One of the things I vividly remember from my childhood was how stressful the holidays were, especially for my mom. I think this is a common experience in many homes. The normal stressors of a messy or even not-so-messy marriage are multiplied by the amount of tasks (2x, 3x, 4x), the expenses ($5x, $6x, $7x), and the challenging family members who come to visit (8x, 9x, 10x!!!).
When I look back on those harried holidays, I think that some of my mother’s stressors could have been avoided by a family pow-wow days before the big events.
Here’s what you could address at that family meeting:
1. Who’s going to do what?
Make sure that everyone knows they need to help out or mom may feel overwhelmed by the load she has to bear. Begin by being specific about everything that needs to be done with a “To-do list,” then ask the kids and hubby to volunteer for several tasks on the list. Giving them this heads-up should also ward off any whiners, who not only like to eat your signature sweet potato casserole, but also like to be “couch potatoes” when the big day arrives!
Make sure to post the list with the volunteer’s name beside each task, so that no one can argue with you on the big day that they did not sign up for that task—a common ploy by unwilling volunteers.
2. How should each family member handle messy moments?
Go over a couple of challenging scenarios like:
- Mom getting stressed and snapping at someone – have everyone agree to give mom grace, smile and do whatever she needs you to do.
- Aunt Erma pinching your cheeks, talking too much, eating too much or any other variety of annoying behaviors – have everyone prepare mentally for this occurrence and when it happens, remember that this day only comes once a year and to extend grace to all the “Aunt Erma’s” who might attend.
- Junior spilling the gravy all over the new dining room rug – have a handy clean up kit on hand and always extend grace to Junior, since he needs it too!
- Grandma criticizing the way the house has been cleaned or the meal has been prepared – pray for a forgiving spirit before and during the big day. Be ready to give your spouse a gentle wink or squeeze soon after the harsh words are in the air as a silent sign of your support.
Part of what makes the holidays so difficult is, not just the tasks, but the underlying tensions between a husband and wife. It seems as if there are emotional triggers everywhere on those kinds of days. So, preparing spiritually before that day can also be helpful.
Ask God to help you let go of any lingering resentments that you feel toward your spouse. You and your spouse could pray each day leading up to and on the special day a prayer that goes something like this:
Father, I choose to forgive _name of spouse_ for _specific offense_ because you have forgiven me for similar or the same types of offenses—graciously giving your life for both me and my spouse. And for that reason, I realize that I have no right to hang on to this anger or bitterness.
In days ahead, I will be discussing more about forgiveness and the new concepts I learned at the AACC* convention back in September. But in the meantime, if you want to try my sister’s great recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole, then click on the link below, and have yourself a wonderful, stress-less Thanksgiving!
*American Association of Christian Counselors