I am the product of a blended family. My parents both remarried when I was quite young and Dad went on to have more children. The relationship between my birth parents is....strained. My brother is married and his wife's parents are also divorced.
I separated from my children's father more than 5 years ago and enjoy a fairly good friendship with him, which is mainly for the benefit of the children who are still young.
I re partnered about 18 months ago and he too has children from his marriage although they are almost adults now.
For most of the year, none of this really matters - we all get on with daily lives and cross paths on a normal basis. Birthdays and other occasions are relatively easy to negotiate without acrimony.
But Christmas. Ah Christmas how you torture us with your call to goodwill and unity!
Every year seems to become more difficult - and with extra partners, children, long standing 'issues'', geographical differences, ageing parents with declining health...good grief...this is not the season to be jolly no matter how much I might want it. I find myself caught in the middle, the pacifier and yet somehow also the one who is missing out all round. Of course I want to spend quality time with my family at Christmas time - just as I do at any other time of the year. but Christmas takes on this extra dimension of pressure, not helped by time constraints, budget challenges, traffic problems and personality clashes.
I know I'm not unique in this. In fact, when I talk to others, it would seem that the happy-family-who-play-together idea is actually the exception not the rule. Almost everyone I know is in this same position, of feeling the need to race around on what ought to be the laziest day of the year. There's an overwhelming sense of duty and pressure that, in ordinary circumstances, we wouldn't dream of putting on each other.
So this year it is different. I'm staying home for Christmas. and its going to be the simplest one ever. I hope that my nearest and dearest will all see me and the children, and me, them and theirs. But it might not actually be on Christmas Day. And whilst I know for some that is the important bit, for me it isn't - and frankly the thought of packing up the car in the heat (or the rain as is expected) and spending 3 hours of Christmas day driving does nothing for me no matter how much I want to see my family. For me, it's a season, not a set number of hours. This year, for the first time ( I think ever) I am spending the whole of Christmas Day at my own house. I took the kids to church yesterday (where they both starred in the nativity play) so we won't even be racing off to that between breakfast and lunch. I'm yet to decide the menu for the day, but I'm thinking it's going to be pretty simple. There's a minimal number of presents under the tree. Some, but not all of the decorations strung about the place.
And on Boxing Day my children are going on holiday with their father. Everyone else close to me will be away so it will be just me. Also for the first time ever.
And so, I too am having a holiday. Possibility away from home. No duties to perform. No responsibilities. Only 5 days, but this is the first break like this I have had for 11 years. And I can't wait.