HAVE YOURSELF A VERY UNBUSY CHRISTMAS

When the lead up to Christmas Day becomes overwhelming, maybe it's time to dial it back a notch or two and create an Unbusy Christmas.#Christmas #Unbusy

CHOOSING AN UNBUSY CHRISTMAS

At the end of October I discovered and joined the Unbusy Holiday Challenge. It's aimed at mums who get overwhelmed during the Christmas season, but I loved the idea of letting go of all the Christmas palaver and expectations and choosing to do Christmas my way, rather than how I felt I should be doing it to keep everyone else happy.

Every year I get caught up in the Brady Bunch Christmas ideal - you know the one where the tree is colour co-ordinated, the presents bought and wrapped in November, the family all excited about being together, and me basking in the glow of Christmas delightfulness ....and every year I usually end up deflated and resigned to the fact that reality didn't quite meet my expectations. This year I'm choosing to do Christmas differently - I'm going to do it on my terms, and not set myself up for disappointment or undue stress. Welcome to my Unbusy Christmas that I've finally been brave enough to claim for myself after 58 years of doing it the way I thought it was supposed to be done.

EXTENDED FAMILY EXPECTATIONS

I'm from a fairly dysfunctional family background, with a father who wasn't particularly interested in us, and brothers who are similar to each other, but completely different to me. Despite that, for the last 58 years we've had Christmas together - whether it was convenient or not, whether it made sense to or not, whether it caused extra stress or not. Every.single.year we get together and have lunch on Boxing Day - and up until the last few years that's been okay. As my brother put it - "it's one day of the year where we can suck it up and do family".

I was always the one who put their hand up to have it at my place, or to bring the most food, or to drag my kids (and then my grandgirls) along to sit around the table and play happy families for a couple of hours. No big deal, and it was quite pleasant, good to have ticked the family boxes, and good when it was all done for another year. I never asked myself whether it was still working for my nuclear family, or why we were doing it when it was getting harder and harder to arrange, I just kept pushing through and doing the right thing.

FAMILY UPHEAVALS

This year there was a small family stoush and things are still at a bit of a stand off. So, I started to ask myself why I'd want to put myself through another extended family Christmas when it was going to be more strained and awkward than it normally was? Why do I keep doing the "good daughter" thing and jump through everyone else's hoops when I'd rather just be doing Christmas with my husband, my kids, and my grandgirls? When is it my turn to have a family Christmas that feels comfortable and right? 

All those questions hinge on the fact that I can keep doing something that isn't working for me anymore, or I can claim Christmas back on my terms. I choose to take it back and to do it in a relaxed and Unbusy way - to enjoy my time with the family members I'm closest to, and to stop playing happy families because it's the way we've always done things. It's time to move on and leave the old way of doing Christmas behind and replace it with a more cheerful and authentic version that honours my immediate family and doesn't require compromise.

Choosing to have an Unbusy Christmas - pausing to reflect and enjoy the day.
from the Unbusy Holiday Challenge

SO WHAT WILL AN UNBUSY CHRISTMAS LOOK LIKE?

I'm in the process of figuring out what an Unbusy Christmas in our empty nest will be like. There'll still be the tree - because the grandgirls will like it (and I get a bit of a kick out of decorating it). There'll be fairy lights (I love them!) and Christmas music, there'll be love and laughter, plenty of food, lots of conversation, and no rush or bother. There will be less presents for the adults, but still a few for the grandgirls. The actual day we get together will be after Christmas, but I can be flexible when there's less people to organize. It's not the day that matters, it's having my kids here and being together that matters the most to me.

I had to re-define Christmas when our kids got married and were juggling two families, and that took some adjustment on my part, but now that's sorted and it's time to re-define the extended family Christmas Day down to something that feels easy and manageable and fun for those I care about. Less people, less preparation, less family dynamics, less presents, less stress - it all sounds pretty good to me, and in the process the load is lifted and I can start to enjoy Christmas in a new way - where I get to be the matriach/wife/mother/nan - instead of being the daughter/sister I've been during Christmases Past.

From now on, I'm re-defining Christmas in a way that suits my family; rather than trying to fit into old traditions that no longer work for us. LLC #Christmasquotes

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What does your family Christmas look like? Are you still doing the giant extended family occasion or are you taking a step back and sharing the day with immediate family? Have you felt the pull towards dialling Christmas back a notch or two - or is it just me?

