Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP
Christmas is here!! Good food, no school, no work, and most of all….. family!!
For many this is one of the best holidays ever!!
For some…..the most dreaded all year.
This is your very rare and valuable time off, and you have to spend all of it with people that don’t like you and you’re not particularly fond of. Four, seven, or fourteen days of staying with family, (especially if they don’t let you stay a hotel and insist you stay with them), can be more than many can bear.
So here are some steps you can take to make the holidays easier.
1. Huddle up
Usually your spouse wants to avoid controversy just as much as you do. Before the encounter, huddle up and create a strategy for:
a. How to deal with insults
b. How to take a break – take the car to go grab some last minute Christmas necessities
c. Where you get to sit at the table
d. Potential arguments regarding the children and their upbringing
2. Try to get a hotel room
This gives you the much needed reprieve at the end of the day. However, if the family insists you stay with them and 4 nights at Hotel Hell are just too much to bear, plan a “sneak away” for an evening with your wife and tell the Grandparents they will host the kid’s slumber party. Remember to thank them for the huge favor they are doing allowing you and the wife a much needed night away “from the kids” …wink…wink…..
Thank Heavens there is football on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Usually there is someone else in the family just as sane as you are when it comes to football, so you can immediately partner with him to get the television on and the game playing. Although this may only give you a 15 minute “out” of the family festivities, its 15 minutes of pure euphoria.
4. Remember you have sciatica
The most difficult part of Thanksgiving/Christmas is sitting at a table for hours and usually trapped, physically, because the chairs are pushed together so tight that you can’t push out the chair. If you ever, ever, ever had an issue with your back, knee, leg, muscle, or even pinky toe, use this as an excuse to heave the table forward so you can get up and stretch your legs. Slowly limp over to the living room where hopefully you left the football game on……
5. Get called to work
No in-law can or wants to take on your boss. So during the 7 day stent, politely excuse yourself if you need to go onto a computer, make a phone call, or drive 60 miles away for “work”. Make sure your spouse is on board with this one……
6. Have “diarrhea”
You get to leave the room and no one wants to be near you. You just gained escaping 3-5 times/hour since you need to “run” to the bathroom.
7. Inform the family you feel a cold coming on
Don’t jinx yourself but this gets you out of hugs, and sloppy lipstick kisses…..
Ok this gives you a well coordinated exit plan but what happens if they are on to you? How do you deal with the remaining, 3 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes?
1. Don’t take it personally
When the insults and digs come, don’t feel like these personal attacks need to stick. You have enough people in your life telling you your shortcomings. The in-laws are either being redundant or telling you something that doesn’t hold true.
2. You’re not alone
Millions of adults are in the exact same position as you at the same moment in time. You’re not alone. Just sneak a peek on facebook and you’ll scroll through hundreds of “Ugh!!!!”s………..
3. Make a game of it
Bet your wife or coworker that you will get the most insults over the holiday than they and write down or note every time it happens. The more it occurs, you win. Compare notes or use it as a “get out jail free card” with your spouse.
4. Have a happy place
Negotiate with your spouse prior to the holiday a “free day” or “free weekend” that you will earn upon completion of a 7 day holiday with the in-laws. Plan and fantasize about this reward throughout your tour of duty to make the path easier
5. Bring the pets
Since you are usually outnumbered during these family events, why not have non humans come to your aid. Dogs need to be walked, cats need to be chased, so this gives you an out and gives you a much needed buddy during the hard times.
Look, its not easy, but remember why you’re there. For YOUR family. Your spouse and kids need to spend the holidays with you so grin and bear it. And remember you may be luckier than the average guy. He could be spending the WHOLE WEEK! Ahhh, you DO have something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and Board Certified Family Physician