With the holidays upon us, we are all gearing up for extended visits with family. That can be such a fun time with a newborn, but it can be incredibly stressful for new parents. If your baby is teeny weenie, you are probably either trying to get into a good routine or you have just started using a good routine. Neither of those times are the best for lots of friends and family and all the events and chaos that come with those things at the holidays.
I remember traveling home to see family when both Bean and Gracie were little bitties, and none of those experiences are really fond memories for me. I wish I could tell you that by the time Gracie came along, I knew how to handle it better, but that’s just not true. I had a heck of a time balancing family obligations and expectations while managing the needs of my little, young family. So instead of telling you how I solved the problem, I’m going to tell you things I would have done differently.
First, I would have stood up for my own family’s needs more firmly. I think I was so worried about being labeled the “anxious new mom” that I really tried too much to be laid back and cool with everything. When family wanted to do an activity in the afternoon and then again after dinner, I really should have spoken up and passed on one of those events because I had small kids who were absolutely exhausted. Instead, we tried to do everything that was asked of us, and most of the time we ended up having “those kids” at the parties or dinners or outings because they were overtired and overstimulated. In hindsight, it would have been better to be “that anxious new mom” than the mom with “those kids.” People will judge everything you do and don’t do as a new parent, and I hate to say that sometimes family can be the harshest judges. But in the end, you have to do what is right for your family. Even if that means saying no to your extended family.
Another thing I would have done differently is pass on anything that required my kids to miss their nap times. Nap times at home are crucial, but they are even more crucial when you are traveling. We weren’t sleeping well at night because the kids were in unfamiliar surroundings, so I should have realized that nap times would become even more important. Instead, we’d let them nap in the car on the way to outings and activities, but then wake them up and make them go, go, go. No wonder they were fussy! Looking back and even now when we travel, we plan our entire visit around nap times. I know that might seem extreme, but it actually works out pretty well. We are out and about seeing people in short spurts, and then we head back to where ever is home base for us and put the kids down for real naps. It keeps the kids happy and well rested, and it keeps the family happy because we are able to go and do when naptime is over.
The last thing is probably the most important and the one I realized the quickest. With Bean, I had this weird thing in my head that other people were just as good at comforting him as me. I mean, the entire house was full of moms and dads. Surely, one mom was just as good as the next. But that’s not true when it comes to your kids. It’s not enough that SOMEONE rock them to sleep or hold them when they are upset. My children want ME when they are out of sorts. I remember them crying for whatever reason (probably because they were tired) and me standing there feeling helpless as other moms passed my baby back and forth between them, always assuring me that, “I’ll just calm him down for you…” But finally, I broke through my haze and realized that babies don’t want to be soothed. They want to be soothed by their parents. When my babies were little babies, I started to react to this by making sure that I spent some quiet, one-on-one time with them every couple hours. I’d go into a room with just me and the baby and rock them or talk to them or sing to them, just to remind them that I was there with them. Even now that my babies are older, I still am very protective of them when they get worked up around other people. I find it’s easier to take them into another room where so many people can’t “help” and then I can calm them down faster because it’s just me and them. And that’s what they want. They want me. That seems like common sense, but I had a hard time realizing that as a new mom.
Families and holidays make the best memories. But make sure that you are putting the needs of your baby first in the middle of all the hoopla. That’s a great way to make sure you are making GOOD memories, and not memories you want to shut out of your mind forever!