“We’re fighting about the holidays — again,” said Kim, 36, a soft-spoken brunette who runs a children’s music school. “I sound like the Grinch, but I hate this time of year. I’m irritable and depressed, and I feel so much pressure to do it all ‘right.’ I worry that people are judging me: Does the table look festive enough? Did I use the correct silverware? It’s all so overwhelming.”
“The problem is, my husband rejoices in Christmas and loves nothing more than having his large family together — and all staying under our roof, “ says Kim. “For his sake, I want to be the perfect hostess, smiling as I prepare a wonderful feast, graciously chatting with our guests. But the reality is, all I want to do is crawl into bed. You’d think that after 10 years, Steve would understand. Why does he insist that we celebrate as one big happy family when we’re anything but?
“My relationship with Steve’s kids from his first marriage isn’t great. I get along well enough with Paula, 23, who lives out of town. But Justine, 26, lives nearby, and she’s disliked me from day one. Although I had nothing to do with Steve’s divorce, our wedding shattered her dream that her parents would reconcile. We’re cordial, but it’s tense. We see her and her husband, Eric, once a week, even more often during the holidays. Last year, Eric marched into my kitchen and proceeded to tell me I must ‘tent’ the turkey with foil, or it wouldn’t brown properly. His know-it-all attitude really gets under my skin.
“I don’t have the ability to hold my own with Eric — he’s so in-your-face. Just once, it would be nice if Steve stood up for me. I think he’s too afraid of alienating his daughter. For instance, if I make a joke at the dinner table, Eric will reply with a condescending, sarcastic comment, like, ‘Oh, you think that’s funny?’ Steve never says a thing.
“I also told Steve that this year, I don’t want a tree. Steve is great at decorating, but I’m always left to do all the cleanup. I also told him that I refuse to cook for everyone. I don’t want the pressure, and I don’t want all those cookies or pies in the house. The fact is, when I was 16, I became bulimic. After four years, thanks to a terrific therapist, I was able to get my illness under control, but weight continues to be a sensitive subject for me. Steve knows about the bulimia, but he doesn’t understand how stressful it is for me to prepare and serve these elaborate meals. I don’t know why I never said anything before — maybe I didn’t want to ruin the festivities for him — but this year, I’m too sad to pretend.