Setting Boundaries as New Parents for a Peaceful Holiday Season

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Well, the holiday season is upon us.  Thanksgiving is a week away and I swear it sneaks up on me faster and faster every year.

 

The holidays can be stressful, chaotic, busy for everyone.  This can be especially true for new moms.

 

I have couples tell me all the time how stressful the holiday season can be with a new baby at home.  They share that they feel obligated to make the rounds.  

 

I always tell them that they don’t need to do that.

 

Reading this now, that response might seem obvious.  But, it’s actually easy to forget or feel like we don’t have much choice, so consider this validation or permission to say “no” to some things.

 

New parents, you don’t have to do everything everybody else expects you to do.  

 

Really, this season should be your time to start thinking about what you want for your family.

 

Now is the time, while baby is young, to start talking about and making decisions around what your own traditions will look like and, ultimately, what you value.  And, by the same token, it’s also OK if what you want this year isn’t the same as what you want next year or the year after that.

 

You might not want to go out too much in the first few years of having a new baby, but eventually, you might want to go out to holiday events more and more.

 

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Another example:  Maybe you have a tradition of you and your family making cookies each year.  But now that you have a new baby at home, maybe you don’t feel up to it this year.   Maybe it’s just too overwhelming with everything else you have to figure out or keep up with right now.

 

That’s totally OK.  

 

Maybe you don’t do that for a couple of years.  And then, once your little one is old enough for you both to really enjoy baking (and making messes!) more, then maybe you can pick the tradition back up again.  

 

You also might find that as your little one grows, you want to get out more and maybe it doesn’t feel so difficult to do that anymore.  It’s OK for things to shift and change as you figure out what you want, and as your family goes through different phases.

 

Now, are you still feeling stuck by those obligations?

 

If you are, here are two crucial things you need to do to enjoy this holiday season a little more:


 

1. Communicate with your partner.  

 

Do talk things over with your partner first.  You two are in this together, but you both might have your own ideas of what the ideal holiday looks like.  Figure out what both of your expectations and capabilities are, and figure out where you need to compromise.  

 

Though this isn’t always true, it can be pretty common for dads to want to go do all the things because they aren’t encumbered in quite the same way that moms often are, so you both might have to compromise on which events you go to, which ones dad takes baby to by himself, and which ones you skip altogether this year.  

 

But, whatever you do, definitely don’t skip these conversations.  You’ll both want to be on the same page ahead of time.

 

2.  Set clear boundaries.  

 

Setting those expectations ahead of time so that no one is disappointed or surprised at the last minute is a good thing.  So, if you are making a point to stay in more this holiday season, make it known.  Set that expectation with family and friends ahead of time by telling them you’re going to limit your excursions this season.  

 

You might be surprised by how understanding most people can actually be about this kind of thing.  But of course there will be some that will feel disappointed or insistent. 

 

So, again when that expectation is there, sometimes compromise can help.  Maybe you don’t want to go out to the big, extended family Christmas at the in-laws this year, but maybe instead you invite your baby’s grandparents over for a holiday dinner or ask them to have a special one-on-one bonding day with your baby while you go get your holiday shopping done.

 

Regardless of whether compromise is an option or not, you can often minimize any hurt feelings by setting the boundary with friends and family ahead of time. 

 

I’ll have more for you in next week’s blog on having those awkward conversations and setting those boundaries in firm, but gentle ways.  So, watch for that.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’re most looking forward to this holiday season.  What is your favorite thing about the holidays?