse and common grounds. There are some staff people, and then a bunch of people that sit in the gatehouse (including uniformed security guards on nights/weekends). We recently got an email on our condo listserve from the management company, saying happy holidays and listing 4 different people (groundspeople, manager, and his assistant). Are we supposed to give an envelope with cash for each of these 4 people? What about all of the other people that staff the gatehouse?

  12. My situation is a lot less stressful. I’m not married so don’t have in laws to deal with. And I just have my brother and his family. I try to see them for something important to the kids before Christmas then I have to be home for Christmas because I am a church soloist. My brother has gotten irritated about that in the past, but he understands that it’s what I do. So then I have the whole week to myself between Christmas and New Year’s off and it’s blissfully unstressful.

  13. anonforthis :

    I’ll take any advice on dealing with holiday stress. I’m not really used to having any since my family gets along well and my husband’s sister usually goes on vacation for Christmas so his family always wants to celebrate Christmas on a random weekend in December which leaves us free to go to my family for xmas and there’s never any drama or trying to see both families on the same day.

    But we are about to file for primary custody of my stepdaughter and (completely separately from that and fairly unusually) her mother keeps changing which parts of Christmas break she would like stepdaughter for. It’s making it impossible to plan anything and really stressful as we try to ensure that we get some xmas time with stepdaughter and that she doesn’t get left out of anything at her mom’s house.

  14. I like regifting the most.

    I get very few presents (only from work) and they are rarely anything I can use. So I give them away. I REALLY like giving things away – when there is no pressure to give the biggest, brightest, shiniest whatever.

    I used to hate the traditional Christmas. There was always such judgments and disappointments. I bailed out of that years ago and will never go back.

    • I guess I should clarify: my family told me many years ago that they did not want me participating in Christmas because I don’t make enough money to buy the kinds of presents they want.

      I don’t have any contact with them at all and haven’t for a long time. No regrets at all. One choose to stay in or (in my case) walk away from toxic relationships.

  15. I’ve started just leaving when I’m sick of everyone. On Thanksgiving, my family started talking sh*t about the government (coincidentally, my employer). I suddenly had to start driving the hour home. I’m planning the same for Christmas.

    Also, gf and I are sleeping at her apartment this year, and not at my mother’s house. I think it will really help the holiday be more relaxing, even if there’s morning driving.

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