RELATED POSTS



When the lead up to Christmas Day becomes overwhelming, maybe it's time to dial it back a notch or two and create an Unbusy Christmas.#Christmas #Unbusy
When the lead up to Christmas Day becomes overwhelming, maybe it's time to dial it back a notch or two and create an Unbusy Christmas.#Christmas #Unbusy

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44 comments

  1. Congratulations on making changes that work for you, your family, and your sanity! When my sisters and I married, our parents moved our big family Christmas celebration to Christmas Eve because they didn't want us to feel pressured to be everywhere at once on Christmas Day. Years and years later, we still celebrate on Christmas Eve with extended family, though my mother has passed the torch of hosting to my eldest niece (I do Thanksgiving!). On Christmas Day, my husband, our children and I host our parents and anyone else who can come, and it's just a nice, relaxing day. Dialing Christmas back a notch or two? Yes, we've done that in order to keep our focus on the traditions we love and, more importantly, where it really belongs during the Season. Merry Christmas, Leanne!

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    1. Hi Laura - I think your Christmas sounds great. My husband's family does a similar shared meal at his sister's place - any family members welcome and very low key. A lot of the cousins are similar ages and enjoy the once-a-year catch up. My family is less connected and I'm enjoying the idea of finally making my own traditions and keeping what suits, while moving on from the things that no longer work for me. There's still a bit of guilt attached but that will fade as time goes on. A very Merry Christmas to you too xx

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  2. My husband and I come from dysfunctional families as well. I'm still trying to figure out how it affected me, and how to heal from it. My husband and I are doing it together, and talking it out with each other really helps. One thing I do know is, after we were married, we kept moving our family further and further away from our original families. You've heard the term, "Fight or flee", well, we fled. At least we have each other and our kids. I always say that Tim and I were God's gift to each other, since we come from troubled backgrounds. Even though our kids and grandkids are far away this year, we have each other and stay connected with them through Skype. Merry Christmas to you and your family Leanne! Sharing to FB.

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    1. Hi Christina - I'm sorry that you scored so badly with both extended families. My husband's family is much more connected than mine and the cousins (my children's generation) still enjoy catching up with each other. My family just seems to be a bit disjointed and I feel less and less inclined to work at keeping things going. It's probably my view of it, but I'm finding that it's okay to say "this isn't working for me" after nearly 60 years!
      I'm sorry you won't get to have your kids and grandkids in person, but Skype and Messenger are wonderful inventions - I love that we can all video chat for free these days - no more static-y long distance expensive calls - Yay! Merry Christmas to you and your family too xxx

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  3. Leanne, It is so wonderful that you have the option to CHOOSE how you are separating from the extended family for Christmas. On my end, it was more about family traditions just dissolving away. I tried to be the matriarch, but nobody wanted me to...and year by year, they just stopped coming to the gathering. It feels like loss to me, not choice. This year, like last year, we are doing practically nothing. No tree. No family gathering. In fact, I'm not even doing Christmas cards as I feel very disconnected to extended family & friends this year. Christmas will be almost the same as any other day.... which actually isn't that bad, because most days are pretty good. I might search for a midnight mass to attend on Christmas Eve... or just spend a quiet evening with hubby. But with no kids of our own, there really is no need to do anything.

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    1. Oh Pat I'm sorry that your Christmas has dwindled down to nothing. Sometimes I wonder about all the pain of parenting when the kids end up living hours away and we see them so infrequently, but I guess it's times like Christmas, weddings, birthdays etc that you would notice that you're at the end of the generation for your family.
      It's a shame your wider family doesn't want to do a big Christmas thing - then at least you'd get to feel some of the "Christmas feels". I know what you mean about no tree etc because I would have given up on ours years ago if it wasn't for the grandies - it does make the house feel more Christmassy though.
      I hope you find some new little traditions to share with your husband in the years ahead - it really is a special time of the year and we need to do it in a way that feels warm and genuine and authentic xx

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  4. Hi Leanne! Good for you for breaking away from unsatisfying and unhappy Christmas tradition just to please others! My husband kept me in check for many many years while my parents and sister were alive, but now that they are gone (and I'm older now) I just don't feel the need to do things like was done in the past. HOWEVER, I do believe it is important to celebrate the good in our lives on just about any holiday so I do try to do something that reminds me of all that I am grateful for. This year we will be visiting friends, taking a hike, and maybe catch a candle lighting service. Always something to do if we take the time to plan it "our way!" Merry Christmas to you and yours! ~Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy - I'm finding it interesting to see how those who don't have adult childre "do" Christmas. I think if we get into the habit of making the season about what's meaningful to us personally, then we find ways to celebrate and share the Christmas spirit without all the palaver that society these days seems to attach to it.
      I hope you both have a lovely Christmas xx

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  5. Hi Leanne,
    Festivals can indeed become very hectic. Quite ironic since that's the time we look forward to relaxed days.
    So your post was a good and timely piece on how to be organised.
    This Christmas and New Year I will be in Australia. Looking forward to some good time.
    Wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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    1. You're going to be on my side of the world Pradeep! I hope you have a fabulous time - and that the weather behaves itself. It's been SO HOT here lately (and lots of bushfires) but I think it's calming down a bit for Christmas - in the 30's instead of 40 degrees that we've had this last week.

