Our second daughter was born unexpectedly early, the night before Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my new baby girl, the Macy’s parade on TV, and a hospital bedside turkey meal. Nearly two years later, we would welcome our third daughter, just a couple weeks before Christmas. Having a new baby to care for during the holiday season definitely challenged my expectations of what I needed to cross off my to-do list, as my priorities shifted entirely.
In a consumer-based society, we often feel the need to measure up to an unrealistic standard, which can lead us to pursue the wrong things. Especially as mothers, we observe what other mamas are doing for their kids, and we put an unnecessary amount of guilt and pressure on ourselves to create things to be as perfect as possible. Perhaps this is experienced most during special occasions, such as the holidays.
We want to create a magical and memorable experience for our children, but at what expense? New mothers, in particular, are in need of even greater measures for self-care and rest, and this can feel nearly impossible during the holiday season. Our physical and emotional needs are often sacrificed, but at what expense? The holiday season often comes and goes so quickly, and we can be left feeling exasperated and drained when it is all said and done.
If you are entering the holiday season as a new mama, there is nothing more important than caring for yourself and your little one during this time. Keep these things in mind as you begin creating traditions for your growing family while learning to keep self-care a priority during the postpartum period:
Say Yes to What Matters
Holidays are the prime time for events, parties, and all kinds of special activities that we might not otherwise participate in. It may be tempting to say yes to everything, but how will this play out for you when you are also caring for yourself and your baby? Don’t put any unnecessary stress on yourself by overcommitting to too many things, especially with a new baby in tow.
Remember that things you would normally do will now take longer, when you account for feeding/changing baby and attending to your own needs as well. Take a reasonable look at your calendar and commit to the things that are most important to you and your family. Don’t let the fear of missing out dictate your schedule. You’ll be grateful you have less on your plate, especially after late nights, early mornings or both.
Automate and Delegate
More now than at any other time, we are able to use technology in a way to help us with our day to day tasks. Going out with a new baby can be especially difficult, especially during the holidays when things are busy, hectic and chaotic.
Automating smaller tasks can save you time in the long run and ultimately put your mind at ease when you find yourself needing help. For example, you can schedule a grocery delivery, order Christmas gifts, and set up a meal service, all in one go. Determine what tasks you can automate to simplify the things you need to remember on a daily basis. Taking one less trip with the baby can be a saving grace as a new mom, so take advantage of the technology at our disposal.
Asking for help when needed is also important for new mothers. Delegate responsibilities to willing family and friends that can support you during this season so that you are able to rest and recover as needed. This can be something as simple as having a meal prepared, having your dogs walked, dishwasher emptied, or laundry put away while you focus on caring for yourself and baby.
Give Yourself Grace
In a culture that constantly tells us we are not good enough as we are, it is difficult to be okay with mediocre. You don’t have to have the perfect Christmas decorations, spotless home, or recipes to make the holidays special or memorable. Nor should you be expected to “bounce back” for the sake of the holidays with little regard to what your body has experienced through childbirth.
This is an opportunity to let go of perfectionism and be content with “good enough”. You don’t have to do it all, nor should you be expected to. It may feel counter-intuitive to take things slow and intentionally give yourself opportunities to rest and recover, but you will never regret the decision to prioritize self-care. Let everything else that doesn’t support your healing and recovery fall by the wayside; you deserve better, mama.
Cherish the Memories
Having a new baby is a beautiful reminder of the most important blessings. The memories we will cherish are not materialistically based, but rather, created by relationships. Cultivating a sense of gratitude with where you are now can help foster contentment and keep you present in the moments.
Avoid getting lost in the whirlwind of the hustle and bustle and learn to take things in where you are. Maybe it has been difficult for you to adjust to having a newborn and all that this involves, and that’s okay! Motherhood is a transformative time, and becoming a mama means that you are entering a new chapter in life. You don’t have to have it all figured out to simply be present where you are and embrace the different experiences you are going through.
This holiday season, take the time to enjoy your precious little one and keep your self-care at the forefront of your priorities. When the last decorations are put away and everyone has moved on, you will be glad you said YES to the things that supported your wellbeing (and ultimately, your sweet baby).