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MamaVoices: Splitting the Holidays & Keeping Your Sanity

Why is holiday scheduling and planning so exhausting each year? We’ve asked some of our favorite Mamas to give us their tips and tricks for splitting time between family this holiday season.

It’s that time of year again, when the question arises: who are you going to spend the holidays with?? You have faced the facts… your family is his and his family is yours. So why is holiday scheduling and planning so exhausting each year? We’ve asked some of our favorite Mamas to give us their tips and tricks for splitting time between family this holiday season. Happy Holidays!!


Since welcoming a delightful babe into our family, the pressure, and desire, to attend as many holiday family gatherings as possible has increased. But people, there really ARE only so many hours in a day - especially when those days include turkey carving and gift hauling.

Here are my tips for attempting (notice I did NOT say “mastering”) the family juggle:

Figure out what will make you happy.

Want to go to the movies on Thanksgiving night? Linger over your pumpkin pie while playing cards with your Aunts and Uncles? Stay in your PJ’s until noon on Christmas Day? The first step to a happy holiday is to figure out what you want and then build around that. 

Get cozy with the fact that your plans will be met with disappointment.

Unless the stars align perfectly, you’re going to miss something and someone is going to really miss you. Even the most understanding and supportive relatives are bound to be a little bummed when they hear that you can’t make it. Let go of trying to do it all and enjoy what you can.

Create additional events so there isn’t so much pressure placed on one specific day.

My husband’s family often travels for Thanksgiving, but holds a “Faux Thanksgiving” earlier in November so that everyone can get together on a weekend that isn’t so jam-packed with plans. Turkey dinner twice in one month - everybody wins.

Plan a Date Night

My husband’s birthday is the week after Christmas and it’s great to round out the holidays with a nice dinner just for us. It makes up for spending a month being able to do little more than wink at each other from across the chaos. ;)

Bryce checking out her new stocking at Grandma’s house. 

-Erin O., Managing Editor


I have three bits of advice when it comes to being with family over the holidays: 1-- Plan early, 2--Set realistic expectations, and 3-- Don’t stretch yourselves too thin. 

Personally, I have violated every one of these “rules”… and because of this, I have become a holiday-family-get-together-connoisseur.

Bouncing back and forth between our two families began before my husband and I were even married. From the moment we started dating, we were tugged back and forth to attend each and every family event. From Sunday dinner to piano recitals… we tried to be there. As you can imagine, tackling Thanksgiving and Christmas was similar to setting up Fort Knox. 

Our first holiday season together was exhausting (to say the least) and it left us eager to get home at the end of the night. We spent too much time driving back and forth to every family function, and we ended up with no energy to spend any time together. Big mistake. 

Since that first year, we have figured out a great schedule. We celebrate Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas morning with mine. Thanksgiving alternates every other year. So far this schedule has worked, and we manage to keep everyone happy and avoid a tug-of-war of time.

I have learned one thing: The holiday season promises to be crazy (and I mean that in the best way possible), but it is worth it. Be sure to plan early, set realistic expectations and don't stretch yourselves too thin! 

-Rebecca D., Editor -


The holiday season is more hectic than normal around our house because my daughter’s birthday is in early December and my son’s birthday is in late January. On top of that, my children have 3 sets of grandparents due to divorce and remarriage, and one set lives in another state. Our first Christmas with both kids we tried to do a birthday party for my daughter in Ohio, a birthday party in Michigan, Christmas in Ohio, Christmas in Michigan, then a birthday party for my son in Ohio, and a birthday party in Michigan. We did all of this traveling in a span of two months. Needless to say we were all exhausted and not enjoying the holidays at all.

Our solution was to combine the kids’ birthday parties. We have a party for both kids around my daughter’s birthday in one state and then another party around my son’s birthday in the other state. As toddlers my kids think it’s wonderful to have someone to share their birthday with and since they enjoy the same books, toys, and characters it works out well. On the children’s actual birthday, we make sure to still do something small, but special for each child. Combining and spreading out the birthday parties has helped relieve the stress of the holidays, reduced the number of parties, and allowed everyone to enjoy the holidays and their birthdays a little more.

-Tesa N., blogger -- 2 Toddlers and Me


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The holidays bring fun, excitement, and unforgettable memories to a growing family. Being the mom, I'm the one left to deal with planning and organizing how we'll spread ourselves out between our families that have come together through marriage. Throughout the years, we've had very busy schedules with the many people that make up our family. There's so many places to be, in so little time. Planning well ahead of time is key.

Last year was the first holiday season that I was married and had to make important decisions with my husband. Coming into a marriage with kids and holidays somewhat a routine, this was pretty difficult at first. But this year, I think I've got it down packed. Before involving the extended family, discuss it thoroughly with your partner first. See if you can come to a common ground and work from there.

Since my kids have grown up with my parents, they are naturally closer to them. All the holidays my parents are with us, but we visit his families homes for the holidays.

