How to Survive the Holidays with Both Families

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Poncho (c/o Chicwish) // Jeans: (old, similar here) // Booties //  Monogrammed Tote (c/o Barrington Gifts)

So many people think that Parker and I have it “easy” when it comes to the holidays because both of our families live in Dallas.  I couldn’t disagree more.  In all honesty, I’m a bit jealous of couples whose families live in different places.  It’s so clear cut.  Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other.  And vice versa the following year.  It’s the easiest solution for how to survive the holidays with both families – you’re only dealing with ONE family at a time!

During our first married Christmas, we decided that since both of our families lived in the DFW area, it would be no big deal to just pop back and forth. We’d be flexible and just make it all work.  You know, because it’s only two days out of the year.  We could handle it, especially if it meant keeping everyone else happy.  Needless to say, our December 24th, 2013 looked like this:

  • lunch with Parker’s family at their house in Dallas
  • run home to let the dogs out and change clothes
  • afternoon church with my family at church in Dallas
  • Christmas Eve dinner and games at my family’s house in North Plano
  • drive back to Dallas to sleep in our own beds and take care of the pups
  • Christmas Day breakfast with Parker’s family in Dallas
  • Christmas Day lunch with Parker’s family in Fort Worth
  • run home to Dallas to let the pups out
  • Christmas Eve dinner with my family in North Plano

Over a two day period, we put hundreds of miles on my car- literally took a road-trip without leaving the greater DFW metroplex.  I wish I could say that we learned our lesson after year one, but I would be lying…

We repeated similar cycles for the next two Christmases.  And the funny part?  Every year we said we wouldn’t make the same mistake again…

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Overall in marriage, Parker and I have done a really good job of “leaving and cleaving” for 363 days of the year.  We went into marriage knowing that we’d be living in the same city as both of our families for the foreseeable future, so we had to make a conscious effort to protect our time and create boundaries. And  our parents were totally supportive and understanding.  But for some reason when it comes to the holidays, it’s just so much easier at the time to say “yes” than actually think through the “yes’s” implications.  Therefore at the end of every Christmas, we feel exhausted, emotionally drained, and disconnected. The complete OPPOSITE of how we should be feeling after a break.

So this year, we told ourselves we were going to stand strong.  And when our families requested changing plans at the last minute to accommodate other members of the family, we lovingly presented the case (that we had previously rehearsed, obviously) that we would be spending one day devoted to each side of the family as previously planned.  We were flexible on what day works best for everyone, but we would not be dragging the holiday festivities out over a four day period.  And you know what?  Both sets of parents were completely understanding.  Like it was no big deal. Apparently nobody had been putting unrealistic expectations on us for the last three years; we were doing it to ourselves.

Learning that it’s okay to say no sometimes is such a hard lesson, especially when you are a people pleaser like  me.  We were so fearful of the drama that would ensue if we advocated for ourselves during the holiday plans, when in reality we should have given our parents the benefit of the doubt.  Kept in mind the fact that they probably remember what it was like to be a young married couple, feeling pulled in a thousand directions and trying to make everyone happy in the process.

So for those of you young couples out there who are trying to learn how to survive the holidays with both families simultaneously, take some free advice from the girl who had to learn the hard way.

  1. Create a tradition on Christmas Eve or Day for just your little family.  For example, Parker and I insist on going to our own church just the two of us, no matter which side of the family we are celebrating with.  It’s something that we get to do together in the place where we feel the most “at home”.
  2. Take a walk or volunteer to run an errand.  Sometimes you just need to escape the “madness” of being in a confined space with all of the Griswolds relatives.  Sometimes taking 15 minutes to just walk around the block or drive to the gas station to pick up ice would allow you to “check in” with each other and reconnect with one another.
  3. Sleep at your own home if you can help it.  Even if that means driving home at 11 pm after all of the festivities, it’s a good opportunity for you to get some separation from your family.  And it gives you the opportunity to open Christmas presents to and from each other in the morning.  The calm before the storm if you will 😉

What are your tips and tricks for balancing family and marriage during the holidays?  Comment below; I’d love to hear your advice!  Read more holiday inspired posts here and here.

Cheers, Erin



  1. Vicki mccormack December 16, 2016 / 10:52

    Great advice, Erin! Love, your favorite Griswold-in-law!❤️

  2. Dāsha December 16, 2016 / 23:07

    It’s so darn hard not to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. I’m glad you guys realized it and I hope you enjoy the holiday season!

  3. ecocajun December 16, 2016 / 23:31

    I love this post! We’re in the same boat where both our families are nearby, and add to it that my husband’s parents are divorced. We both want to retain our familiar traditions, so each year can get difficult when we try to do it all. This year, our first married Christmas, we went on another route – we’re going on vacation to visit my husband’s brother! It’ll be our most stationary holidays yet. 🙂

  4. Lauren December 17, 2016 / 02:39

    Unfortunately my family lives on the other side of the country, so it’s rare that we get spend any holidays with them. While it is nice to not have to go back and forth, I’d much prefer the busyness of them being in the same city!

    By Lauren M

  5. elle spann December 17, 2016 / 02:42

    i can only imagine!! i’ve never had to experience them being close- one is near and one is far away, which creates a different set of problems, but no less stressful! glad y’all have it figured out 🙂
    Southern Elle Style

  6. Briana Anderson December 17, 2016 / 20:36

    LOVE this look! Juggling visiting all the family can definitely be difficult this time of year. Here’s to hoping we get it down one of these times!
    xx, Bri ||

  7. blingaholic88 December 18, 2016 / 14:04

    Having both families in one city may sound convenient but can really spread you thin. I love how candid you are with your schedule here. Really love the booties too!

  8. Tami Qualls December 19, 2016 / 21:14

    We usually devote one day to each side of the family. Regardless it is stressful trying to accommodate everyone. Glad to hear the parents are on board.

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