Staying at relatives' houses for the holidays when you don't want to

If you have been divorced within the past 3 years and have a child between the ages of 2-5 who is currently enrolled in preschool, would you be willing to take this survey for a researcher at Yeshiva University who is studying the effects of parental communication on preschooler behavior? 

Now, I've had a request to discuss guilt travel and staying at relatives' houses over the holidays when you don't really want to. (The flip side of last week's guilt hosting question.)

I think first you have to decide whether you really actually need to do this or not, and if you've been doing it just because you always have. Is it worth it to keep doing it, or is doing it causing more stress than the payoff (in emotional credits with your relatives, or something else, or even actual enjoyment) is worth. This is one of the things in the Christmas workbook (and that we're talking about in the secret discussion group for people doing the workbook), the idea of reassessing all the things you do and deciding whether they're worth it to you or not and how to approach them if they're not.

I think the calculation of whether you should keep doing it or not is affected by whether or not you have kids, how many, and how old they are. That can add a layer of feeling like you owe it to relatives to bring them your kids to experience. Or it can add a layer of not being able to afford it. Or a layer of "this is the final stressor that is going to put me over the edge." Or it could add a reason that you need to stay in a hotel that won't offend people (baby wakes up at night, toddlers need a childproofed space, teenagers have such big feet that there isn't room for everyone in the house anymore, etc.). So think about your kids and what stage they and you are at and how that affects things.

Another element in the calculation is whether it's worth it to your partner (if you have one) to stay. If it's your partner's family, you may be assuming they are really attached to staying, but it could be the case that they're not and would be happy doing something else. Or you might assume they're just doing it out of obligation, but in reality they really want to wake up in their childhood home on Christmas morning.

Another element is the complexity of the plan. Are you going to one place and staying there for several says? Or are you going to be moving from place to place to stay with different groups of people? The first can be relaxing or stifling. The second can be a relief or it can be stressful.

The only real way to make the decision and then deal with what you end up doing is for everyone to put their cards on the table as much as possible. Be honest with your partner (if you have one) about your desires. Ask them to be honest with you. If your kids are old enough, involve your kids in the talk (if they really really want to see relatives that might affect your decision). And, if you can, be honest with the relatives you're considering staying with. Maybe everyone is happy with the way things are. Maybe one or two small changes to the usual plan would make everyone love it. Maybe this year you're going to see what happens if you don't go.

Two thoughts:

1. There is nothing wrong with needing to have your needs met at a holiday.

2. There is nothing wrong with sacrificing and doing something you don't want to do if it makes someone else happy.

Things are both true at the same time. You just need to find a balance between them that works this year. Next year might be different.

Who's got thoughts about this? How have you Chosen Your Own Adventure with regard to staying with relatives on holidays? What have you made your priorities in making the decision to stay or not, or change the way you stay?