Top Ten Tips for Surviving (and actually enjoying) the Holidays with a Baby

Photography by Whitney McClellan

  1. Be ok with saying ‘no’

This is the MOST IMPORTANT tip that I have for any parent. I love the saying, “if it is not a HELL YES, then it is a HELL NO.” You cannot do it all, and your priority right now is to make sure that both you and your little one are healthy.  Learning to say no is the first step in learning to care for yourself. 

If you struggle with saying no, take some time to reflect on WHY this is such an issue.  It almost always stems back from a need to please and this very often stems from how you were parented as a child.  So many of us only received validation from our parents when we did something – we got good grades, or we won at a sport.  We were not validated for who we were as people, the things that are inherent within us.  When this happens, we look to do things for others, always saying yes, so that we can get that validation.  Take some time to reflect on this because this part of you will need to heal before you learn to say no. 

One HUGE NO that will help you over the holidays is saying ‘no’ to hosting. 

“I put myself first and respect my boundaries” – a mantra I use a lot during the holidays.

2. Use your village and delegate 

Oh this one is SO HARD for so many of us.  It is hard to ask for help and let go of the need to control everything.  So often we have a hard time admitting that we cannot do it all, we take on too much, and then we find our stress levels building.  The holidays are a time when a lot of us do have a village around.  Do not be afraid to use them.  

And to add to # 2:

3. Give yourself permission to take a nap

I know, I know… you are too busy, there is too much going on but trust me when I tell you that a 20-minute nap will make you feel so much better, especially if you have had lots of sleepless nights recently.  If you have that village around, take a nap. Don’t worry about what other people think, TAKE THE NAP.

4. Spend less time in the kitchen and buy pre-made or frozen items.

If you have to host, think of ways to simplify.  We have been hosting Christmas dinner for the past three years and last year I decided to get a pre-made meal.  We asked everyone to contribute a small amount of money to cover the cost and it really did make everything so much easier.  All I had to do was to heat up the food in the oven and I was able to enjoy actual conversations with my relatives.  Instead of feeling like I was stuck in the kitchen, I got to spend time with my kids and catch-up with everyone.  I cannot tell you what a game-changer this was.  Again, you have to let go of the fear of telling everyone that you cannot (or do not want to) do it all.  

5. Give yourself a ‘you’ day and get out of the house for two hours to get your nails done or a haircut.

I find it really hard to book appointments during the rest of the year, and I found it particularly challenging over the holidays.  I found that I felt SO MUCH BETTER when I got some time for me and when I could pamper myself a bit.  One thing that I did often was to ask for a gift card to get my hair/nails done if people were wondering what I might want for a holiday gift.  I enjoyed the pampering more when I knew that I was getting it for free.

6. Limit travel time

If you have a choice to do this, I would HIGHLY recommend it. Travelling with a young baby, or really a child at any age can be stressful.  If you can avoid it, I would highly recommend cutting back on the amount of driving or flying that you do during the holidays.  This really comes back to the first point about saying no.  If the travel time is too much, and it is going to cause you too much stress, say no.

7. Online shopping rather than in-store

I do understand that online shopping increases carbon emissions and that suggesting this might upset some but if you are overwhelmed by the holidays, and you are struggling some days just to get out of the house, then consider online shopping in order to make the holidays easier.  Not only could you online shop, but you can also consider really thinking through reducing the gifts you buy knowing that less is more.

As I mentioned before, gift certificates are a great option for a gift and that does not require you to go anywhere.  Often times they can be emailed.

8. Let go of perfection, know that your holiday traditions are now your own and you do not need to replicate what your parents’ did.

This one is easier said than done.  I would say this is one of the hardest things to do over the holidays. We all want to replicate the happy memories that we had in our childhood, we want our children to feel the good things that we may have felt but remember that they will remember the feelings, and those feelings include your feelings and your stress levels.  I have said this before, and I will say it again here, babies and children co-regulate.  If you are stressed, they will pick up on it and feel that stress too.  

Let go of perfect – there is no such thing! 

I would challenge you to create your own traditions, something new and special that honour your CURRENT family, the things you like, the things that are important to you.

9. Find mindful moments

The holidays are such a busy time that we rarely find time to just slow down and be in the present moment.  The result of this is that we don’t take any time to actually enjoy the holidays, and when we look back on them as they pass, we don’t remember any of the small and amazing moments that actually took place.  If you are anything like me, once I have finished one task, I am moving onto the next – the holidays are a checklist of things to do. This year I am challenging myself to be in the present moment more often.  In order to remind myself to do this, I am going to place sticky notes around the house and every time I see one, I will try to bring myself back to the present.

10.  Ignore all unwanted/unasked for advice.

Being around family means getting all sorts of unwanted parenting advice.  I am sure that you will be asked how your baby is sleeping and told that you are holding your baby too much.  My advice – smile and nod and ignore everything you hear.  Remember that you are the expert on your own baby, no one else.

For me, I was not interested in the advice of anyone who was not parenting my baby at 2 a.m.

Be kind to yourself this holiday season…you are one amazing mama, and you are the absolute best parent for your baby.  Do what works for you, follow your instincts and your heart.

Happy holidays, Mama!