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  6. Good for you, Leanne, for redefining Christmas to suit your family. My extended family is close and we get together on Dec 26. Three generations will be there. We rotate the host duty and do potluck dinner. We all pitch in with setup and cleanup. We stop buying gifts for the adults many years ago. The youngest generation draws names and each person gets a gift from his/ her cousin. We celebrate the time together, more than the holiday itself. #MLSTL

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    1. Family is really important to me too Natalie - but I'm finding that I'm closer to some parts of my extended family more than others - and trying to pretend something is different to what it actually is, just causes me more stress than I can be bothered with these days. I'm happy dialling it back a notch or two and bringing a little bit of self care into the picture. And I can't wait to see my kids and grandies! Happy Christmas xx

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  7. Hi Leanne, I am glad you are redefining Christmas in your own way. It is time! You have learned from your last year that you no longer have to put up with what doesn't work. I will also have a quiet Christmas this year. We just got back from a big wedding for my daughter in Jamaica and we saw everyone. We will stay home this year, just the two of us. We plan to go to lunch on Christmas Eve and then to a bookstore and buy a bunch of books and then just enjoy a couple of quiet days. We still have the tree and the lights and will have some good food. It is enough.

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    1. I think "it is enough" sums it up for me too Michele - doing things on a smaller scale with the people/person you love is more than enough. Trying to stretch yourself thin to please everyone and holding onto stuff that doesn't make you happy is not what the season's about for me. I know keeping up appearance is important to some people - but I just can't do it anymore - and that's okay. And yes this year has taught me a lot about self preservation! Happy Christmas (and I hope we see some wedding pics!) x

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  8. I always try to have an unbusy Christmas but everyone else doesn't get the message. Very nice post. #MLSTL

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    1. Bigger is supposed to be better according to most people Patrick, but give me small and relaxed any day!

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  9. We're in the process of redefining all of our holidays, since we moved from Connecticut to Florida. It's our first warm weather Christmas, so it's kind of hard to relate it being Christmas without the cold and snow. But, no matter, I will always have a tree and lights. And I like how I learn new words from you, like stoush. Had to look that one up!

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    1. I always laugh when people from the US find my word choice weird Jennifer - it's how I discovered that you don't say "fortnight" either - obviously the Queen's English is filtered a little over time and distance.
      You'll love having a warm Christmas - it's the only kind I know - but it does change the menu a little and no Christmas sweaters!

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  10. Our family is spread over 3 different states and we used to traipse all over the place to try to catch up. We decided years ago to stop the stress, stay at home, relax and enjoy. Family are welcome to join us but I dont feel guilty about relaxing. Life is busy and I want to enjoy and an unbusy Christmas works a treat for me. I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas and does it their way.

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    1. I think that's the secret to a lovely Christmas - doing it in a way that works for each of us. I'm so tired of the assumption that it should be done in one particular way. Family dynamics change, people get older, distances are involved...it's about doing it in a way that retains some of the 'comfort and joy' of the season.

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  11. You've made some real adjustments this year, Leanne. I'm impressed and happy for you. I've pared down all the fuss over Christmas over the past several years--less decorating, fewer Christmas cards and gifts. What we've kept, I love. The Christmas music, baking cookies, looking at other people's lights. :-) We have a big Christmas Eve party with extended family (though this will be the first year my Mom doesn't host) and a more relaxed open house style gathering at my home on Christmas Day. So far, we are blessed to have been able to keep these two traditions, which I greatly love. Merry Christmas Leanne! Enjoy! #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Christie - I think you're right about all the adjustments that 2019 has held and maybe that's made me reluctant to keep doing yet another thing that hasn't brought me much joy over the last few years. I want to be like you where I hold onto the bits that I love and discard what isn't working any more. I haven't done Christmas cards, or newsletters, or much present buying - and I haven't missed those things either. For me it'll be about my husband, my kids and their kids first and foremost. Merry Christmas to you too xxx

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story, Leann. To me, the holidays and everyday should be spent with those that matter most to you anyway. Not to discount your relationship with your brothers but I bet your grandgirls LOVE to have you around. It's a blessing to have a grandmother that cares so much!

