Giving up the Expectations and the Guilt


The holiday season is upon us. Christmas decorations have been in Hobby Lobby for months and are now going up everywhere else. The Halloween candy is 50% off and at the front of the stores. The lawn and garden sections now house twinkling, spinning, fake pine scented trees.

But, what is supposed to be one of the most joyous times of the year fills me with dread.

There, I said it.

And, before you call me a scrooge, my cause for dread has little to do with the holiday season itself. I love Christmas trees. I sit next to mine for hours and watch the lights. The family and I trek out the day after Thanksgiving to pick the one that speaks to us and I refuse to take it down until the day after New Years. Christmas wrappings fills my eyes with glee. Finding or making that perfect gift for someone special sends me into a giggling fit. Secret Santas make me smile until my face hurts.


So, why the dread, you ask?

It’s the overwhelming inability to fulfill all of the expected familial obligations.

While the holiday season involves great opportunities to gather with friends and family, it also brings heavy burdens of trying to please everyone, and failing miserably every time. Every. Year. Every. Time.

The brutal truth is no one can please everyone and everyone’s expectations are unreasonable. Every Mom wants their children around her table Christmas Day. Every Grandfather wants to see his grandkids frolicking together in his back yard.

And while we all deep down inside want these things as well, the nature of modern society makes this near impossible. Extended families do not live on the same homestead anymore. You’re one of the lucky ones if you live in the same state. Many of us have cross country treks to be with family for the holidays, and often in the opposite direction of our spouse’s family. And, of course, that means, we trek back cross country a few days later to fulfill all the familial obligations of the other side. In the process, the kids watch too much TV in the car, everyone eats way too many french fries, and most of the hours of the holidays are wasted staring at the yellow and white lines on the highway.

Now, I’m not advocating we all hunker down and refuse to leave our homes to see family and friends. What I am advocating is everyone, in the spirit of the season, really think about your expectations of others. Are they realistic? Are you putting too much pressure on a family member or friend to maintain outdated traditions? Are you adding to the stress of their already hectic holiday season?


If you are, or even think you may be, take a step back. Drop an expectation or two. Give everyone a little elbow room. We all want to spend time with all of our loved ones, and often that means spending less time with everyone. No one wants to feel guilty because they have to leave one party to go to the next.

In return, I ask everyone also drop the feeling of guilt when you cannot please everyone. You not going to. It is an impossibility. And, while you are affording someone else a little grace, save a little for you.

382612_10150386735076927_1000516137_nHappy Holidays, Y’all!


This post was inspired by The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith, memoir about how  random acts of kindness transformed her family’s bereavement and grief during the holidays. Join From Left to Write on October 28th as we discuss The 13th Gift. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

2 thoughts on “Giving up the Expectations and the Guilt

  1. Pingback: Book Club Discussion: The 13th Gift - From Left to Write

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