Moms don’t sleep, they worry with their eyes closed. – Maintaining mental health in a blended family during the holidays.

Today is only Christmas Eve, but we have been Christmasing for days and we’ll continue for days after the 25th. Christmas in a blended family home is celebrated many times, in many places, with many different people.

Last night my husband and I prepared for Santa’s first visit. We had already spent the day cooking, then hosting a Christmas with our mothers and my sister. We came home, put three over excited children to bed, lugged two carloads of gifts into the house and buckled down to make some holiday magic happen.

Mike had to build three toy chests. I stuffed the stockings and wrapped what wouldn’t fit. As the clock ticked later and later into the night, exhaustion, frustration and irritability kicked in. I had to dig deep, and pull out some of those therapy skills to hold it together. When I finally got into bed I was overcome with the dread of doing this all over agin the next night.

Then I woke up this morning. I first opened my eyes in a silent house. I was afraid to get out of bed and wake the kids, so I just laid there and thought about our day. My heart melted when I realized that there was a reason for the craziness. At first glance, I see multiple trips, lots of time in the car, and a whole lot of stress- then it dawned on me that the reason we go through all of this is because so many people love us! How lucky are we?

How lucky are we that Santa comes twice? That Mike and I get two mornings of gift opening. Two nights of eves, snuggling up and watching Christmas movies. Two mornings of thankful hugs and kisses. Having to make a trillion stops and visits just means that we are loved by many- an absolute blessing.

Christmas is stressful. It’s even more stressful trying to coordinate the craziness with sliding custody agreements, but it’s totally worth it. There’s a reason they call step children “bonus” kids.

Lucky for us, the bitter years are (for the most part) behind us. We are in a holiday routine that reduces the stress on both the kids AND us parents. Extended family members don’t always understand. They want us to push to have Arielle on Christmas Day, but it just isn’t for us. This is. This works.

So now that things run mostly smooth, here’s my advice for blended families-

1. Be patient. Two households and two sets of parents can be quite a lot on a kid. The last thing we want is for a child to feel like they’re in the middle of a tug of war game.

2. Be flexible. As in everything, there is a give and take. Everyone has holiday traditions that are important. Having a rigid schedule may mean that your shared child will miss an important tradition in the other home. Think about the child’s best interest, and their entitlement to cherished memories. This is where I’d like throw some of my favorite words from Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Don’t take your child just because you can. Stop and think about their wants and needs, and what you SHOULD do.

3. Make new traditions. For us, Santa comes on the 23rd and the 24th. It’s different. It makes my kids feel special that they get a trip from Santa on night most don’t. That night of the 23rd has a different energy. It’s magical, it’s personalized. They don’t take it for granted, but it makes them feel so special. For me, it completely makes up for not having her on Christmas Day. I may even think it’s better!

4. Remember the reason for the season. Spending time with your loved ones is most important, and it really doesn’t matter what the number on the calendar is. Make everyday special, memorable, and loving.

If you’re a member of a blended family, I’d love to hear what traditions make your season special! Let me know in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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