The Holiday Pressure Is Real
Guest Post by Allison Villa – Republished from House & Hook
With all of the home-decorating (the Pinterest curse), shopping for last-minutes gifts (how could you forget the piano teacher?), frantically wrapping presents (does it ever end?), and over-seeing the family schedule (what will the holidays even look like this year?), it’s no wonder that you forget about the person who’s right by your side.
Did you know that women (especially moms) tend to have increased stress around the holiday season?
“It is women who shoulder the majority of the family burden for shopping and holiday celebrations and they feel particular stress from the time crunch required to get everything done.” – A. Greenberg/J. Berktold
Young families often feel obligated to drag their youngsters to multiple events (even virtual ones). Everyone wants a piece of the magic that your kids bring to the season, and naturally, you don’t want to disappoint.
You want your kids to be in the cutest outfit, on their best behaviour, and making movie-moments at every opportunity. This is rarely how it unfolds.
In reality, one kid melts down about not getting the blue cup at dinner, while the other one refuses to put on pants when it’s minus ten outside. You’re trying to get your kids to show up on the Zoom call because you don’t want to let down (insert family member), so in the heat of the moment you snap at your partner (because obviously they could have done something to prevent all of this!).
We’ve all been there.
The holiday pressure is not only felt by you, but also, by your kids. They are little sponges and they pick up on whatever’s happening in your world.
Sadly, in an effort to please everyone, you please no one.
It’s no surprise that this season causes tension for even the strongest couples.
The Heightened Holiday Emotions
Besides the obvious overwhelm of visiting family (virtual or in-person), travelling, gifts, planning, and parties, your emotions are magnified over the holidays. The holidays bring up memories from your past, whether from childhood or even more recent years…all with a spectrum of different feelings. The beautiful moments feel extra-joyful, and the stressful moments seem like the world is crashing down around you. Plus, nine months of COVID and social restrictions have magnified all of those feelings, making for an even more intense – and uncertain- holiday season.
If you find yourself crying during “Love, Actually” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” – this is why!
Remember that your kids feel all of the heightened emotions, too. All they want for the holidays is YOU. Fully-present, dirty dishes in the sink, stains-on-your shirt, rolling on the floor, YOU.
And, guess what? That’s all your partner wants, too.
Ditch the unrealistic expectations and put your family first. Let the baby sleep, have a tickle party with your 4-year old, then cozy up on the couch with your partner and soak up the magic. Build your holidays around creating space for those moments with your immediate family & you’ll find that your relationship will flow more easily, too.
Why The Holidays Complicate Your Relationship
To execute the ideal Pinterest-holiday, complete with homemade-everything and IG-worthy photos, you would need an entire entourage. With all of the social expectations, it can feel like you’ve been set up to fail, right from the beginning. The reality is that your relationship takes the brunt of that disappointment.
You may not realize how out-of-reach your expectations are, until you find yourself feeling resentful.
“Why am I wrapping last-minute gifts, while my spouse is relaxing on the couch watching Netflix?”
You can’t help but whisper your frustrations under your breath, and suddenly you find yourselves in a raging conflict about a multitude of topics that you’ve been suppressing for weeks.
These seemingly ‘sudden explosions’ happen because the expression, “You hurt those closest to you.”, rings true.
According to Steven Stosny, Ph.D., author of Empowered Love: Use Your Brain to Be Your Best Self and Create Your Ideal Relationship:
“We use resentment and anger to punish loved ones, not so much for their behavior as for our painful reflections in the mirror of love. We want to attack the mirror because we don’t like the reflection.”
In the heat of the holiday hustle, you snap at your partner because you’re upset with yourself for not meeting your own (often unrealistic) expectations. You trust that they’ll love and accept you fully (flaws-included), so it feels “safe” to let out your negative feelings with them.
It’s not really about them. It’s about you.
Adjusting your expectations (even a bit!), can make a big impact. Include your partner in your holiday vision, so they can help.
If you can embrace the mess of it all, you will be more gentle with yourself, and in turn, with your partner.
Why Your Couple Is Your Super-Power
It’s important to be seen, heard, and understood. Your partner is more than the other half of your domestic team. They are the person that you chose for life. Being witnessed as individuals, outside of your role as “parents”, is crucial to the health of your relationship.
Remember that before kids, you were just two people in love.
You dreamed of having a family together & now, you’re living that dream.
Do you remember that feeling of excitement and wonder as you envisioned your life together?
THAT feeling is still possible with kids. THAT is your super-power. And isn’t excitement and wonder what the holidays are all about?
Take notice of each other and be grateful for the life you’ve created together. When you show appreciation for what you have, it will have an even deeper effect. According to neuroscientist, Alex Korb, Ph.D., when you have a daily gratefulness practice, you’ll notice “increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy.”
Who doesn’t want more of that over the holidays?
#1 Thing To Reduce Holiday Stress
Have a pre-holiday conversation to ensure that you’re both on the same page. By setting realistic expectations this season, you’ll avoid stress and disappointment. When you and your partner can have equal input on which traditions you each want to keep and which you want to get rid of, both of your voices are heard. This is how you create your vision of the holidays, together.
Being aligned with your partner is the key to overcoming holiday stress. Having a 10-minute, pre-holiday conversation, will ensure that you have the tools to beat holiday pressure, reduce emotional flare-ups, and manage expectations. Your couple is your super-power and practicing gratefulness will amplify all of the positive aspects of your life during the holidays, and beyond.
Remember that your couple is the star at the top of your family tree. The more connected you are, the brighter you shine, and the more magic you create for your kids.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season filled with simple moments together.
P.S. – Do you see why your couple is the key to holiday magic for the whole family? Will you take 10 minutes to have this stress-busting conversation?
Allison Villa is a psychotherapist & founder of House and Hook. She specializes in keeping couples’ thriving throughout parenthood. As a wife and mother, she understands how raising a family affects the romantic relationship and the challenges that modern parents face. With Allison’s virtual therapy practice, online monthly membership program & course, this keepin-it-real-mama teaches busy couples to live with intention & to use simple time-efficient strategies to connect with each other.