We look forward to the holiday season all year long. Then it finally arrives, and we blink and we're left wondering where on earth the holidays went? Maybe you're thinking, "I just put the tree up!" Or, "I haven't finished all 25 days of Christmas movies I had planned out! Did I create enough new traditions? Should I have bought more gifts? Should I have bought less gifts? I still have to bake those cookies!" The list goes on and on. And if you're anything like me, you're left feeling depleted, exhausted, and a little sad the day after Christmas, because you just spent the entire month of December trying to cram in a million things, shopping for every single item that popped up in your Google ads, trying to ensure everybody and their dog (literally, even their dogs) got to spend time with you and your spouse, or you and your child(ren), traveling to a 20 different places, cranky little one in tow, and stressed out dog riding shotgun.
That was me two years ago.
For my daughter's first Christmas, she was only 4 months old. And as magical and special as that first Christmas was, it was quite possibly one of the most exhausting and saddening Christmas's I've had. You're probably thinking, "Gee, that's awful." But hear me out, if you're a new mom, you're going to want to pay careful attention, learn from my mistakes.
Unless you're creating a tradition for you and your spouse, throw any "new tradition" ideas out the window, because as much as I hate to break it to you, mama, your precious baby isn't going to remember a single thing about that first Christmas, much less care if you started a tradition. Personally, I didn't even attempt traditions or activities last year with Kinsley, even after she had turned one, because she still had no clue what was going on.
Now, I'm NOT saying traditions are bad or to just have a boring Christmas, so let me contradict myself a little. There are some traditions that we had BEFORE Kinsley, that we still did WITH Kinsley, such as seeing certain Christmas lights, baking gingerbread cookies to pass out to our neighbors, and watching certain Christmas movies. We've done that since she was a baby, simply because those were things we did together before she was born.
Secondly, traveling with a baby is hard. Traveling with a toddler is hard. Traveling with kids is hard. They thrive on routine, on knowing their surroundings. So when you take your precious little one to see every relative and friend you can think of at 7 different houses, expect meltdowns. Expect missed naps. Expect to be flexible, at least to a degree.
But, remember YOU ARE MOM.
That means, what you say goes. If you say no kissing baby, that means NO KISSING BABY. If you don't want to pass baby around to every person because you know your baby is just going to cry, then don't. For a lot of people, they may only get to see the baby a few times a year, so you feel this pressure to make sure they all get to see him/her, but that does NOT mean they are entitled to get to take your baby from you if it means it makes you or your baby upset or uncomfortable.
It's okay to say no.
Trust me, as a new mom, I learned the hard way. If you need to step out for an hour or two to go put your little one down for a nap, then go. Not only are the holidays hard for your child though, but they will be hard for you, too. Holidays were isolating for me, as they may also be for you. Just like you, your little one may become overstimulated by all the new noises, new faces, new places, etc. So, as I said, if you need to go to another room for awhile, that's okay, but if you begin to feel as if you're missing out on all the family fun going on without you, that's okay, too. It's normal, the good news is, it's only a season, it won't be that way forever. I remember sitting in a back room at several holiday gatherings, and as much as I treasure those sweet, quiet moments with just my daughter and I, I also felt very alone and longed to be out with the rest of the family, joining in the laughter, playing games, etc.
If you need help, ask.
Your family wants to help in any way they can, whether it's sending them to go get something for you, having them hold the baby for you while you eat, or just telling them you need to keep the baby in the back for a bit to calm down.
You don't have to prove yourself as a mother,
they know you're a good mother.
Everyone wants to see the baby, I get it. I want to spend as much time with my kid, too. I mean look at her, who wouldn't? That said, another part of why that first Christmas was so brutal was because my husband and I felt the pressure to make sure we made an appearance at every gathering we could, so everyone could get their turn with the baby.
We love our family. But it was awful. We were worn out, my daughter was worn out. We felt like we didn't even experience a holiday season by the end of it all. We made an agreement after that Christmas that we would not be doing it that way again. As much as you want to see everyone and make sure everyone gets their time with you and your kid(s), you have to protect your own family time, too. Again, it's okay to say no. I'm not saying it will be easy, or that it won't ruffle some feathers, but at some point (that point being when you have your own children, we figured out) you have to make decisions that are best for you, your spouse and your child, not what will make everyone else happy.
Now, if you've made it this far, you might be thinking, "So, basically she had an awful first Christmas with her baby and doesn't want to ever spend time with her family."
PLEASE, don't think that!
My husband and I love our families, we love spending time with them, and allowing our daughter to get to spend as much time as possible with them, but through trial and error and some tense/unhappy moments, we've also learned what a healthy holiday season can look like. Let me tell you, it's so much more enjoyable! So set some boundaries, let your families know what you can and can't do; be reasonable, not vindictive or rude. Lower your expectations when it comes to making your precious little one's first couple Christmas's the most wonderful, magical, activity filled thing they can possibly be --- as much as I wish they could really appreciate their first holidays, aside from looking super cute in their holiday outfits, and maybe being amazed by the twinkling lights, our little ones just really can't appreciate the work and magic we try to put in, so save yourself the heartache and energy, turn on a Christmas movie and go take a nap with them curled up next to you instead.
Whether your holidays have felt rushed and chaotic, or you're already dreading all of the traveling this coming Christmas week, pause a minute. Take a deep breath, and a step back, remember the true meaning of Christmas, and know that it gets better. The holidays might be hard this year, but they won't be forever.