After the birth of my first baby in October, I hosted not one, but two holiday gatherings. And in between that, I facilitated in-law visits and coordinated my baby’s church dedication and a small party after.
Needless to say, my fourth trimester was anything but slow. It was not restorative. I did not heal well or quickly and as the holidays wrapped up, I prepared to return to work. Looking back, I don’t recall loathing the holidays, but I do remember feeling tired, feeling overwhelmed, and like I had to keep up to prove I was a worthy mother.
By the time I had my second baby, I had learned my lesson and my postpartum time with my son was very different. I slowed down. I took more naps, said “no” to anything extra, indulged in more snuggles, and had fewer commitments. And in exchange for slowing down and enjoying my son more, I was also able to heal and rest myself too.
The holidays can be a hard time when new parents feel pressured to do all the festive things—the Santa visits, the family meals, the Christmas tree farm photos, the first snow experience, the holiday shows, the Nutcracker, the work parties, the grandparent’s houses—all while adjusting to new parenthood. But mamas, hear me when I say: if you have a new baby, it’s perfectly fine to just focus on you and your baby this holiday season and forget the rest. Don’t believe me? Here’s how you can do it.
Practice Saying “No” Graciously
It is hard to say no. Always has been, always will be. But, it does get easier with practice. Even if you regularly suffer from FOMO, commit to graciously saying “no” this holiday season.
In exchange, you can let your calendar breathe and your body rest. You can embrace those sweet baby snuggles without having to change diapers on-the-go or finagle breastfeeding out and about. When asked about an event or commitment you can reply, “No, we are not available then” or simply, “We can’t this year.” If pressed, be honest: “Right now, we are intentionally doing less so we can do more with our immediate family, but maybe next year!” And don’t forget that COVID precautions are a consideration for many people, so if you are trying to lay low with your new little family, anyone who loves you will definitely understand.
Choose the Traditions that Matter to You This Year
Memories are made through holiday traditions–they give us something to look forward and reflect on year after year. But in your first year with your baby, be sure to pick your traditions wisely. You shouldn’t do everything and let’s face it: your baby won’t know anyways. So, pick one or two meaningful traditions and be done with it. In the coming years, if you want to add to your list of holiday traditions you can. But trust me, it is much easier to add to a list of traditions than take away any.
Two Words: Take Out
Or is that one word? I don’t know, but the point is, unless meal preparation and Christmas cookies bring you joy, get out of the kitchen. When you need to contribute a side dish or dessert to a holiday gathering, consider take-out. Almost all grocery store delis offer amazing holiday menu items. I mean, have you seen Whole Foods’ spread? Who wouldn’t like to see that at the Christmas table?
And, if you find yourself alone with your partner and baby on Thanksgiving or Christmas, opt for take-out then too. You can cook up a storm another time. This year, let someone else do the work and add some paper plates to your grocery pick-up to save yourself some dishes too. Plus, this year more than ever, you’ll be supporting the economy too. Talk about a Christmas gift!
Suggest a Group Gift
Scale down the gift bonanza with a group gift for yourself, partner, spouse, parents, etc. One larger or more expensive gift means less gift brainstorming and tracking, wrapping, and clean-up. Not to mention a break for the environment when it comes to shipping and packaging.
Tone Down the Decorating
Pop the baby in a car seat, pour the hot cocoa and take a drive or a walk to embrace someone else’s magical decorating. Do not go through the effort of set-up and tear-down in just a month’s time. Not this year.
Grab a tree if you want, add lights for that special glow, and be done. Or don’t. There is no hard and fast rule that you have to have a Christmas tree. And when it comes to other decor, trust me, your baby really does not care if the Nutcracker collection makes it on to the mantle or greenery twists its way up the staircase.
Holiday window shopping is one of my favorite pastimes, but not with a stroller, giant diaper bag, and unpredictable baby-in-tow. Granted, I am possibly still traumatized from a major diaper blow-out in Nordstrom during my first holiday season as a mom, but my point is, skip the stores and order everything online. And if not everything, as much as you can. Whether it is a small shop or big box store, they all ship during the holidays. Just plan ahead so you do not have to cough up the extra for expedited shipping.
Don’t Play the Comparison Game
As a new parent, your emotions are tender. Do not let someone else’s apparently perfect holiday cause you to not enjoy this magical season with your baby. Control what you let in into your mind and heart.
In fact, if you have ever considered a break from social media, let this holiday season be the time to commit to a week or two offline. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to embrace what’s right in front of you when it’s not covered by a screen.
Remember What’s Most Important This Holiday Season
When you feel things speeding up, assess the holidays from your baby’s perspective. Do they want to shop for a plethora of gifts or spend more time with you? Do they care about the holiday work party or are your oohing and ahhing coworkers overwhelming? Is the Christmas light drive magical this year or nap-inducing?
Let their answer be your guiding light when making holiday decisions. Because after all, they’re definitely the most important part of this holiday season.
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