Being Forced Into Family Holidays As An Adult Makes Me Feel Like A Kid

family holidaysAlthough I don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, because I’m Canadian, I know all too much about what it’s like to be forced to go to family holidays, as there are numerous Jewish holidays throughout the year. I’m not saying that everyone feels forced to go. I’m sure a lot of people love seeing their families and enjoy spending time with them. I’m sometimes this person. While I love each of my family members individually, sometimes it’s hard when we’re all together. There’s a certain tenseness, shall we say, that surrounds these big dinners and gatherings that puts me on edge, even when I’m not hosting the gathering, which is never.

But, yes, I have gotten out of these holiday gatherings. Why? Well, sometimes I…just…don’t…want…to…go. As an adult, I feel that I should have a choice in these matters. I mean, when it comes to friends, and I don’t want to go out and party with them, I just don’t go. But family pressure is a whole other issue. There is guilt involved. It’s Thanksgiving! It’s Yom Kippur! It’s Christmas! It’s Hanukkah! YOU NEED TO BE THERE OR THE WORLD WILL END!

One of my cousins, who we have to get together with during these holiday gatherings, just doesn’t like me. I can handle people not liking me, but they need a good reason to not like me, and his reason sucks. This one family member doesn’t like me because I got pregnant and was not married (he’s very conservative). So we can go an entire evening together without him saying a word to me, and that just puts me in a mood and I’m like, “What the fuck am I doing here in this guy’s house when he hates me?”

He also doesn’t like my sister-in-law because she’s not Jewish (the horror!) The only reason my sister-in-law and I both sometimes go to their house for family gatherings is because we make it fun and bet on the evening. We make a bet to see who he will talk to more, and quite frankly, over the years, neither of us has won, because he doesn’t talk to either of us.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to hang out with my family as a whole. So I will call them and say, “I’m not coming.” And then will give my excuse which is I’m feeling kind of depressed, which is usually the truth, but apparently, my family, and parents especially, don’t seem to think that’s a good enough reason. So there’s guilt.

My sister-in-law seems to have it right. She’s a lot like me. Sometimes we love hanging out with the family and sometimes we don’t. When she doesn’t want to be at a family gathering, she says either she’s not feeling well (could be true but not! LIAR!) Or she books a trip with my brother so they are out of town.

Yes, I know it’s family and, trust me, I’m a firm believer that family comes first. It’s just these types of “family holidays” that piss me off because of the obligation factor. I do feel worse for my American friends who have to travel across the country to visit their families for any holidays and then end up sleeping on couches or sharing a room or bunk bed with their 3-year-old nephews. At least my family is in town and I can see them whenever I want.

I’m not sure exactly how to make these holidays seem like less of an obligation and more of maybe an exciting adventure or vacation. Perhaps we should all suggest we meet our families in Maui for all the holidays. Then, I’d definitely be there and make no excuses not to go. And, by the way, I hate turkey.

(photo: Alliance/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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    • chickadee

      I recommend that you come up with a set of valid excuses for not going. Using the depression reason is not going to sit well with some members (as you said it does not) so make plans beforehand, tell them you have plans and that you are sorry you won’t be with them, and don’t go.

      If you feel like a child, make a concerted effort to behave like an adult. That might help.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Oh man, I’m so obnoxious, I’d try my best to kill your cousin with kindness, he sounds like such an ass. You should give him a huge hug and follow him around asking him a fuckton of questions about how he is and what he is up to and sit next to him on the sofa etc. You and your sister should make it into a game and award points based on how “in-your-face” you can get.

      • rebecca eckler

        HA! Trust me..

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        I am coming with you next time you are invited over!

      • rebecca eckler

        So would love to have you there. See you in September! (The busiest of all Jewish Holiday time!)

      • quinn

        Ha! I love ‘fuckton’ as a unit of measure.

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        hee hee, keep in mind, it’s not a scientific measure unit, but if you are baking cookies, it totally works (add a fuckton of chocolate chips)

    • Anabelle

      I feel the same way- it’s unnecessary to go to every single holiday gathering. Of course I feel it’s nice to stop by but I hate the feeling of having to “do your time” there for so many hours or else you get talked about negatively. This is how much of my family is. I guess some people are simply more independent.

      My family lives in town as well which to me is all the more reason it’s not on need-be basis that I should be in the mix with everyone at the same time. It’s not like they are only staying for a few days or whatever. As an adult I have my own life which is fairly different from the way my family (especially my husband’s side) handles their holidays.

      It feels like coursework and shouldn’t a holiday be fun and comforting not the opposite? I’ve tried my best to bring in activities and ideas that I consider to be fun but they don’t ever agree to do it.

      We are about to have a baby so it will become even more difficult I think to avoid these occasions lol. I would think logically they should allow us not to come on that exact day for an exact amount of time but more than likely they will be more demanding. Which feels creepy to me!

      I’m glad some other people understand at least! :)

    • http://www.delectablychic.com CynthiaC.M.

      My husband and I have been married for two years and are still kid-free so we’re waiting for those questions about when the kiddies are coming. And then there’s the food pushing. I’ve noticed that certain communities don’t know the meaning of “no, thank you” (well, I’m specifically talking about Chinese (me) and Jewish (the husband), anyway) because they always seem to be asking you whether you want to try something, even after you’ve turned it down more than twice. Sometimes, I feel like I have to lie and say that I’m deathly allergic before they get off my back.