    I have to say it makes me feel much better about not being with my mom and her crotchety husband for Christmas to head out and seek my 2 kids company in Las Vegas and California during Christmas week. I just moved to Arizona and staying with mom until I get back on my feet (which can't happen fast enough). I decided to rent a small RV and head out next week to see my kids. It's last minute so they are still working and have other Christmas plans, I can't expect them to change them last minute. But I'll be seeing them and bringing gifts and cookies to celebrate seeing them!

    I'm excited!!

    Sharing. :-)

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    1. Allison if I was you I'd be ecstatic! I'm so glad you're going to get some time with your kids. I've worked out that my kids have busy lives and it's a juggle to find a time to "do" Christmas, but once we settle on a day that works it's an absolute joy. Spending less time trying to keep the extended family happy and more time enjoying Christmas through the eyes of the grandgirls is going to be just lovely and I can't wait - I'm excited too xx

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  13. Leanne, I can relate to the stress of family drama. We have not had an extended family holiday in years. In fact the last one was when my then fourteen year old daughter turned to me and said, "mommy, why do we come here? they don't even like us." It had never occurred to me that in the process of trying to be the good daughter, sister, etc. I was actually hurting my husband and child by exposing them to my toxic situation. To add insult to injury, I fully expected them to play along. Holidays are meant to be celebrated, not endured and making the choice to back away was the right thing for us. I think a lot of readers will relate to your message today. Hopefully it will help someone who is struggling with these issues to find the courage to change.

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    1. Hi Suzanne - isn't it interesting how we play the family Christmas game year after year - even when it's not good for us? I'm so glad you understand where I'm coming from - to be honest, I don't think my brothers are remotely interested in me or my family, and yet we pretend every year to be something we're not. I'm so relieved to finally say "enough" and to be choosing to Christmas in a way that feels right to me - it's such a joy to have put yet another obligation behind me. I hope your Christmas is a joyful one too x

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  14. Good for you Leanne, that sounds a wonderful way to be!! I wish you all the best for the season and the new decade. Thanks for all your support and the link up which I try not to miss each week, regardless of if I’m in Hungary or at home in Tumbarumba 😊. I’ve pinned this for #mlstl

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    1. Hi Deb - I love that you've been with us all the way at MLSTL - it's been such a great group and a joy to host each week. Never once have I regretted joining Sue to start this party because it's like getting together with friends. Enjoy your wintery Christmas with your little family and I'm expecting to see some more Dotty pics soon xx

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  15. I'm not sure why it takes us so long to unlearn family duty, especially when we have our own families who should take priority. My family were ok together at holiday time, but after Mum passed I think we all breathed a sigh of relief about feigning family "joy". There are some of us now who never talk and those of us who were always friends make a point of remaining close.
    I love the idea of an unbusy Christmas and I think my children know I love to see them when they can make it happen, but that no time or distance can undo that love. If I can give them one gift, it'll be 'no guilt' about our time together.

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    1. Agnes - "family duty" is exactly what it's become over the last several years - where we suck it up and it's okay, but all a bit stilted and I'm quietly relieved to be able to step back from it and let this be the beginning of a new Christmas time where it's about my branch of the family and choosing to spend the time we have together in a way that's real and full of love. I don't care about when it happens but I'm so happy when we find the right time and place and get to laugh and share the day.

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  16. Our Chrismasses changed once our children got married/had partners and then grandkids came along. My parents stopped hosting way before that and then we started. Over time, each member of the family has had to make different arrangements for Christmas Day and "that" bothered me because "I" never wanted things to change. But I accepted they did - it was hard. Adding grandchildren to our Christmas - since 1996 was the best ever. Then, over the years we had to adapt to changes in family relationships. It was sad but inevitable that our last year in Sydney for Christmas it would never be the same. For all the reasons of distance, time, my health and relationship breakdowns we had 3 Christmas Days alone. Last year, our daughter and crew came up here. This year we are going there. I am learning to adapt. It is hard. But it is happening. Denyse #mlstl

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    1. I think change always has fallout associated with it Denyse. It's never easy to say "this isn't working for me" or to understand why others don't want what things the way we do - or even see things in the same light as us. It's taken several years for things to settle into a good and genuine pattern since my kids both got married and started sharing their Christmases with each other and their extended families. I've had to let some things go, but what I have now is really special and I'm not prepared to waste a minute of it doing stuff that doesn't bring me joy. I hope your day with your daughter and family is really good too xx

