If you have a new baby, the once-exciting holiday season can seem like yet another hurdle to navigate as you try to adjust to your new lifestyle as a mom. Princess Ivana offers some tried-and-true tips to help you enjoy the weeks ahead without burning out or breaking down.
The holidays can be hectic, stressful, emotionally charged, and at times, overwhelming. You’re under a lot of pressure: for your house to be decorated a certain way, to look nice and be charming at social events, to host and feed family members, to buy the perfect gifts and wrap them flawlessly, and so (so!) much more. That’s under normal circumstances. And let’s face it: If you’re a new mom, your life is anything but normal. You’re hormonal, emotional, and easily frustrated. You’re tired all the time. And even though you’re overwhelmed with love for your child, you’re also overwhelmed by the new responsibilities stretching out in front of you.
Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes understands. Add a new baby to the usual December chaos, and you can easily have a recipe for the holiday blues on your hands.
“It may seem like everyone else around you is having a great time, and they expect you to feel the same way—after all, you have a brand-new bundle of joy in your life!” says Ivana, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. “But if you’re feeling more like Scrooge than Tiny Tim, don’t worry. You’re normal, and so are the post-baby holiday blues.”
Ivana speaks from experience. While she’s a modern-day princess, she comes from modest means and met her Prince Charming while on scholarship at Pepperdine. What’s more, she has worked with children for over twenty years, has a master’s degree in education, and is a digital strategy consultant. But Ivana’s most valuable source of education by far, she says, is her experience as a mother of two.
If you’re feeling more blue than red-and-green as you consult your holiday calendar, read on for ten of Ivana’s tips to help you minimize stress…and maybe even enjoy the season more than you thought you would:
Know the signs. First, it’s important to acknowledge to yourself that feeling tired, overwhelmed, emotional, and less-than-festive is normal. There’s no need to worry—and definitely no need to beat yourself up—if getting one more load of laundry done before your baby wakes up (or before you crash) is more important to you than preparing the perfect hors d’oeuvre for the upcoming family potluck.
“However, it’s important for all new moms to know about and watch for post-partum depression,” Ivana warns. “If you are feeling altogether detached and uninterested in the holidays, if you notice a big change in your attitude from last year, or if you feel persistently sad and/or angry, you may be experiencing something more serious. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.”
Make a (reasonable) to-do list. As is the case for many things in life, being prepared for navigating the holidays is half the battle. When you have a plan in place, those inevitable bouts of stress, frustration, and sadness will be less likely to derail you. So as soon as you can, make a list of the things you want to do and accomplish over the next few weeks, whether that’s attending certain events, putting up your favorite decorations, or hosting friends and family. Most of all, make your list REASONABLE.
Buy in bulk. Even without a baby, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll forget to pick up a present for someone, need something for a Secret Santa exchange, or have to scrounge up a hostess gift. Save yourself some hassle and buy something generic and universally appealing in bulk. For example, you can kill two birds with one stone and grab a case of wine while you’re out picking up the economy-size box of diapers. Or buy some gift cards to your favorite coffee shop while you’re (most likely) grabbing a caffeine fix to help you power through your errands.
Let go. In other words, let yourself off the hook. Remember, you are not Martha Stewart, and no one’s holiday actually looks like a real-life Pinterest board. You don’t have to put out every.single.decoration. Your tree does not have to be magazine-photo worthy. You do not have to bake cookies or have the best dress at your husband’s holiday party. It’s okay if everyone on your list gets gift cards this year. Most importantly, it’s fine if you’re a little more frazzled than usual, and it’s perfectly acceptable to focus more on making it through the day than celebrating the season.
Say no to something. Depending on your personality type, cutting back on your holiday celebrations may come as a welcome relief. On the other hand, the thought of not following through with your typical holiday plans may cause you to fight back panic! If the latter sounds familiar, don’t worry; no one is going to force you to stay home. Still, says Ivana, you need to make concessions to the fact that your life is fundamentally different.
Order online. Being out and about in large crowds, bombarded with bright lights, noise, and (possibly) cold temperatures can be overstimulating and overwhelming even when you’re alone. If you’re shopping with an infant, the ante is upped tremendously. In addition to the pressure of checking everything off your list in time, you’ll be worried about your new baby: Is she too cold? Is he comfortable? Does she need to nurse soon? Not to mention the facts that you’ll be more tired than usual, and dirty diapers and tantrums tend to happen at the most inopportune times.
Don’t overdo it. When you are feeling vulnerable or overly emotional, it’s all too easy to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Overeating and overspending are two very common culprits, and the holidays are full of opportunities for going overboard on both.
Know your triggers and designate a go-to supporter. We all have triggers that make us angry, upset, or frustrated. And it’s a fact of life that a lot of those triggers are present during the holidays: your impossible-to-please mother-in-law, the brother you’ve never really gotten along with, the social unease you feel at big events, and much more. Since it’s normal for your emotions and anxieties to be magnified after having a baby, it’s important to identify these triggers beforehand so that you can avoid as much stress as possible.
“Eliminate as many triggers as you can,” Ivana suggests. “For instance, as I’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to go to every party, so pare down your social calendar. And for triggers you can’t eliminate, such as a disagreeable relative, have a strategy ready to nip trouble in the bud. You might say, for example, ‘I know you disagree with some of my parenting methods, Aunt Edna, but my husband and I are doing what is best for our family. Let’s talk about something more pleasant.’ And no matter what the situation is, remember, you can use the fact that you’re a new mother with an infant to care for as an out—after all, it’s true! And your well-being, as well as your child’s, should be your first priority.
Focus on your family. Commercial hype does its best to make us forget this fact, but the truth is, the best part of the holidays isn’t gifts or décor or parties—it’s the chance to focus on your loved ones. If you’re a new mom, you have lots to celebrate on that front.
Princess Ivana is the author of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess , is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.
While she’s a modern-day princess, she comes from modest means and met her Italian Prince Charming (if you’re curious, he’s Adriano Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) while on scholarship at Pepperdine. She didn’t wait for his kiss to save her, though—using her master’s degree in education, she forged a career of her own as a digital strategy consultant.