Changing Family Traditions: Navigating the Holidays With Your Baby
Foreword: This year, things look a bit different than normal. We are many months deep into a pandemic and holiday plans for many will not be the same. The advice in this blog is written to apply to any year, present or future, with some added commentary about Covid-19. We promote social distancing and following health & safety guidelines. It is our hope that you will apply these suggestions in ways that align with current regulations
You and your partner. Your first holiday season together. There are some disagreements, but then you come up with the perfect compromise for how to split up those important days. All is well.
Over the years, you learn to navigate the holiday season together in a way that meets both your needs. Your family, their family, some alone time too. You have the routine down so well you don’t even have to talk about it anymore. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Then come the kids. Those beautiful, wonderful, squishy babies are everything you’ve wanted. You pictured opening presents with them and looking at lights with them. Dressing them up in puffy snowsuits and taking them to see snow. Except even if those things happen, you forgot to think about the other part: All the plans you’ve so carefully crafted in your partnership are somehow completely coming unraveled now that your family size has grown.
Grandparents on both sides want to spend specific days with the baby. Everyone wants to pass the baby around for hours and kiss them and touch their face and talk to them when they need to be sleeping. Your great aunt has set up a 50 year old rocking chair for you in the basement for you to nurse in, “for privacy.” You spend a whole day away from your regular environment leading to your baby screaming all the way home in the car. Or maybe you’re lucky and have only heard stories such as these and want to avoid the angst from year one. Either way, your mind is wracked with anxiety from it all and the holidays are fast approaching.
Except there’s really no need, because, as your postpartum doula, I have some trusty suggestions to make this season a little easier for you and your loved ones.
1. Set Time Boundaries
This is probably one of the most helpful things you can do to avoid uncomfortable situations. BEFORE you go to an event, make an agreement with your partner about how long you plan to stay at a given event. It can be 30 minutes, 2 hours, or 5 hours… the actual time doesn’t matter as long as you stick to it. Just make sure to have a nap plan if it’s on the longer side! Telling the hosts about it when you arrive can also help get you out of a sticky situation when you are suddenly jumping up to leave before pie is served.
COVID BONUS:: Shorter time frames around other households means lower risk.
2. Baby wear
I cannot stress this enough. Depending on the age of your child, using a wrap or carrier can save you a huge headache when it comes to having them around groups of people. The baby can nap on you, they will be mostly covered to keep them warm, your arms won’t get as tired, and people are less likely to try to take them from you or get in their face. Plus, cuddles.
COVID BONUS: Baby wearing reduces the risk of baby getting sick, which is always important, but especially in current times.
3. Limit gifts
Nowadays, many families are moving towards asking for less tangible gifts than were traditionally given. They want experiences (like a zoo pass), gift cards (like for coffee or restaurants), services (like for a postpartum doula), or sentimental gifts (like a handmade ornament or photo book). Asking for these types of gifts in lieu of toys will both keep the wrapping-paper-tearing part of the day to a minimum as well as stop you from having to take home things that will clutter your home.
COVID BONUS:: Less people touching objects and passing things around from closer than 6 feet away.
4. Create a new tradition
I’m a big fan of making sure you have some time with just your immediate family for most big holidays. It can be really fun to come up with a way to share a holiday with your new member(s) in a way that makes sense for you. It can be first thing in the morning when you wake up on a holiday or maybe the night before, that you do something just for you that feels special. That way no matter how the rest of the visits go, you will always have a great memory from that year.
COVID BONUS:: Staying home with just your household is always the safest way to go in a pandemic.
5. One thing per day
My final piece of advice is to schedule no more than ONE outside activity per day. There’s really no way to know how you or your baby will be feeling after any sort of outing. Instead of having to cancel on Plan #2 at the last minute, just aim to keep it off the table to begin with. Especially if your baby is very young at this time of year, you will likely be happy to go straight home once you have a visit out of the house and won’t have to disappoint anyone over it.
COVID BONUS:: Less mixing of households, especially in short time frames, is safer for everyone.
I hope these ideas will help insert a little structure and peace of mind into this year’s holiday season with your new baby!
Blending families isn’t always easy, but sometimes just some simple planning and boundary setting can allow you to get back to focusing on the magical parts again.