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  17. And a big thank you to you and Sue for this link up which is always a great place to share and find stories of inspiration. Merry Christmas and Happy 2020 to you and yours. Denyse x

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    1. My pleasure Denyse - I love the group that gathers here each Wednesday and the love and support for the party has never ceased to amaze me. Sue comments on it too - we have such a wonderful group of Midlifers and I feel blessed to be a part of it xx

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  18. Good on you Leanne! I have had to do Christmas to suit two extended families for a long, long time and to be honest I would like to run away and do Christmas my way one year. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year and all the best for a happy, healthy and fun 2020! xo

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    1. It's taken me 58 years (shame I couldn't make the 58 in capitals or bold because that's how it feels!) to have enough gumption to step away. I still have the guilt and the feeling that I've piked out, but on the day it will feel really good to not be juggling so many family dynamics. Now it will be about what feels right rather than obligations.

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  19. Bravo, Leanne! I've been working on this idea for years (as I have chronicled in my blog). Each year I do a little more whittling, but there is still too much work and expense attached to Christmas for me! This year, I am attempting to pare down the whole presents issue, but not having a lot of success! There is always someone who wants to keep the 'traditions' alive...

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    1. I know what you mean about the traditionalists Diane - it all seems so crazy to me when everyone has more than enough and the capacity to buy anything they need for themselves. To be swamped with gifts we don't need just seems so wasteful. I'm very relieved my family is moving away from the whole gift giving scenario and I hope yours gets there eventually too. Merry Christmas! xx

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  20. Good for you! I love the changes you made for yourself. We stopped having Christmas with extended family many years ago. They were very inconsiderate about scheduling it so it was most convenient for them and least convenient for us who had to travel the farthest, and they didn't seem to care when we stopped coming because of it. I also did not like how they "did Christmas" and didn't want my kids to grow up thinking that was what Christmas was all about. So we just had our own nuclear family "little family" Christmas and developed our own traditions. Now of course the grandchildren have arrived, and children always make Christmas more fun and magical, so I couldn't be happier!

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    1. I can completely relate to family "doing Christmas differently" Amy - and it's nice to ba able to finally step away from that and focus on those I love. A little family Christmas just feels like a good fit for me - and yes, grandchildren are the icing on the Christmas cake aren't they? Merry Christmas xx

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  21. Hi BBB, we have a blended family as you know and years ago I made the decision to have our blended family Christmas a few days before Christmas Day. We then go to my daughter's on Christmas Day to relax and enjoy my family. This year will be slightly different as we will be having our blended family event as an afternoon tea at my MIL's aged care home. It feels strange not buzzing around preparing for a houseful as I've done in previous years. At the end of the day, it really is just about spending time together as a family and seeing the joy of Christmas in my grandchildren's faces. Thank you for being my co host for another #MLSTL it continues to be popular so we must be doing something right. Have a wonderful Christmas and may 2020 bring happiness and contentment. xx

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    1. Hi Sue - I'm sure blended families add another layer to the Christmas juggling and I think you've done really well to get the balance right. For me, I think I've let things keep going in a direction that wasn't "me" for too many years, and now it's time to make some changes. A bit of a family fallout is a perfect time to preserve my sanity and my happiness and begin my own traditions.
      You're so right about the joy of Christmas and grandchildren - I think it's going to be lovely to focus on that this year instead of keeping everyone else happy.
      And thank you right back again for being with me through 2 years of #MLSTL - I think we have a wonderful community and I'm so glad we started it together.
      Merry Christmas - and bring on 2020! xxx

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  22. I think it will be a good time for you Leanne, because it's what you want, not what you think you should be doing! I wish you well and hope your unbusy time is just as you want it to be. We have tried a variety of get togethers over the years and it usually works well. This year I'm with my eldest f=daughter and her partner in England with our newest granddaughter Dottie so it will be very different in many ways. I am missing my other daughters, my mother and my sister but I'll catch up with them when I get home. Lovely to catch up with your plans. All the best for 2020.

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    1. Hi Deb - you're going to have a wonderful Christmas - especially with Dottie doing so well (such an amazing blessing and outcome!) I think we have to re-define Christmas every so often so that it fits with the way our family changes and grows. For me it's about keeping things simple and "real" - I'm SO beyond fake these days! Merry Christmas and here's to 2020! xx

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