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My 91-year-old Mom wants me to get out all her Christmas decorations this year. She thinks she can decorate but I know better as I can't even get her to pay her bills and she won't give them to me. I know if I do this we will still have decorations strewn around the living room, and not put up, all the way to Christmas Day. She wants to have my brother's family over this year for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day. I know all the cleaning, decorating, cooking and clean-up is going to fall on me and I am really stressed.



She knows how I feel but still wants to go through with it. Do I put my foot down and tell her I will do some decorating but I will not get all her stuff out. I live with her and have many of my own decorations and would be happy to put a lot of them up. Or, do I do as she says and feel the stress of looking at a mess that she is unable to handle? I know this could be her last Christmas but I want it to be an enjoyable time for me too and I am so anxious about this. My brother will be doing Thanksgiving so I am grateful for that. His family is a help with cooking but not Christmas decorations and cleaning at my house.

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How is everyone in a family working themselves into a lather anyone's idea of celebrating the birth of the savior of mankind?
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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The moral of this story is similar to all the rest of the stories on Earth: You can't please all of the people all of the time. So stop trying so hard.

You have a brother who 'won't get over it' if you don't do things precisely HIS way. Then I suggest you all go over to HIS house where he can do things precisely the way he wants to, and that ends your obligation to bend over backwards to accommodate his desires. If, btw, he works full time, he certainly DOES 'have the money' to buy 'catered' food such as pre made mashed potatoes which does not constitute 'catered food' but pre made foods we ALL buy at the grocery store so that nobody is slaving over the sink peeling potatoes for 2 hours or a hot stove boiling them. #Truth. You're not 'stuck' doing anything you don't choose to do willingly. If you don't want to do something, decline politely. And whoever doesn't 'get over' will still live through it, I guarantee you that.

Insofar as your mother's wishes go, the woman has dementia. Her wishes will change on a dime (trust me on that), so now, she's no longer in charge of making decisions, YOU are. That includes paying her bills if she would like your continued help in living with her, etc. Which also includes putting up Christmas decorations. That's up to you, and should not have anything to do with 'guilt' regarding how much spare time you have, but what you WANT to do. You don't need an 'excuse' not to do your mother's version of decorating, nor should you feel the need to call yourself 'selfish' for not wanting the stress of The Holidays when you've already taken on the huge stressful burden of moving in with your mother. Whoever doesn't understand that stressful burden has never lived with their elderly, dementia-stricken mother before. #Truth again.

Whatever you decide to do here, should be YOUR decision and yours alone. Whoever doesn't agree with you doesn't have to; it's not necessary that an entire family be in 100% agreement with one another over 'holiday festivities' and how they're carried out. Christmas is Jesus's birthdate and something tells me, He doesn't care if the potatoes are boiled on the stove, purchased in a carton at Safeway, or skipped altogether for a PB&J sandwich at the kitchen table. We get so busy with the details of making the festivities perfect, that we forget the reason for the season in the first place.

Best of luck.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Summernole Nov 16, 2022
Good answer, Lealonnie1! We do tend to get caught up in all the glitter of Christmas and we forget what the day is about. I will try to make this Christmas special for her and start early so I don't get stressed out at the last second. I will make a simple, but nice, Christmas Eve dinner and we will have light food for after opening the Christmas decorations. I will take my time in putting everything away after the holiday. I need to change my attitude and try to "go with the flow". Whatever is not up by the 15th will be put back. Simple as that.
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You should have your brother read this post because you've explained yourself pretty well.
If everyone wants to help with the holiday decorating, the cooking, and the cleaning, then pull out all the decorations and do it up. Not if they don't though.
Tell your mother these EXACT words as kindly as you can:

'Mom, I think it's a great idea that we should decorate for Christmas and celebrate. I know you can't do it yourself and I'll help. I can't get out all the decorations or do all the cleaning up, but I'll certainly help'.

Then stick to your word. Don't let her guilt or scapegoat you into become a seasonal slave to her dream Christmas. If she can't respect your boundaries then don't do anything for the holiday.
My mother always ruined the holidays for me since I was a little kid. I was never allowed to enjoy them because they were always just about her depression and how much work she had to do.
Then as I got older the holidays were basically me driving myself into exhaustion doing everything while at the same time making it look like she was doing it.
Then I met the love of my life. A nice Jewish man and I converted. Christmas is coming and my elderly mother has been bringing her A-game with the guilt-tripping. I told her that I'll be doing Christmas day like a proper Jew. Having Chinese food with my husband and son. The rest of my family can do Christmas for her.
If your mother won't be reasonable and understand that you're not going be a holiday slave, then maybe you should light the menorah, get some Chinese food and the family can have a Jewish Christmas.
I remember the first year I did this with my husband and his family. We were just dating then. It was the best "Christmas" I ever had.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver
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Summernole Nov 15, 2022
It sounds like you are happy now with your Jewish celebrations at Christmas. That is wonderful. Thanks for the advice.
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Maybe her last Christmas, maybe not. The last post I read on here, the parent died at age 106. Can you handle 15 more Christmases? For now, you could just say no. What's she going to do, call the Christmas police? Maybe she'll call other family members, and they'll say no too, then at least you're not the only bad guy.
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ventingisback Nov 15, 2022
“What's she going to do, call the Christmas police?”

