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Too Much Family Time

Photograph by Getty Images

Since becoming a stepmom, I've learned to rework holidays to fit our schedule with the kids. My husband, David, and I are big believers in holidays being what you make them, and that they have little to do with a calendar date. We had Christmas a week after the 25th last December, and the Easter Bunny received a letter from our 5-year-old last year, asking him to come a day early because she and her brother would be with their mom on Easter Sunday. As parents, it's up to us to create the magic of the holidays, and if I want my kids to have memories and traditions like I did, I have to enjoy playing Caesar with the calendar.

This flip-flopping holidays and stretching celebrations out a week longer than necessary isn't just something us stepparents have to endure. As Easter arrived, I know tons of you out there were busy planning Easter egg hunts, Easter brunches, Easter egg dyeing sessions and Easter morning church services. The hard part? Like us, you probably had 18 people who wanted to see your kids in their Easter best, and you really didn't know how to squeeze that extra time out of the day.

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Here, let's hug it out. If you're anything like me, you probably had a little bit of anxiety about the whole thing. I will be the first person to say that I am absolutely elated that our kids have so many people who love them. I know how lucky my husband and I are to both have big families that want to spend as much time as possible with us. I don't take our family get-togethers for granted, and I enjoy every single second of them.

But when both of our families want to celebrate Easter on the same day? Hello, anxiety! Whose feelings do we want to hurt today?

Look, David and I made a promise to each other that we will never, ever, ever celebrate two separate family gatherings on the same day. The last time we did, it was a total nightmare. It was Easter 2011, and it involved driving 45 minutes to the first gathering, having to stay an extra four hours because the rest of the family hadn't shown up yet, scarfing down a quick lunch, letting the kids hunt eggs, driving another hour to the other family gathering and watch as our kids totally turned into over-stimulated sugar gremlins that wanted absolutely nothing to do with the family we were visiting and didn't want to participate in the egg hunt we had all worked so hard to put together. Oh! And then we had to drive them an hour-and-a-half back to their mom's house.

I hated hearing family members at the first gathering say, "Well, nice for you to eat and run!"

It sucked. Plain and simple. And the worst part about it was how badly we just wanted to enjoy the day with our families, but it didn't happen. We spent way too much money on gas and way too much time bickering with each other and snapping at our exhausted kids on Easter Sunday. I hated hearing family members at the first gathering say, "Well, nice for you to eat and run!" as we rushed out the door four hours late to the next gathering where family members said, "We waited as long as we could for you, but we're probably going to leave in a minute." It was awful.

David and I made our promise that we would never do that again and, despite how elated I am about it, I'm the one having the most trouble with the promise. The thing is, I'm a people pleaser. I like to make everyone happy (it's a middle child thing), and I like to keep traditions alive. When my grandmother tells me Easter dinner is at 3 o'clock and David's mom says Easter dinner's at noon, I know that I need to tell one of them to change their plans. But I'm terrified of hurting someone's feelings. I'm terrified that I'm either going to be the "daughter-in-law that keeps my son away from our family gatherings" or the "daughter that spends all her time with her husband's family."

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Luckily, our families worked it out this year. We celebrated Easter with David's family the weekend before with an egg hunt and dinner and then we joined my family on Easter Sunday for the same activities. I'm grateful it's worked out, and I'm happy about spending uninterrupted, quality time with both sides of my family.

But I can't help worrying about the next holiday. I can't help grilling my grandmother about Thanksgiving plans eight months ahead of time so that I can already pencil one side into our schedule, and I can't help thinking about Christmas and wondering if I should just scrap it all and celebrate holidays with my own little family of four.

What about you guys? Is anyone else out there struggling to make everyone happy when it comes to holidays? Does anyone else wake up in a cold sweat wondering how they can convince their family to celebrate Thanksgiving a week after the day? I know I need to remember that what's best for my little foursome is all that matters, but guilt and I don't get along so well.

Does anyone have any advice?

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