The holiday season is upon us! The time of year when everyone is supposed to be giving thanks, appreciating their families and celebrating the good in our lives. It can be a truly wonderful, magical season. It can also come with an immense amount of pressure. Oh, so much pressure! So many expectations! So many details! As a new mother, sometimes it feels like a victory just to brush your hair at some point in the day. Adding holiday obligations can send your stress levels through the roof. I learned this the hard way.
I am one of the crazy people who loves to take on holiday celebrations. Maybe I’m a bit of a control freak, maybe I just love having memories in my home, or maybe I just despise the traffic on holidays. (Maybe all of the above.) Lemme tell ya, I got a rude awakening the first year I tried to host Christmas dinner with a 3 month old infant. I was not prepared for the amount of interruptions and time that would NOT be available because…well, baby. I also did not properly account for the exhaustion that comes with being a new parent. My golden reputation as the family party facilitator was at stake, and the only reason I didn’t drown myself in a bottle of something strong is because I had a cluster feeding little human in the midst of a growth spurt, and drunk babies generally tend to be frowned upon. I’ve always lived by the general rule of thumb that whatever amount of time I think I’ll need, double it, because then I have a buffer for the unexpected. Well, with a new baby, that “buffer time” goes right out the window. Should I triple it instead? Quadruple it? I don’t even know if that’s possible. Given all the curveballs babies love to throw at us, I’ve found the only way to get anything done is to plan ahead and prepare as much as humanly possible.
Decisions, decisions. Now that you have a little one, it helps to decide early what you’re willing to take on and what level of participation you will have in the holiday celebrations. Where will you have dinner? Where will you open presents? What new traditions will you begin? With 4 years of holidays “with child” under my belt, I now consider myself seasoned novice, and here’s my best advice. To put a twist on the classic saying… An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of your sanity .
If you’re hosting The Big Meal:
Set Reasonable Expectations and Delegate the rest
Try to be realistic about the limitations put on you by your new baby, and cut corners where you can.
Does the pie really need to be completely homemade? Do the presents really need to be meticulously wrapped with fancy bows? Does the house need to be decked out like the North Pole? If the answer is yes to any of these, get someone else to do it. Delegating is a wonderful skill for a new mother. People love helping out, and you’ll love having the extra help. Where to start? Read on…
Having lists to reference helps keep the sanity when you feel overwhelmed and can’t hold all the details in your head. And checking things off is oh, so very satisfying.
Menu items- list everything from the entrees and sides, down to the dish of butter you’ll set out with the bread
Print recipes- having all the recipes handy keeps you organized, and helps you create a thorough shopping list
Shopping lists- I keep two lists, one for everything I can buy a week ahead, and one for things I’ll need to buy fresh (bread, for example)
Guest list- so you know how many people you’ll be serving and generally how much they eat (I always make a whole extra chocolate pie just for my chocoholic nephew, and he gets to take the leftovers home)
Don’t risk the stores being sold out of an ingredient you need! Buy early, and buy plenty. What if (heaven forbid) something burns? Or gets dropped? If you’re prepared with extra ingredients on hand, you don’t have to lose it…just take a deep breath and start again. And now with so many curbside pickup and delivery options, it's even easier to get everything you need.
Have a prep party
A day or two before, order pizza and invite the family to help with anything that can be done ahead of time. Chop vegetables. Assemble casseroles. Prepare your meat (trim, rub, marinate, brine, whatever your protein requires). Set the table. Wash and lay out serving dishes and utensils. If you have a big family, put people on teams to work together: Team Turkey, Team Bakery, Team Presentation, etc. If the chaos is too much, put someone on baby duty and take a walk alone. Whatever it takes to preserve your sanity so you can be relaxed and enjoy the holiday.
Take care of YOU
Take just a little time to pamper yourself a bit!
A quick manicure, eyebrow shaping, even a fresh haircut, are all things that take under an hour and can make you feel amazing, yet are often put on the back burner by exhausted new moms.
Pick your outfit and jewelry and lay it out the night before. Maybe even pick a backup outfit…because, well, baby.
Ask for the help you need
This one is purposefully redundant. People want to help. Let them.
If you aren’t hosting, but want to contribute:
In reality, you’ll probably get a pass on contributing anything besides the new little bundle of joy, all dressed up in something adorably festive. However, if you really feel you must, decide in advance what you are willing and able to contribute, and claim that item before someone else does. I would suggest cookies, for several reasons.
1) They keep well and transport easily.
2) The effort required is variable. You can set out with the most optimistic plan to bake from scratch using your grandmother’s famous recipe, and if baby throws you a curveball, buy a roll of packaged dough. If baby throws you a series of curveballs, just buy them premade anywhere on the way.
3) Baking or decorating can become a tradition that your children grow into.
So there’s my two cents. Good luck! I’ll let you know if following my own advice makes me feel calm and Zen this year.
Remember, an ounce of preparation is worth
a pound of your sanity.