Four Christmases :: Finding Time for Family Without Losing Your Mind


Has everyone seen the movie Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn?  That is my life, except we actually have FIVE Christmases to attend every year.

My husband and I both have divorced parents who are remarried so that leads to a lot of chaos celebrating.  Our families might not be as colorful as the ones in the movie {although close}, but each have a unique personality and way of celebrating the season.   Needless to say, I get a little stressed around the holidays trying to find the perfect gift for everyone, decorate, attend holiday events, and make it to each family Christmas celebration.

5 Families + 3 Cities = 1 Potential Christmas Disaster

Every year after the holidays my husband and I vow to find a better way to tackle the season.  We joke about running off to Fiji until the New Year a la Reese and Vince in the movie.    It’s not that we don’t love seeing our families, it’s just hard to see everyone in a short amount of time.  Five families who all want to see us on Christmas Day is exhausting.  We can’t enjoy each individual celebration when constantly looking at the clock to make the next event.  No one feels that they get enough time, and we come out of it feeling tired and guilty for not spending more time with each group.

…And this is all before throwing a kid into the mix!

Can anyone else relate?  Although I don’t think there is one perfect answer, I’ve listed a few tips for surviving a season like this.  My husband and I are still trying to find a good balance between seeing everyone at the holidays while still protecting our time {and sanity} for our family of three.

Plan, plan, plan

I could not survive Christmas without my Excel Spreadsheets…and a glass of wine.  My family makes fun of me because I make a spreadsheet for everything, but my husband loves that I’m so organized.  We set a Christmas budget, make a list of what needs to be purchased and wrapped.  Then most importantly, we plan our schedules far in advance.  I love my Erin Condren Life Planner to help me keep track of the month.  Also check out the Christmas List app to help organize your shopping list and keep track of your budget!

Stick up for yourself {and your kids}

Do not feel bad or apologize for saying no to things during the holiday season.  It’s okay if you can’t make every single gathering, dinner, or celebration.  This is a hard one for me because I am a people pleaser, but it is just not feasible {especially in a huge, blended family like mine} to be at everything.  Make the most out of the time you do get with each group and move on.

Set the expectations early on

I’ve learned that when trying to juggle a busy holiday season with a lot of family, it’s best to set the expectations early on.  If you can’t see a particular group on Christmas Day, it’s best to not beat around the bush and disappoint them later.  Let them know your plans far enough in advance to avoid pouty relatives and drama later on.  I start the conversation as early as October.

Make your own rules and traditions

To avoid feeling like you are just pressing repeat with all of the family gatherings, look for fun ways to get together.  This is how we ended up with our annual ‘Tacky Sweater Enchilada Night Extravaganza’ at my dad’s house each year {pictured above}.  And our Chinese food tradition on Christmas Eve at my mom’s.   We’ve also made it a tradition to stop at Buc-ee’s for silly stocking stuffers on the boring drive up I-45 to the DFW area.  Whatever you do, make it fun!

Make time for your kids…alone

Don’t forget to set aside some private time for your immediate family only.  The most special time I can remember growing up was Christmas morning with just my brother and parents.  We would see what Santa brought, have breakfast, and play with our toys – just us.  The hubs and I plan on reserving Christmas morning for our little family time starting this year.

Don’t get hung up on specific dates

With five families and lots of miles in between, it’s impossible to see everyone on Christmas Day as they all would like.  Just remember, it doesn’t matter when you see each other, just that you see each other.  I like to call this spreading out the Christmas love.

When in doubt, check-out {I kid…sort of}

I love seeing all of our five families around the holidays, but if it ever becomes too complicated to juggle – I’m packing up Jack and Jason and heading out of town until New Years.  But in all seriousness, I know of a lot of families who decide to spend their money on a family vacation to soak in quality time with each other rather than lots of gift-giving.


Once everything is planned, purchased, and wrapped – buckle up and enjoy the crazy ride!  And feel free to follow MY crazy ride this year via Instagram.

What is your holiday season like?


  1. I know the feeling all too well it’s pure chaos and feelings always seem to get hurt but one of these days it will work out perfectly right?! 🙂 hope to see you Christmas Day so I can love on baby Jack!

  2. I am about this close >< to doing the whole "check out" option. Hate that all of the stress and obligations can manage to take so much joy and fun out of the holidays!! 🙁
    (Can you tell this post DEFINITELY strikes a chord with me?!?!)

  3. We do a lot of juggling during Christmas too! My in laws are in the Hill Country, so we all get out a calendar and coordinate when we can all meet up. We’ve committed to being at home Christmas Day (no traveling!) though ever since we had a little one.

  4. right on, sister! For such a relatively young Mom, you are a very wise one! Just last night, my husband and I were discussing how to handle the out of town visiting future in laws on Christmas morning when our intimate immediate family pjs and stockings ritual takes place…you cant please all of the people all of the time and boundaries are important all the way through the Mom ( and Dad) life cycle!


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