Handling the Holidays & COVID in 2020
Written by Samantha McClelland
Covid decision fatigue. That is what my girlfriends and I are calling it these days. With the holidays literally around the corner and trying to make the best decisions for our families, I know I am not the only one feeling like we are trying to make impossible decisions. Family members debating about traveling out of state, indoor gatherings with larger numbers, can the people you love socially distance inside with or without masks without fear of Covid? Can you brave the colder temperatures by being outside in November in the Midwest weather? Are you willing to take a test and quarantine prior to travel? What about if you work in a healthcare-related field? What about if you are sending your kids to daycare, so you are already in a vulnerable position with exposure? Is there a right decision? A wrong decision? I do not think so, right now, there are just hard decisions.
Growing up, my family had very strong Thanksgiving traditions. We always spent it with my dad’s family, cousins, aunt, uncles, and grandparents. We would be able to see my mom’s family as well since they were all located in Iowa City. Pumpkin bars and scotcheroos made by my late Grandma, a family Christmas movie at the movie theater, Black Friday shopping, watching the Iowa/Nebraska game (which once led to too many Fireball shots when Iowa went 12-0 and lead to us booking a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter…that was a good Thanksgiving!), puzzles and game nights that go into the wee morning hours. When Cody and I got together, we had the hard conversations about what holidays as a couple/family would look like (which is an entirely separate post in a non-pandemic time – haha). We started spending the actual day/meal with his family and then would travel for the long weekend to spend with my side. We finally felt good about how we celebrated with our families, but now let’s throw a global pandemic in the mix.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that the need to be flexible and take things day by day is what is will bring us through the unknowns (see my pregnancy and pandemic birth story here). Right now, we have only decided to tackle decisions regarding Thanksgiving and we will address Christmas plans when we get closer to the holiday and see where all of our numbers are at here in Iowa. Last year, Jack had pneumonia and was diagnosed with asthma on Christmas Eve (that was NOT a fun trip to the ER) and was still under the weather on his birthday (December 28th), so I would very much like to redeem Christmas this year, but even if we decide to keep Christmas to our immediate family again, I’m bound and determined to make it special for our family, especially since Jack is in that golden age of Christmas magic.
Having to tell my mom that we wouldn’t be spending Thanksgiving with her, or our in-laws who had already canceled the big get together we do with our extended family and wanted to host at their house, to my dad and his girlfriend’s family, to my brother, sister-in-law and nephews who won’t be coming in from out-of-state. It is a heartbreaking choice, but we must do what is best for OUR family. We still have a six month old who hasn’t met the majority of her extended family due to Covid and as we head into flu/RSV season, let alone our son who suffers from asthma (this time last year he had already experienced a trip to the ER for a breathing treatment – see his story here). Thankfully, everyone is understanding, and I feel for you if that is not the case with your family and the decisions you are making to stay safe. I cannot wait for the day when it is safe to see my brother and his family, introduce Lucy to her entire family, to hug my Grandma again, this year has robbed us of so much, but I hope by making these decisions it helps us get one step closer to the other side and bringing our numbers down.
While the people-pleaser in me hates that we had to make those phone calls, I know we still can Zoom and FaceTime with our family members and to try and keep some perspective, it’s just a day. We can celebrate with family when it is safe to do so. Does it suck? Yes. I am trying to keep remind myself that we have a new opportunity we have not had before and can make some new memories and traditions for our own little family. We will be staying home and making our very own Thanksgiving meal for the first time, picking out our favorite dishes and desserts to make, and an added bonus we can 100% ensure it’s an allergy safe meal for Jack. For the first time in a very long time we will not be rushing to get ready and out the door. We can turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, turn on the Christmas lights (we set up our tree earlier this year…2020 made me do it), play a board game or two, keep Lucy on her nap schedule, there are some blessings mixed into the challenges Covid has thrown at us.
So long story long, give yourself and those in your family some grace as we head into the holiday season. None of what 2020 has thrown at us is normal nor has it led to easy decision making. You must do what is best and most safe for your family and just know you are not alone if you are making some tough calls!
Motherhood for Me conducted a survey on Instagram last week to get a feel for what our readers are planning on doing. See below for the results!
***** Survey Responses *****
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Are you stressed about the holidays this year? (Specifically regarding how to handle with COVID?)
59% Yes | 41% No
Have you decided what you’re going to do for the holidays?
57% Yes | 43% No
If so, have your Thanksgiving plans / traditions changed this year?
73% Yes | 27% No
If so, have your December holiday plans / traditions changed this year?
61% Yes | 39% No
Are you planning to downsize your typical celebrations?
82% Yes | 18% No
How many people are you comfortable celebrating holidays with this year?
0-5 – 42%
6-10 – 41%
11-15 – 11%
16+ – 6%
Are you taking any special precautions this year? Responders wrote their own answers in:
“We’re sticking to only immediate family this year”
“Immediate family only”
“We aren’t going to my parents’ – too risky since we’re all teachers”
“We’re keeping things small again with just us and my husband’s parents but we try to space the table out with the extra leaf and stay far apart”
“We are staying home :(”
“Strict stay at home for two weeks before Thanksgiving and COVID tests prior”
“We aren’t having holidays with extended family, just the three of us”
“Quarantine between family get togethers and pushing out dates to allow for more time to come in between”
“We’re undecided about Christmas”
“Staying home because it saves lives”
“We’re not getting together with family outside of our home for Thanksgiving”
“We’re playing the holidays by ear based on the community positivity rates for now”
“My husband is a Hospitalist taking care of COVID patients and is supposed to have Christmas off, but the way it’s trending he’ll be working Christmas and NYE and likely all of December for that matter. Please stay home so our essential workers can be home for the holidays too…I’m getting sad about the thought of him missing Christmas or missing the whole month with me and our kids. It’s also a lot on me if that happens.”
“Idea: Each family makes a dish and drops off at each house for an outdoor exchange”
“I want everyone to be safe however it makes me so sad that families are foregoing seeing their loved ones. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth and tomorrow is never guaranteed so my opinion on this is see your loved ones even if you have to do it differently or virtually…but see them and spend time with them.”
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