However well you plan it, Christmas in a blended family will never go off without a hitch. Actually, that’s true of all Christmases, but even more so for the freshly blended family.
Many new stepmothers make the mistake of being too eager to make Christmas blissful, cosy, and as close to a traditional family one as possible, especially the first time around. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy Christmas, but if you have a blended family then no amount of Christmas spirit and brandy butter will make your celebration a traditional family one. It’s better to grasp that fact now than wake up in the New Year feeling deflated and sorry for yourself.
Why set yourself the impossible goal of having a traditional family Christmas when your family is not a ‘traditional’ one? Your family is unique – and your Christmases will be, too. Every family develops its own Christmas traditions over the years, and so will yours.
There are, however, a few measures you can take, with a little planning ahead, to avoid disaster:
- Do not set any goals at all. Take each moment as it comes and value it for itself. Everybody will have a far more relaxed time, and you might even raise a few smiles!
- Plan ahead. Exactly when and where to open the presents will be one of the bigger decisions to make and stick to, regardless of how old the children are. Set a time and a place, and, together with your partner, make sure you stick to it. It may feel rigid and unnatural to you at first, but try to cover that up with constant rounds of chocolates and mince pies, with some jolly Christmas music going on in the background.
- Take some time out for yourself on Christmas day. One of the children is bound to give you bubble bath for Christmas; insist that you try it out immediately and take a glass of wine and a mince pie with you.
- Stand up for yourself. If you have gone to the trouble of planning and organising Chirstmas on behalf of everybody, then you deserve some respect! You are bound to hear the words ‘This isn’t how we do Christmas at home’ at least once in the first three years of blending. Control the rising anger and frustration by busying yourself with something else and ask them how they ‘do Christmas’ at home. When they’ve finished telling you, exclaim in your best Mary Poppins voice how nice it is that you all have the opportunity to do new things this Christmas that could never be done at home.
- Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings. He’s bound to be a bit heartsore if your stepchild cannot be with you for Christmas, so think ahead and mention calling your stepchild on the big day several times in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Better still, organise an online conference via webcam involving everyone, including his ex’s family; not only will this nurture good relations between you all, but it is by far the happiest scenario for your stepchild. This could even be the start of a little Christmas family tradition of your own!
Finally, remember that there is no right way to organise a blended family Christmas. From decorating the tree to handing out the presents, you need to be as pragmatic and as open-minded as possible in the early years, or you’ll go Christmas crackers!
From Mother to Stepmother by Joanna Collie is full of advice for blending stepmothers on how to deal with domestic and financial issues, with stepchildren and most importantly, with your own feelings. With the inclusion of testimonies from other blending stepmothers and the help of lively characters based on the author's young, adolescent family, this invaluable handbook gives encouragement, practical guidance and a strong sense of fellowship to blending stepmothers everywhere.
For more information about Joanna, visit www.joannacollie.com.
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