Made me smile. Thanks! Haven’t smiled in about 3 months. (Good thing there’s no Smile police.) (Arrested for not smiling).
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I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer but sometimes I wish they would just cancel Christmas. It always brings about so much stress for me and I know for a lot of people. It's supposed to be about love and joy and yet every year it gets more commercialized and that just adds to the stress. And then add to that the unrealistic expectations that some people have and you've got a perfect recipe for disappointment.

I think you should do what makes you happy. Period. If people get hurt that's their problem and is on them.
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Reply to Gershun
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Sendhelp Nov 21, 2022
Wait!
Didn't we used to be able to send a "hug" on the open forum?
Or, was that feature just for private messages?
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Put out a few of her decorations.
Pay for cleaning help. A lot of companies will do a one day.
Make a few dishes only if you want but order from a restaurant or grocery already cooked.

Scale way down to what you feel up to. Use paper everything this year. No one can do the huge holidays that we used to.

Mom will get over it.
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Reply to InFamilyService
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Summernole Nov 15, 2022
Mom, and the rest of my family, will not get over it. I know them. In fact, my brother wants to see china on Christmas Eve. We don't have the money for cleaning services and my family will never accept restaurant or catered food. I mentioned to my sister-in-law that I wanted to buy "already made" catered, mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and she said "no". I am always stuck with the mashed potatoes and I don't like standing at the sink and peeling 5 lbs every year. It must have worked because she is making them this year :). Also, again, we don't have the money for a catered meal anyway.
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Sounds like you’ll be in charge of cleaning out all this excess Christmas stuff when Mom’s gone …. Can you use this year’s exercise of going through it to also organize some of it? I mean as you’re pulling it all out, is there a box or two (or 10) you can mark in such a way that when the time comes you’re able to know it’s all junk/things you don’t want so you’ll be able to get rid of it quickly/easily? Alternatively, get a new box or two and put the most special items in there and those are all you keep when the time comes. Organizing all of it doesn’t get easier after we lose the parent .. it only becomes a more painful chore. You could instead organize it with her (in her chair watching, no doubt) and save yourself one task later. She doesn’t need to know you’re thinking ahead - she just gets to see you enjoying her treasured items/memories with her which is probably what she wants this Christmas anyway.

fresh market does a lovely holiday meal you can pick up the day before and reheat. Get the thicker/fancier disposable dishes and focus on her potential last holiday vs the burden on you. Can your brother drive you guys around to look at Christmas lights? I know all of this is easier said than done but you won’t regret bringing joy to her and your family.
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LittleOrchid Nov 20, 2022
Good suggestion. About 2 years before my mother's death my sisters organized a project to "clean up" my mother's storage shed. They looked at all Mom's collected stuff and repacked into boxes that were sort of "memorabilia," "good will", and "junk." Obviously, those were not the actual labels, but it saved a lot of time when Mom passed. Nothing was valuable, but many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren were delighted to inherit some of the memorabilia items. (Such as the really ugly nutcracker music box one grandchild remembered as playing next to him on the bed when he was put down for a nap on his grandma's bed.)
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say no. Growing up my mother did the bare minimum for holidays. Little to almost nothing. At about age 60 she became a holiday decorating junkie. About 40 boxes of stuff and 3 large trees. She expected me to spend 2-3 days putting up stiff and more time taking down and storing. I did it 2 years with no help but a lot of criticism. then I said no more. I started giving stuff away to grandchildren who were setting up houses. She complained. but by that time she needed more help with other things and she realized I could step back completely.
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Reply to Bridget66
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BurntCaregiver Nov 15, 2022
@Bridget

Your mother did the absolute minumum for holidays when it mattered. That time was when her family was young.
She's lucky you do anything. Everybody wants the big grand holidays only when they don't have to do them. When it was mom's time to do the holidays she did very little. Mine too.
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I would put out a few important decorations and that’s it.

I know you said you don’t have money to get aspects of the meal catered, but it’s still expensive to buy everything at the grocery store. My family has ordered Chinese food on Christmas in the past. It was easy, inexpensive and everyone loved it.

As the host, you can decide what to do. Absolutely paper plates! If you do make something, keep it simple or do potluck.

If brother doesn’t like your plan, he can host! Don’t let everyone steamroll you. Sending love.
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Reply to Kristen2037
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Last year my husband and I started a new tradition: we just trim the tree with lights, no ornaments! Its simplicity is beautiful (we started making donations of ornaments and Christmas decorations to our local thrift store boutique). See if you can order a package meal through a gourmet grocery store or restaurant) and be a guest at your own feast...........we're doing that, this year.

Life has taught me to pivot and not get stuck in my ways.
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