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Parent Tips For a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

This Year, I Vow to Have a Stress-Free Thanksgiving — and It Starts With Me in a Hotel!

I love going home for Thanksgiving. But ever since I had my daughter, either the amount of chaos that unfolds at my parents' house has actually compounded, or I'm just more aware of it. And I'm not just talking about commonplace chaos; I'm talking the-refrigerator-is-broken-everything-is-ruined level of madness the night before Thanksgiving. The kind where you're not allowed in the kitchen in the days leading up to the big holiday because the chef of the house needs her space — rightfully so — and nary a grandparent is available to help babysit because they're either running the kitchen or busy driving all of the food to your aunt's house because of the aforementioned broken refrigerator.

And it's important to note that I'm also a bit selfish. I want to be there for Thanksgiving — for the family I see only a few times a year, for the homemade lasagna, for the epic menu my mom curates — but I just don't want any of the anxiety-producing stress that comes with it. So this year I decided to practice a bit of self-care and make some key changes:

I won't put extra pressure on my parents to watch my daughter.

Thanksgiving is my mom's Oscars. She goes all in and all out. When I visit home, I typically want them to help out with my daughter so I'm free to enjoy myself. But that's not what Thanksgiving at my parents' is about. So it's unreasonable of me to expect that in addition to her cooking a 50-plus-item menu that she'd have gas in the tank for child care.

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I'll hire a babysitter so I can help my mom cook.

Something about going home to visit family and paying for a sitter doesn't add up, but I'm gonna try it this year. My mom has asked me repeatedly to spend some time cooking with her in the days leading up. Each year that I've gone to her house, I've certainly helped how I can — peeling, prepping, chopping, making menus, etc. — but if I'm going to make dishes with her from start to finish, I can't do that with a toddler running around in the background. I'll bite the bullet and use Urbansitter to hire a sitter so I'm fully freed up to connect with my mom in a new special way.

I'll take PTO.

I am someone who tries to do it all. Who tries to work a full day from our Los Angeles office (just a few miles from my parents' house), then comes back to my parents. But this year, I'm going to dial everything back and just take it easy.

I'll check into a hotel the night before.

This may sound completely over the top and unnecessary, but hear me out. Part of what makes me feel balanced and happy is finding quiet. On the night before Thanksgiving, there will be seven adults, three children, and three Golden Retrievers all staying at my parents' house. It's a large house, but it's not that large. And as much as I love these people, it's also overwhelming for me now that I have a kid. Plus, as I mentioned, the kitchen is off limits, so everyone ends up at each other's throats starving the night before and snacking on trail mix or running to California Chicken Cafe in desperation. This year, I'm going to take advantage of Friendsgiving staycation promotions I've seen in my HotelTonight app and check into a nearby hotel with my husband the night before. We never treat ourselves to time together, and since I know my daughter will be safe in her crib at my parents' house, I'll take a small mini getaway with my husband where we can relax, unwind, and truly be thankful for all the abundance we'll experience the next day. Maybe we'll even go out to dinner.

I won't overcommit to play dates.

I grew up in Los Angeles, so when I go home to visit, I instinctively want to see everyone I care about and set up play dates for my daughter and their children. But this is exhausting and puts a ton of strain on everyone.

I'll create a new fun tradition with my husband and my daughter.

It feels ungrateful to complain about a holiday in which I have no responsibility and a bounty of food waiting for me, so I want to reset my mainframe and make it less about surviving and more about anticipating, and I think a piece of that will be creating a new small tradition I can begin with my family. I recently discovered these Thanksgiving turkey hats, and I think getting my daughter and husband together to take a silly photo in them is the perfect tradition to start. I just hope chaos dissipates long enough so someone's available to take our picture.

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