The holiday season is a really special, beautiful time of year when families gather near one another. For those of you with newborns, this might also be the first time your extended family and friends will have the chance to meet your family’s newest arrival.
But, between the sparkle and dazzle of holiday cheer, and the (sometimes lengthy) visits, it can be hard to balance their expectations with your little one’s needs, without leaving your newborn or yourself, feeling overwhelmed. (Read: How to know when your newborn is overwhelmed.)
We get it. The holiday season is not normally a time when you get that advice. But this holiday season isn’t like any other.
Before your family arrives (and ideally before they even schedule the visit), sit down with your partner and discuss your own goals and expectations for the visits. What do you want? How long do you really want your family to visit? Who do you really want to see? Do you want all visitors to have flu shot? Wash their hands? Remove their shoes? Not be sick? Decide together now and set the rules for moving forward.
Utilize schedules and write things down (#babybrain).
Sit down and look at your calendars together. Make sure you don’t have too many people visiting on the same day, or visits lined up too close together, or that you don’t have gaps in your support. Use a simple list to track it down (Here’s one we created a while back!).
Build in a cushion for each set of visitors to account for the adjustment in your baby’s needs. Their sleep may be affected by being overstimulated from visits, and they (and you!) might need a day or two to “regroup” before you begin again or try to cram in all the sights and highlights of their visit on their first day there.
If you aren’t naturally a Happy Hostess, don’t add stress to a visit by forcing that role on yourself or your partner. Offer to meet your family at their home or nearby restaurant (Bonus: You get to control the length of that visit and and scoot out at any moment if needed). Alternatively, if you are typically the host for your family’s gatherings, and it’s a position that you truly enjoy and draw energy from, then utilize all forms of modern convenience to help you out. Have the food catered, delegate cooking, cleaning, setting up to other family members, or accept all forms of help when offered.
Please hear this loud and clear: It is okay to set boundaries. This year and going forward. Really. It is.
For a lot of new parents, this may be the first time you’re setting expectations and making decisions that are best for your, newly created or newly changed, family.
Your extended family? This might be the first time they are no longer “The Parents” and that might be hard for them in a few ways. They may have opinions about your choices and they may not agree with what you decide is best (shocking, we know.).
That is okay.
Acknowledge this. Thank them for their input (it’s coming from such a sweet, authentic place of love and concern, we promise). Be ready to stand by your decisions. If a verbal conversation isn’t easy for you, consider an email before your baby arrives (the emotional stakes are a lot lower while the baby is still in utero!)
Finally, be flexible.
Allow yourself the grace to change your mind.
You might decide you really do want your mom, her sister, all your cousins and the family’s children rocking around your Christmas tree when you previously thought you might want limited visitors. Or, you maybe you initially did want that and then later decide that, actually, a Silent Night is all you’re really hoping for.
At the end of the day, you get to be the expert on your baby and your family now. The gift of parental instincts are is already there within you. Lean into your intuition and unwrap it layer by layer.