The holidays are fast approaching and this may be the first holiday with your new little one. Often, there is a lot of pressure from family and friends to attend holiday gatherings so that everyone can see your new baby. Even more often, there are grandparent wars. Your mother-in-law may bare her fangs for the first time when you start discussing where your baby will be spending Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas morning.
So, as you navigate this joyous time, keep a few basic principles in mind:
- It is not your job to ‘show off’ your baby and entertain the masses. Your baby is not on Holiday Parade.
- It is not a good idea to jeopardize your family’s rhythm, rest, and sanity for the desires of others.
- You have the automatic excuse to leave any party early or decline an invitation altogether: you are overwhelmed new parents. Your extended family may or may not empathize, but it is true nonetheless.
First, when deciding what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to:
- Ask yourself, “Do I want to go?” Seriously. If you didn’t have to hear people’s mouths about your decision, would you actually choose to attend this event, or are you doing it out of obligation?
- Will going to this event feed your soul or drain your soul? If you chose the latter, is it really worth the attack on your already delicately balanced life?
- Will not attending cause a serious rift in your family? Really?
- Think long and hard about your choices to attend weekend or evening events, especially if you are a working mom. Nights and weekends are sacred and full of chores to be done to get ready for the next week. How will this event impact your routine?
- How many people will be there and what is the risk of your baby being exposed to snotty children and adults who may or may not wash their hands after going to the bathroom? Seriously. People are gross and it is flu season.
Before attending the event that you have decided is worth attending:
- Decide with your partner how long you will stay and what the code word is to leave early. Make a pact to stick to this plan. Share this timeline with those you are visiting. Be sure to set the bar really low. Like, “We will be staying for about an hour.” That way, if you end up staying longer it is a pleasant surprise for all!
- Make sure nobody feels shorted. Be sure your husband feels there is equal time being spent with his family as with yours.
- Think about timing. What is your baby’s temperament during these hours? Is it wise for you to be in a public setting during her fussy time? Can you go to the event early and leave early? Or drop in for the last hour of the event?
- Speak to the hostess and let her know you are excited to be coming, but your stay will be very short. Let her know you are an exhausted, overwhelmed, overprotective new mom who can only handle one hour of excitement for the day.
- If you, brave soul, are traveling to be with family this holiday season, read up on some tips here for pumping in public and traveling with breastmilk.
At the event:
1. WEAR YOUR BABY. This is critical if you don’t want to endure the pass-the-baby game (you know, when you give permission for Aunt Sally to hold your baby, then turn around to find that Aunt Sally is not holding your baby, have a minor coronary, then realize that Aunt Sally passed your baby to Aunt Maggie who passed the baby to her ten-year-old son). If you are wearing your baby, it sends the message that baby will not be passed around. Also, it prevents people from invading your baby’s personal space. Curiously, people won’t invade your personal space to kiss the baby’s face when you are wearing the baby, but they are happy to put their grubby hands on your baby’s hands and face when she is in the car seat.
2. Exercise your right to nurse in private. Yes, in private. Even if you happily nurse in front of your Uncle Mark on any other occasion, now is the time to ask for a quiet place to sit and nurse your baby. It gives you and your baby a much-needed break from the chaos.
3. Hand sanitizer plus a “crazy mother” disclaimer: “I know, I am a nutty new mom, but would you please use this hand sanitizer I have clipped to my carrier before holding my baby?”
4. Hand sanitizer plus “strict pediatrician” disclaimer: “My pediatrician says it is critical that I protect my baby during flu season. It is really bad when a baby her age gets sick!”
5. The ‘tired-working-new-mother’ excuse:“I am so sorry we have to leave so early, but I go to bed at 9:00 pm these days. Otherwise I will never survive the work day!”
6. Responding to criticism: Remember what opinions are like. Everyone has one. Unlike that other thing, though, people are often willing to share their opinions freely and without forethought, especially when it comes to motherhood. Aunt Sally, Aunt Maggie, and even Uncle Mark may have some parenting wisdom that they are eager to share with you, and they probably all have different ideas on what you ought to do with your baby. Be prepared to field well intentioned but critical remarks from family members regarding breastfeeding, solid foods, sleep, and any number of other baby-related topics.
A final holiday note: For the first two to three years of your child’s life, your gifts are allowed to consist of the following:
- A framed footprint (if your baby is younger than one, don’t try a handprint; it will be a disaster).
- A footprint on a wooden ornament purchased for 50 cents from Michaels.
- A framed photograph.
Soak up this opportunity to make your Christmas gifts the cheapest, easiest, and most meaningful. I would still be putting Lucy’s foot on an ornament, but it is too stinking big. Now, she draws a picture and I frame it. Genius.