Battling Unrealistic Expectations This Christmas

By Auntie Em, Contributing Writer: you can read part one: Tips for Avoiding Financial Stress this Christmas and part two Tips for Avoiding Family Tradition Stress This Christmas.

I’m dreaming… of a white Christmas..

Our house in the Snow of 2010.

Disappointment #1. We live in Southeast Texas. It doesn’t snow here! 2010 was a fluke; we hadn’t seen snow like that since 1972. Anybody dreaming of a White Christmas here is setting themselves up for heartbreak.

 We’re taking a little stroll in the Holiday Minefield during this holiday season. We’ve navigated the Financial Field and made it through the Field of Traditions with no casualties. Now we’ve got to get through the deadly Field of Unrealistic Expectations! Disappointment, discontentment, and  feelings of inadequacy are waiting just below the surface, ready to explode and wound and maim our holidays, our relationships, and our Christian witness.

How bout this?


Or this?


Oh, Auntie Em, you’re being silly. Those days are long gone. Nobody expects their holidays to be like that anymore!

I hope you’re right. But what about the most overused 5 words in America? “I saw it on Pinterest!” Don’t get me wrong; I love Pinterest! But it would be very easy to go from “I love this!” to “I want this!” to “I can’t afford this.” Once you’re there it’s easy to start resenting your husband, who never went to college and has that rotten, low-paying job! Contrary to popular belief, men really are intuitive, and when their wives think this, it hits them hard in one of their most vulnerable places: their ability to provide for their families.


In the same vein, we women, who love to provide a beautiful home for our family and loved ones, can get overwhelmed by the abundance of DIY holiday projects. I can do all of the things in this cute picture. I can even afford the supplies. But I have this pesky full-time job.  And church. And laundry and meals. And, the biggest time stealer of all, I have to sleep. So the insidious whispers of perfectionism start: You’re lazy. You’re not creative. You don’t care enough about your family to make it nice. Not good enough… not good enough… not good enough.

Have you ever expected to make wonderful new family memories, maybe when you had an exciting new thing to celebrate? A new baby at Christmas? How wonderful!  Except he has colic. And I slept 4 hours last night. And I haven’t taken a shower in 3 days. A new house? You can finally host the family– all 26 of them– at your house! Except you haven’t put hardware on the bathroom cabinets. Or painted the dining room. Or unpacked your dishes.

There is nothing like the holiday season to trigger a whole avalanche of unrealistic expectations. I’ve been disappointed when all my family couldn’t get together because of conflicting schedules or personal problems. My husband has been disappointed when, instead of going on a romantic trip for our December anniversary, I want to stay home and collapse on the couch. (Can you hear the whispers? “If she loved me, she would want to go.” “If family were important to them, they would make time in their schedules to come.”)

So what’s the answer? GET REAL! Though I can’t wholeheartedly recommend “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” because of the language and occasional (only occasional?) raunchiness, it exagerates the ridiculousness of unrealistic expectations, and we can laugh at the Griswolds. Take the same approach with yourself.

  • Do you have preschoolers overrunning your family? Grandmother’s heirloom china and crystal might not be the best bet this year– Use paper plates and enjoy yourselves!
  • Is money tight? Have a potluck, and have everyone contribute. Dream about the house or vacation you’ll have in another season of your life, when there is more.
  • Can’t afford a full-sized Christmas tree in every room of your house? (Have you been browsing Pinterest again LOL??) Use small ones, or (GASP!) Just have one! Do what we did the year we got a pre-lit tree; give the kids some strands of lights and let them decorate their bedrooms themselves. They had a blast!
  • Your family isn’t getting together, for whatever reason? Invite friends! We are fortunate to have several church friends who are as close as family.
  • By all means, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but remember that your wonderful REAL life might look more like Clark Griswold’s than George Bailey’s!

To use a well-worn cliche, we have to remember the Reason for the season if we want to avoid unrealistic expectations and disappointments when they don’t get met.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

This post is part of our Surviving the Holidays With Your Marriage Intact series! Come back all month long for tips, advice, giveaways, and a FREE eBook on the Holidays here at A Biblical Marriage. You can find the rest of the series HERE.


  1. Great advice! One of the reasons I don’t spend much time on Pinterest is that it tends to discourage me. I’m not a crafty or DIY person, and my house/table/living room/tree/etc. are never going to look like the ones I see there! We’ll have one nice fresh tree, decorated with ornaments that we’ve collected/the kids have made over the years, a wreath on the front door, some poinsettias and Christmas cacti, and Christmas placemats on the table. For Christmas dinner I’ll break out the white linen tablecloth and my grandmother’s china. And that’s it! I don’t have the time, inclination or skills to do anymore. So I love your suggestions about doing what’s best for whatever stage of life you’re in.

  2. Linen and Grandmother’s china are so special anyway… I have my grandmother’s china too– white with gold rims, Haviland. I just love it!

  3. My grandmother’s china is Haviland too!


  1. […] plan for Christmas and then been disappointed? Then your whole Christmas is ruined? Join me over to A Biblical Marriage and let’s get our battle plans ready before we see all the ideas on Pinterest that we […]