Merry imperfect Christmas! If there is anyone who needs permission to not be perfect, and to not have a perfect Christmas, it is a stepmother. Give yourself a chance to breathe. You need it.
Here are five things you have permission for this Christmas:
This Christmas, you have permission to feel a little anxious. The logistics of celebrating Christmas between two households aren’t exactly simple. That’s two Christmas Eves, two Christmas mornings, Christmas dinners with quite possibly four (four!) extended families. No wonder you go pale when you see the December calendar. You want to float serenely through all the negotiations of who-goes-to-which-house-when, I know. But you’re really quite normal and sane if you don’t. Say to yourself, “I am freaking out a little because this is really challenging. Not because I’m being silly.”
This Christmas, you have permission to put your own stamp on the holiday. You came into a ready-made family with a ready-made set of traditions. Maybe your husband’s Christmas with his kids feels like sacred ground, something you should treat with honour and respect. Perhaps it feels like the least you can do, to go along with things as they are, to not force change upon a family that’s already had to change so much. Except… you’re here now. You matter. So be sensitive, but be brave. Add some pieces of you to your family’s Christmas.
This Christmas, you have permission to take a minute. Christmas is busy and tiring at the best of times. And you, my stepmom friend, are a special kind of hero. You are working hard to make a holiday awesome for little people who are not your own. Little people who may well turn around and say, “I wish I could be at my Mom’s right now.” Possibly, you are being woken up at 5 AM on Christmas morning by someone you did not even give birth to. You have permission to run out of steam. To slip away into a quiet corner and burst into tears, or close your eyes and breathe in, breathe out, or read a chapter of Pride and Prejudice.
You have permission to ask your husband for a special holiday date – just the two of you. At least one thing will be tough for you this Christmas. Your stepkids will show up early, or late, or cranky and overtired. Maybe you won’t get to spend the holiday with your own family, because you need to stay close to your stepkids. Maybe your stepfamily finances won’t allow you to buy the presents you wish you could buy.
But then maybe you’ll look across the room and you’ll see your husband, and you’ll smile because he’s the love of your life. And the rest won’t matter nearly as much. Because being married to this man is a treasure you wouldn’t trade for anything.
So yes, money is tight, and time is tight. But you have permission to ask for a little one-on-one time with this man you married, for a chance to reconnect and remember why all this is completely worth it.
You have permission to not be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes this Christmas. You’re going to say something embarrassing, or forget an item on your to-do list, or yell at the kids, or buy a gift they roll their eyes at. You’re going to get frustrated at the frustrating things and then get frustrated at yourself for feeling that way. You’re going to look around at your wild and messy life and wish you could be a nice, normal family.
Those moments are going to come this Christmas. And when I have those moments, I will try to remember the first Christmas – so wildly imperfect, with its terrible timing and stressful circumstances and its piles of poop.
I will try to remember that in the midst of what looked like a disaster, something holy and beautiful was happening: redemption was unfolding, heaven invading, Kingdom coming.
I will try to remember that Jesus was born – not into a nice, normal family, but into a somewhat scandalous stepfamily. I will try to stop making everything perfect. And instead, I’ll invite Jesus into the imperfect mess of my stepfamily.
Because this is Christmas: not nice, not normal, not perfect.
This is Christmas: Emmanuel, God with us, imperfect though we are. And may you too remember and be blessed, as you celebrate your own wildly imperfect Christmas.
Read Caramel’s story: Blended Family: Caring for the Wounded.
Read 10 Ways My Husband Learned to Support Me as a Stepmom.