Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving for the Working Stepmother

Last Thanksgiving was wonderful. I spent some good quality time with my husband while each of our 4 kids went with their “other” parents. We have a blended family, with no children together. This is our year with kids. Yes, I am excited…BUT how is a working mother supposed to handle the holidays with 3 different families? Both of us come from divorced families so we have to schedule time with his mother’s family, his father’s family, and my mother’s family. 2 years ago we “hosted” the big event at our house and had well over 20 guests from all of our families. Since then my husband lost his job and we downsized to a 3 bedroom apartment with 4 kids, 2 adults, and 2 dogs. Needless to say, hosting at our place this year isn’t happening.

Over the years, I have learned some “shortcuts” in dealing with food, scheduling, and those dreaded holiday cards. Hopefully, some of you working mothers out there will find these useful.

My rule of thumb is, whichever of our parents’ calls first gets first choice on scheduling. The first year of our marriage, I was surprised to get a message in late October from both of our mothers on the same day. “Isn’t that strange?” I asked my husband naively. He affectionately educated me that this was the time of year that mothers started calling to schedule the holiday festivities. Unfortunately, fathers usually wait until the week before hand. So now my rule is that whoever calls first gets the actual holiday day, and everyone else gets the leftovers, no pun intended.

There are 3 holiday foods I can cook especially well. Beer braised ham, toffee sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The Thanksgiving family gets the ham, because that is usually when I am off and have time to spend basting ham every 15 minutes. My family will always get the sweet potatoes, because they KNOW about them. I have never made them for his families because then they will beg for them too. Although, if my family is number 2 or 3, they will get my famous potatoes out of a can instead of me spending the time to slaving over the trash can to peel 3 pounds of potatoes. As you might of guessed, the 3rd family gets the pumpkin pie. The best pumpkin pie ever made, straight from Mrs. Smith’s. You can find it in the frozen food isle and this time of year you can usually get 2 for a special price. My favorite is the prebaked pie that cooks in about 30 minutes. Did I mention leftovers? I’ve never had that problem.

Holiday Cards
Ok so here’s the problem. My son’s family is Jewish. My husband’s family are Christians. My family hates Santa Claus. The solution? I go to the portrait studio at JcPenney, usually in early November when they have really good specials.  We get our family picture taken and get the cards that say “Happy Holidays”. Do I send them? Nope. I hand them out at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mission accomplished. Last year, I forgot to hand out the cards. Hopefully nobody will notice that the cards this year say “Happy Holidays, 2010.” Yes, the kids look a bit younger too, but I am not wasting any time or money when I have perfectly good cards.

Christmas and Beyond
We will be spending half of Christmas day with my mother and the other half with his mother. The kids will get lavished with gifts galore, as grandmothers love to do. Personally,  I will not bother braving the traffic and picking out presents endlessly for the kids. Instead, we will celebrate our Christmas on December 26th. All of the kids will receive Visa gift cards. My husband gets the honors of hitting the after Christmas sales and letting the kids get the most bang for their buck. This may not be a traditional way to celebrate our Lord’s birth, but the kids are going to have a blast, and I may just catch up on some much needed rest.

Please tell me I’m not the only stressed out Mom this time of the year? What are your best shortcuts?”

Rachael Whitmer works in the Women's Services area at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.

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