By DEBRA WHITE SMITH
PALESTINE — QUESTION: The holidays are almost here, and my whole family is coming to my house-again. I know I'm supposed to be glad to be with family, and I am, but by the time they leave I'm so exhausted I feel like I have been robbed of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, since I've taken over my mother's role of being the one does the bulk of the cooking and cleaning. This year, I am thinking about “resigning” as the family hub, but there's a good chance we won't get together at all. Now that my mother is gone, I hate to let go of this tradition. It started with me just wanting to make holidays as close to perfect as possible-like they used to be before my mom died. But I feel like I'm a slave to my own plans. How can I get a balance on this?
ANSWER: Forget trying to make the holidays perfect for anyone. Think in terms of making the holidays enjoyable for everyone — including you.
Understand that you will never achieve perfection. By pursuing perfection, you are proving that you have an imperfection because it's impossible to achieve perfection. With that said, you'll reduce your stress level when you reduce the pressure you're putting on yourself.
There are a variety of ways to get your family together without compromising your sanity. For instance, meeting at a family-atmosphere restaurant offers a viable alternative to gathering in your home. This way, each family member can order what he or she wants and someone besides you does the cooking and cleanup while you get to relax and enjoy the visit. Another alternative involves asking your church to allow your family to meet in the fellowship hall. This way, your home isn't showcased, and the after-dinner cleanup is more likely to be a group effort. Make sure to tell your family the meal is pot luck this year and that each family group should bring enough food to at least feed their individual family.
Even if you do decide to continue the holidays in your home, take every shortcut possible. For instance, use disposable utensils and dinnerware. Furthermore, the holiday police won't arrest you if you don't make everything from scratch! Many restaurants and some grocery stores offer a fully cooked Thanksgiving meal that you can order ahead of time and pick up the day of your family gathering. If you can convince your family to split the cost, having the holiday meals catered might be another viable option.
Last, I understand your desire to carry on a family tradition after your mother's death. However, you can never recapture the years your mother was with you, no matter how hard you try. Instead of attempting so hard to fill her shoes and extend an era in your family's life, be innovative in creating new dynamics that will generate new traditions that you and your family will cherish. Remember, the holidays can be the most enchanting time of the year, but not if you're too tired to be inspired.
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org