      • Jen

        HA HA. That’s not just Chinese and Jewish. My family and my husband’s family are Christian and I think family get togethers become the “EAT UNTIL YOU POP” get togethers. We have multiple places to be so we will usually eat a little at the first and last stop and a snack at the places between…yet every single place is the food pushing. I do NOT look like I’m starved (trust in this I LOVE food), so not sure what that is about.

    • Vikky

      How about: “Cousin X has been horribly rude and mean to me ever since I gave birth, so I refuse to go to his house or expose my child to his hatefulness ever again.”
      That’s just what I would say.

    • AnnH

      It’s so hard to tell the truth. To be upfront and say : “This year I’m not celebrating this holiday with you, I just don’t want to put up with family obligations, I’ll come another time instead (or not at all if I please)”.
      But it’s also what keeps you in the “kid” category ; lying to get what we really want/need, isn’t that what we used to do as kids and/or teenagers ? Now that we’re all adults, we should be able to tell our family how we feel about a specific event. And they should be able to take it. I’m not personally insulting my parents when I tell them I don’t want to come this year, I am just acting like an adult, because in the rest of our adult lives, we are able to say “no”. As in “no, no Thanksgiving this year… but I love you and I’ll see you for Christmas, or your birthday” or whatever.
      It’s not the end of the world if we say no, it’s the beginning of a new one.

      • Jen

        It can be hard for family members to hear that and could create more tension later. A white lie every now and again doesn’t hurt anyone. It would be a wonderful world if someone could say “I just don’t want to deal with this right now.” But some families that doesn’t fly. Her cousin who barely speaks to her still invites her for family get togethers. Not sure being honest would really help familial tension.

      • Sugarbush43

        You’re right, but for me the families don’t take it well. My mom has been upset when I told her that I won’t be bringing myself and my family to some of the family get-togethers. Her BIL is an asshole and always has been to me. All I know is that he’s hated me since I was 3 (when he married my aunt). Her sister and sister’s family think it’s all me being an ass, which is funny since a grown man hated a 3 year old. He goes out of his way to passive-aggressively be a dick and I typically come home from holidays in tears. My husband finally got tired of it and so did I. My breaking point was when he made a passive-aggressive jab at my parenting. Commenting on parenting just crosses the mother-effing line for me.

        Now it’s my husband’s family. His SIL is a horrible excuse for a human being. She basically cut us out of their lives as soon as our son was born. I’m sure it was due to two things: I stopped being her sucker of a babysitter to her newborn twins (she would invite me over to hang out and then suddenly leave for “10 minutes” that turned into 3 hours while I was fully pregnant and on my only day off) and our son stole her spotlight. She’s a narcissist and it gets old. She effectively drove a wedge between our husbands and it’s disgusting to say the least. We endlessly receive guilt trips and unsolicited advice from his parents about patching things up, which is funny since we’ve tried over and over and over again. They never say anything to the other couple, because God forbid they upset the “intimidating” SIL (she’s actually gotten into my face because his parents bought us some diapers…we were making less than half the income they were). Now that my husband decided to have us stay home this year for Thanksgiving so we wouldn’t both be throwing up from anxiety on the way there, his parents are trying to use our son as a source of guilt. “You’re only hurting him!” “The twins are mean and rude to him because the world is cruel. Oh, and they have more social experience than he does.” OK, that makes sense. Our son is quite popular at his school and is so because he’s incredibly sweet and polite, so I guess being socially skilled means you’re a dick. In fact, it’s really just a matter of the children acting like their parents. And why should our son be christened into the cruel world by his own cousins?

        I can tell you that despite the guilt I’ve received from not attending my own family’s get-togethers I am much better off. My mom understands as I’ve expressed just how nauseous I get when I consider going to a party at the Aunt’s house where I am certainly not welcome by her b-head of a husband. Why go where I’m not wanted? But, I can handle my own guilty conscience. I’m upset that my husband’s parents are trying to use our son to guilt my husband for doing something that’s better for us and our son.

        Trust me, people. If anyone tries to guilt you, and especially if they use your child to do it, they don’t deserve to see you. They should care more about your well being and that of your family than to see you one extra day of the year.

    • Not That Rebecca

      So conservative family member doesn’t agree with non-marital childbearing. What would he like you to do, exactly? Leave your daughter at home? Put yourself in exile for life as atonement? It’s possible to have principles that differ from those of your family without being a complete and utter dick about it.

      On the non-Jewish sister in law … the person who transgressed is not her, no matter how you slice it. Being rude to her is a chillul hashem. Tell him that next time :)

    • jodie

      I hate gatherings that i don’t want to go to…it kind of ruins not only the weekend its happening on, but about 3 weeks leading up to it as i feel this weight of obligation and dread . I don’t have social anxiety..i just hate doing things i don’t really enjoy or want to do. I had to make a speech at the end of last summer at a family event and it ruined the whole summer for me as i dreaded it every day for 2 months leading up to it.. !

      Then, the last time this happened i also dreaded it for days – trying to force myself to get in the mood to go; then a lot of other stressful things cropped up and it all got too much and i just ended up really upset and realised i can’t do this to myself anymore…
      So from now I just say, sorry i can’t do come, i have to get on with my own stuff and i’m being pulled in to many directions at the moment, that kind of makes sense to people i think…it feels so liberating and authentic to do what i need to do…
      Do i feel guilt? Yeah a little but its outweighed by the sheer RELIEF of not having to do something that my whole soul is crying out not to do!
      Family events can be so over-rated i think…

      Strong stuff but maybe this will resonate with someone?!