How I Set Boundaries by Fleeing for the Holidays



For those Brene Brown fans out there, we all have heard about boundaries. Brene is obviously the expert on setting boundaries, so I’m not going to pretend to be one as I have struggled with this quite profusely myself for years. 

However, I started exercising boundaries in a new way during the holidays.

For my entire life, Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. There’s nothing better than the Christmas spirit, with evergreen trees, snow-capped landscapes, cozy fires, and the feeling of hope, kindness, and generosity that the season brings. 

However, my parents got divorced when I was 22 and ever since then, the holidays started to look a little different. The division of time and energy trying to make sure that everybody knows they are equally loved started to feel more like making sure each kid got five marshmallows in their hot chocolate versus just enjoying the time we’re together. (The Holiday reference, anyone?)

My fiance’s parents are also divorced. And while we are so grateful to be as close as we are with our families, physically and emotionally, living in a 45-minute radius of four different sets of parents and siblings makes the holidays a wee bit complicated. 

The first year we moved back we spent the 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at five different Christmases in four different cities. We spent Christmas night in a hotel in Appleton and high-fived for making it through the last 48-hours, realizing we were exhausted and the holidays were no longer fun. So we’ve been trying to figure out a better solution. 

2021 was a bit of a challenging year and as the year started to wind down, we realized we both needed a little bit of space. So we decided to honor values and book a trip to the UK to explore and do something new during the holidays that we may never get the opportunity to do again. However, COVID had other plans. Due to the introduction of the Omicron variant, we had to cancel our trip to the UK, but we didn’t cancel our escape for the holidays. 

While we were originally planning on discovering Dublin, Edinburgh, and London, our plan B took us to Richland Center, Wisconsin. And we booked a cabin to get away, unwind, relax and not have to answer to anyone for the week surrounding Christmas. That’s where I am right now as I’m writing this. I’m pacing back-and-forth in this cabin talking about setting boundaries. This is what it looked like for us:

“Mom, Dad, siblings, we’re burnt out and need a break to reset for the new year. We have two weeks off during the holidays and we need to take this time to decompress a bit. We love you and we’d like to offer up different days to celebrate with you respectively. Additionally, we know you don’t need stuff, but instead, you’d like time for Christmas. So is it ok if we don’t do gifts this year, but instead just create intentional times to get together and do dinner, drinks, and game night?”

The result: We did Christmas with my dad and step-mom the Saturday night before Christmas. We celebrated with my mom the Sunday before Christmas. We’re celebrating with his mom and step-dad and siblings on New Year’s Eve and his dad, stepmom, and step-sister on New Year’s weekend. Everyone got their time, us included.

Setting boundaries looks different to different people. You might upset some people in the process. However, at the end of the day, only you really know what’s best for you and the truth is you can’t really be that good for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. You can’t fill up anyone else’s cup if yours is empty. Ya know?

So, whether you choose to escape from the people you love the most during the holiday season or you just start setting better parameters around your daily routines, take care of yourself and the people who love you most will understand.

A few questions for reflection:

  • What time do you call most sacred? What time of day? What days of the week? What times of the year? 

  • What do you need to be whole? 

  • What do you need to be able to better show up for others? 

  • What can you do differently that will allow you to better serve yourself? To serve others? 

  • What’s one thing you can do right now that will be a step in the right direction to setting boundaries that best serve you and those you love?