The holiday season, can be filled with so many emotions from joy, to excitement, to feelings of nostalgia, and can also be filled with stress, anxiety, sadness and overwhelmed, especially when you have a new baby! Navigating the holidays as a mom comes with its own unique set of challenges, from gift shopping and meal planning to managing family visits and maintaining self-care. But the good news is that with some holiday planning, you can embrace the joy of the season and create wonderful memories dispite the potential chaos.
Start Planning early for Navigating the Holidays with a Baby!
The key to holiday planning begins with starting early. By creating a holiday plan timeline, you can break down tasks and outings into manageable steps. This not only reduces the pressure but also allows you to be in the moment when the moment arrives. Begin with a checklist of who you want to try and see and what needs to be done. Include things like people you want to get gifts for and what you might get them, what you want to decorate. Starting early provides you the time and space to set realistic expectations, set up boundaries and safe time for the things that you really want to do. Starting early allows you to think without all of the emotion of the moment.
Setting Realistic Expectations
You now that a baby. You will most likely not be able to do everything that you did the years before. Travel, holiday celebrations, where you stay, how much time you have to decorate and give thoughtful gifts will most likely look different, especially when you have young children. One common source of holiday stress is the pursuit of perfection. The holidays are a lot less stressful when we set realistic expectations for ourselves during this season. The holidays don't have to be perfect, but they can still be enjoyable. Recognize that no one has it all together, and it's perfectly fine to seek help or simplify traditions. Focus on what truly matters to you, and plan on only doing that this year. Go through that list you just made, and separate it into, need to do, would like to do and what you can do in future years, but not this year. Make a plan on the need to do list and then add in the would like to do if there is space.
One part in scaling back on what you are doing this year is setting boundaries with yourself and expressing them to the people around you. The pressure to meet the expectations of others, whether it's hosting guests, attending numerous events, or taking on too much, can quickly lead to feelings of overwhelm. By establishing clear boundaries and communicating them with your loved ones, you can create a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday experience.
These boundaries can look like limiting the time you are somewhere, limiting the amount of events you say yes to, or giving less thoughtful gifts, or gifts you don't have to shop for. (gift cards or admission to an event for the family). You may get some pushback from family or the people hosting events because you are doing something different. It's perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation or politely explain that you can't attend all gatherings and follow through with that boundary regardless of the other persons reaction to your boundary. Remember, boundaries are limits you place on yourself. If you are setting boundaries rather than rules, you will be in control of keeping the boundaries you set. If you want some support with this, read my blog post about boundaries here!
Planning for Unexpected Stressors
The holiday season can bring unexpected stressors, from last-minute gift shopping to changes in plans, to a sick baby, a sleep regression or really anything travel related. Holiday planning involves being prepared for these surprises. Have contingency plans in place, and be adaptable when challenges arise.
Creating a Realistic Budget
Finances are a a common stressor during the holidays, and with a thoughtful budget it can be a little more manageable. To help with financial worries, create a realistic budget for the season. Determine how much you can comfortably spend without straining your finances. Consider cost-effective alternatives, such as traveling less or on a more strict budget, or shopping sales and discounts. Planning ahead and getting gifts throughout the year makes holiday finances a little less impactful... if you don't think that far ahead... you are not alone! This year, you may just give the gift of bringing new life to the family and call it a day. Gift giving on a budget: Only buy gifts for the kids of the family. Do a secret Santa. Have an event you go to as a family as the family gift.
Delegating and Sharing Responsibilities
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with loved ones. In order for you to be able to celebrate with them, that means sharing your responsibilities with other. Involving loved ones in holiday preparations not only lightens your load but also creates a sense of togetherness. Ask for help based on each person's strengths and interests. You might not ask your parents to do the decorations, but you might be able to ask your partner. Have a pot luck rather than preparing all of the food yourself. Set up a list of tasks and have people sign up for what they feel like they can take on. Open communication is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page, which reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflicts.
While traditions are an essential part of the holidays, they don't need to be overly complex and they don't have to happen every year. Simplify traditions to make them more manageable and enjoyable. Think about the activities that bring the most joy to your family and consider focusing on those. Sometimes, creating new, simpler traditions can be just as meaningful as the old ones. Example: You usually host a friendsgiving, maybe this year it is a dinner at a restaurant, or a potluck.
Handling Family Visits
For many moms, family visits are a huge part of the holiday season. If family visits involve travel or hosting guests, plan ahead to reduce stress. Communicate openly with your extended family about expectations and boundaries. Balancing multiple family commitments can be challenging, so coordinate schedules, set boundaries and be flexible. Remember holding boundaries, even when others are not happy about it, makes a higher likelihood that you will get through the holiday season without too much overwhelm. Just because you need to have more strict boundaries this year, does not mean that it has to be like this every year if you do not want it. This year, and maybe a few years to come while you have young children, your holidays will look a little different.
Connecting and Seeking Support
Navigating the holidays as a mom is made easier when you connect with other moms and seek support. Consider joining or forming support group where you can share experiences, challenges, and tips. Engaging with others who are going through similar experiences can be reassuring and provide valuable insights. Don't hesitate to reach out to friends or loved ones when you need assistance or emotional support. You can always reach out to a mental health professional as well. One that specializes in the stressors that you are experiencing to have a greater likelihood of a good match.
Navigating the holidays as a mom can be a joyful experience, and with some holiday planning, you can focus on what matters most and make the season truly special.
And remember mommas, you are not alone in this journey called motherhood.
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate mental health support for moms postpartum. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!