Luckily in our families, Thanksgiving isn't as big a deal as Christmas. On Thanksgiving, we cook for my mom, dad, and aunt, but his family already has their traditions set in stone. It's not a problem for us to drop by for a visit over the Thanksgiving holiday to have a small gathering with his family. We typically have Thanksgiving dinner in the evening, whereas his family has a lunch. It works out perfectly.

Christmas can be pretty hectic. Depending on my families work schedule, presents and celebrating can be on Christmas Eve one year, then Christmas morning the next. When his family decides on when they'll be celebrating with the family, we work around that. Thank goodness we all live in the same town! I don't know if we could make it traveling long distances.

Whatever you do, never make any promises to your family. Something may arise, and it might not be possible to make something happen. It'll take time to get used to sharing yourself with your spouse's family, but it can be done. Compromise is key. Sometimes as adults, we try to make everything perfect. I've learned to just go with the flow. In the end everyone will benefit.

-Kimberly K., blogger - Mission-Mommy


After living 12, 24 and now 3 hours from family, my husband and I have tried every combination of the “holiday family visit” that exists. Sometimes successful, sometimes not, here’s what we’ve tried and where we stand this year.

1. Pie Chart Holiday: The celebration day is broken into percentages of time spent with different family groups. 25% for my family, 25% for his family, 25% for driving, 25% for time overages when we say we’re leaving at 3:00 and don’t get out the door until 5:00. Like the messy middle of the pie plate, we’re left muddled at the day’s end. Like pie itself, everyone gets a little but wants more.

2. Flip-Flop Holiday: As in, we spent last Christmas with his family, and now it’s my family’s turn, so now we’re playing every-other-year-holiday-flip-flop. It’s nice to hunker down with one family at a time, but the absent family loses out. Also, if one year gets messed up, it’s difficult to fall back into the flip-flop syncopation. Last, this option leaves no margin for spending a holiday in our own home (see Option 3).

3. Home Alone Holiday: After years of Pie Chart and Flip-Flop Holidays, we were tired of leaving our home for holidays. We probably would’ve folded to family pressure again, but I was 8 months pregnant and we lived 24 hours away from everyone (no, they don’t travel for holidays). We chose the Home Alone Holiday. It began peacefully and then grew boring. We missed our family.

4. Taking A Stand Holiday: We now have 2 little kids and live 3 hours from our family. We are hosting Thanksgiving, and decided to stay home for Christmas Day. Anyone is welcome to visit us that day, and then we’ll begin 4-days of Pie Chart Holiday Makeup between Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s the Most Complicated Wonderful Time of the Year!

-Erica F.,


When I was a little girl growing up in Iowa, I was lucky enough to have an amazing family that I loved and that I always wanted to be around. I never wanted to experience a Christmas, birthday or Thanksgiving without them.

Little did I know that I would fall in love and marry an Arkansas boy. Before meeting Alex, I had never thought about the Natural State. It was one among the 50 that I had to memorize in 5th grade. Now its rolling hills and fried corn bread have become a reality.

Since moving to Arkansas in 2007, my husband and I have alternated spending holidays with our families. If you live at least a state away, that’s about all you can do. If there is a trek ahead of you in the winter months, for your own sanity, pick a method of travel that is fun. Yes, travel CAN be enjoyable! For example, Alex and I are driving to Minnesota to see my family for Christmas. We are going to be road trippin’ hippies – with a hairdryer. We can stop at restaurants along the way, or just cuddle in the car and picnic. 

I have gotten to the point where I don’t let holidays stress me out-I guess it’s a gift to myself. Against all odds, angry travelers, delays, traffic jams and miles of highway, I always seem to find my cup of cocoa by the fire with my family – no matter what state it’s in.

-Kate S., blogger -- Sassy in the South


It was our turn to host Christmas, and I invited all of my husband’s family to join us for our traditional Christmas Eve celebrations. It would be a big party that would combine both families’ traditions. It would span four generations, as my grandparents were coming, including my grandfather who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

We ate first, everyone bringing their favorite Christmas foods. Afterward, we followed my family traditions by reading Christmas stories, and singing. As a special treat, my sister brought a set of hand bells. With some practice, we were all playing “Joy to the World” on the bells. As the last notes died away, my grandfather, who had been smiling silently all evening, exclaimed, “Oh, that was just beautiful!” he then added, “I would like to tell you all about Economics.”

After the music, it was time for the gifts. My husband’s family plays a gift exchange game every year. Everyone played. By this time, the kids were all restless, and it was time for everyone to go home. We got our own kids off to bed, excited for Christmas morning. As the house emptied, I realized that I had succeeded in combining both families in celebrating Christmas exactly the way I wanted to. It was wonderful!

The years since have been more of a challenge figuring out how to blend both families. It works about as well as hand bells and Economics.

My grandfather had it right.

-Julie B., blogger -- Every Life Has a Story


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