‘Tis the Season to Disappoint my Mother: Sharing holidays with your significant other


Courtesy / Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash

Emily Eaton, Columnist

It’s the time of year for me to start thinking about something I have never once considered, something I never dreamt I would have the privilege of worrying about, something that I think will now perpetually stress me out forever: splitting holidays. I wanted a boyfriend and I wanted love, but I was so focused on getting it and keeping it that I forgot about the tough stuff that comes with it like disappointing my mother. 

Last year, it wasn’t a question. Honestly, I hadn’t even formed the thought. We were only a few months into dating then, but it didn’t occur to me that roughly a year later, over a few drinks, he might ask me what my holiday plans were. 

First of all, I cannot give up playing “who can find the first dog hair ” in Grandma’s Thanksgiving cooking. Then, I’ll be eating as much cookie dough as I can before my mom notices. Towards the end of Thanksgiving night, I’ll be drinking so much wine that I’ll have seriously considered asking my aunt why her political views are just the worst. 

All of that sounded perfect to me, but something was missing. It had never occurred to me that having a boyfriend that lives on the other side of the state complicates my dream of living out a Hallmark Christmas movie. 

The holidays are intense for my boyfriend too. For Christmas, he dresses up in full Santa gear to hand out gifts to roughly 20 little cousins that look practically the same. I don’t think even the parents can tell them apart. Then he gets drunk, so he’s not going to budge either. 

This year, we’re not changing anything, not one bit.  But eventually, we might have to. 

How are either one of us ever going to forgive ourselves for the sheer look of pain in our mother’s eyes if she sees an empty bed one Holiday morning? If the relationship didn’t end up working out and then I missed the holidays to be with another family, how would I ever forgive myself? It would be a holiday wasted. And what would my sweet dog think of me? 

So I ask myself: when is it smart to change up your holiday traditions?

The stubborn, grinchy side of me wants to say to never give in, but the relationship-centric side of me has learned that attitude won’t get me very far. 

The only thing left to do is compromise. But don’t give up yet. Only go so far as to complete a double Thanksgiving dinner – a meal at one place, dessert at the other. Christmas Eve at their place, Christmas morning at yours. Don’t throw out the whole holiday quite yet — I would say throw out the whole man before you do that. 

Drive back and forth if you must and beg your mother to understand, which, in the traditional holiday spirit, she will begrudgingly. Don’t share your time if you aren’t ready and share fairly if you are. 

Always remember if you’ve found the one, you won yourself a lifetime of Hallmark movie scenes… but your parents have already lived at least half of theirs. If you’re lucky enough to still have them — especially if your dad looks like off-brand Santa Claus and your mom spends the month of December baking “goodie trays” for every person she knows — don’t feel bad to embrace it now. True love understands.