Is it possible to have holiday fun time with a newborn?
I have a 6-week-old baby and Thanksgiving nearly killed me. Everyone kept offering to help but it was hard to even put the baby down long enough to roll out a pie crust. Now that Christmas is here, I’m freaking out. My husband put the tree up but I’m a mess. I love, love, love the holidays. I’m having a hard time with the idea that as a new mom I won’t be able to do all the holiday things I love best. Is there something I’m not getting? Is my baby too clingy?
– I Need an Elf
Dear I Need an Elf,
So many of us go through this with our first babies – there’s always some important part of our lives that feels particularly impossible to get to. You start up your project – a pie, a novel, whatever – and then, the alarm sounds! The baby is up! Abandon project! Abandon! Your whipped egg whites wilt, your turn of phrase vanishes. The baby calls, and all else is lost.
Living on baby time can be excruciating when you try to fit in things like flawless holiday parties, impeccably choreographed by a well-rested host. Or even hosting. Hell, even ordering in can be a three-act drama. The baby may be out, but you are all very much connected: he sounds perfectly normally clingy. Many a new mother has a hard time putting her baby down long enough to eat a piece of pie, much less bake one. Postpartum is ideally a time for you to be fed and nourished and taken care of so that you can take care of your baby. Under the most boring circumstances, with nary a festive holiday in sight, it can still be hard for new parents to learn how to ratchet down the hosting and take a seat. At Christmas, this common situation can become seriously amplified. But before you toss all the yuletide spirit out with the baby bath water, we want you to take a step back.
You are a mother. This is true. And to some degree, what you are experiencing is a taste of the existential truth of motherhood: you are now on call, permanently. But as true as that is, it is not equally true for your entire mothering life. The experience of caring for your first baby in the first weeks of his life does not equal Motherhood. This baby will grow older and more independent. Next holiday season you may be worried about him eating the tinsel, but it won’t be too many more before he’s wielding his own kid-sized rolling pin. There will be many, many opportunities for you to deck the halls. For now, perhaps you could find some ways to enjoy the holidays that don’t require two free hands. Caroling?
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