What are holidays like with a new baby? Well, Grandma A invites you over for the whole week of Thanksgiving (don’t worry about packing—she’s set up a full nursery and bought a dozen turkey-themed onesies). Grandpa B insists that he and Grandma B will tag along for baby’s first Santa photos and will have you sleep over for baby’s first Christmas Eve. After Christmas lunch, of course, it’s over to Grandpa A’s place so that he gets a piece of baby too. (And if it’s Hanukkah you’re celebrating? That’s eight days of in-law action! Sheesh.)
Sound familiar? This sort of scenario is common, and it can be really stressful for new parents who just want to grab a few minutes alone together as a new family. Maybe you don’t want an audience for baby’s first holiday milestones. So what’s the solution? According to Tammy Gold, founder of Gold Parent Coaching, it’s all in the planning.
Make a game plan
First things first: You and your spouse have to be on the same page. This means sitting down together and really discussing how you each envision the holidays now that baby is on board. “Be open and honest,” urges Gold. You’ll need to iron out your individual ideas and decide how the two of you would like the holidays to happen. What’s important to you? Will you be creating new traditions? How much time would you like to spend alone? How much time do you want to spend with extended family and how can you make it fair? Would you consider hosting so that everyone travels to you? Hash out the challenges as soon as possible. You won’t want to wait until invitations are being issued and promises are being made.
Share the plan
Once the two of you have decided what you want to do, it's time to make it happen. “Announce your plan as soon as possible,” Gold says. “Say something like, 'We have a new baby, we're exhausted and I'm really concerned about the four-hour drive. What can we do to make it easier?'” According to Gold, it's best to make it clear that you love your folks and want to make time to be with them over the holidays, but that things are different now and there are new things to consider. Does this mean also considering the families of your siblings? Of course. “Let them all know you want to set it up so there's a little something for everyone,” Tammy says. And if your family insists that you stick to the same holiday schedule they’ve been on since you were born? Don't be afraid to refuse. “If they push, we push back and simply say no,” says jlw2505, a new mom chatting on our message boards, who limits family to two nights of Hanukkah.
Lose the guilt
Your parents may get upset when you start shaking up the holidays. Still, it's okay to give yourselves priority. “This is your new family,” Gold explains. “This family comes first.” Go ahead and set aside some time to have baby all to yourselves. “I see a lot of guilt coming from new parents surrounding this issue,” says Gold, explaining that by trying to satisfy everyone else, parents are missing out on valuable holiday time as a new family unit. “I dread that we will have to drag [our son] around for the whole day,” complains GM&DG, who plans to divide family holiday time between three full sets of grandparents. Still, she can't seem to imagine it any other way. “You can't assume what worked before will work again,” Gold points out. “This is a new family. Needs are different.” Does this mean ditching your mom's big dinner? Not necessarily. But it might mean asking Mom if she can do her dinner one night earlier this year. “It's about creating a new tradition that incorporates the old,” Gold insists.
Go with it
Your needs have been laid on the table, you've stuck to your guns and you've listened to what the new grandparents have to say. Maybe you've made a few compromises along the way. Once everyone is (relatively) on the same page, mark your calendar, shake off the stress and savor the holidays. This is a time for celebrating, after all!
Tammy Gold is a licensed therapist, certified parent coach and the founder of Gold Parent Coaching and co-founder of NYC Nanny Concierge. She’s worked with families for over a decade, helping parents manage everything from finding the perfect nanny to handling the terrible twos. As a nationally recognized parenting expert, Tammy appears regularly on Good Morning America, The Today Show, FOX and CBS News.
Updated November 2016