Imagine, this is your “baby’s first” year. What are you looking forward to? What are your expectations? What feelings do your childhood memories of holiday gatherings evoke? Are there traditions you want to continue or would you prefer to start your own?
While the holidays can be an exciting time filled with merriment, for many it’s a time of emotional and financial stress. Even when you love all that comes with your traditions, you may feel pulled in too many directions. Maybe your family has grown in one way or another and you feel obligated to buy a gift just for the sake of giving a gift. Perhaps finances are tight and the idea of buying things, even when you want to, is overwhelming. Some may feel familial strains regarding personal matters or strong political differences that make you feel apprehensive about being together. Navigating the logistics with a new baby can also be hard, especially if travel is involved. So how does one find balance?
Stepping back and talking through these emotions is a good first step. Recognize that these feelings are visitors. “Oh, hello frustration. I see you have come to visit. Why are you here?” When I found myself with these emotions, knowing that these feelings would go away once I figured out what was bothering me made me feel better and allowed me to see what I needed to move past that emotion. I needed a “birth plan” for the holidays! My inner doula asked, how do you envision your ideal Christmas? What an “aha” moment!
What if your holiday involves something more difficult feelings? What if you need to opt out all together? My “aha” moment would send me into a little self reflection about holiday values. Each family is different, and for those who aren’t especially religious, feelings about the holidays may be extra confusing. Holidays, like Thanksgiving for example, in my home is not about the fairy tale we were taught in elementary school. For us, it’s about coming together with our loved ones and eating a delicious meal. It’s an excuse to get together. How does one steeped in family tradition take a step back from it?
This year, as Thanksgiving loomed near, we knew that we were expected to be with our families, but we decided that we needed to give ourselves permission to say no and to feel good about it. Things were super busy for my husband around that time. It would be his only day off for awhile and the idea of us traveling and house hopping to see everyone or hosting everyone and cooking a large meal was more than we wanted to take on this year. The idea of opting out was incredibly appealing. No stress? Yes please! This meant explaining to our family that while we enjoy all the traditions that come with the day, we needed to do this. We didn’t love them any less. Yes we enjoy their company, but this year, we would enjoy some needed self care. We did it. I think maybe some didn’t understand. It meant that this year, we celebrated what would likely be our last “first Thanksgiving” with a Crockpot meal, family snuggles, laughter, and a movie under covers. You know what? It was pretty fantastic.
Cristina Evans is a Mother of 3, Wife, & Birth Doula