Ah, Christmas. Here are my top tips for surviving Christmas as a mama with a big heart.
1. Lower expectations
For yourself, for your child, for everyone around you to either behave in or make the day a certain way.
It's a big day. And I think it's a special day. But at the end of it, like my husband says, it's just "a day". December 25th is not immune to exhaustion, big feelings and general shenanigans. If anything, it's a giant magnet for all three.
The anticipation and build up is huge. What goes up, must come down. Prepare yourself for an explosion - which may or may not happen and it's not being pessimistic. It's being open to the possibility and armed ready with tools to diffuse if needed.
Pack snacks, water, familiar things from home and have a quiet space to read books or play games away from the hustle and bustle of the food preparation and other children in case your little one needs some time out from it all.
My tip would be to not over commit on the day. All power to you if you are having Christmas at your place with young children. But plan to bring a dish that you make at home as opposed to joining the chaos if you're going elsewhere. Unless of course things are going well or you have lots of help. It's much easier to lend a hand when that's the case rather than have a tiny, very upset person at your feet while you try not to burn the gravy you promised to stir.
2. Give unconditionally
I'm just wondering - have you ever had a tough day with an upset toddler or baby and you've been thinking:
"What more could you possibly want?" or
"We just had a nice lunch, you got a new toy from the shop and we've been to the playground. What is there to be upset about?!" or
"Don't you understand how hard I'm trying?"
Maybe you have - maybe you haven't but can still understand what I mean when I say that giving isn't everything. You might be upset about something that feels big for you and your significant other comes home with a beautiful gift. Does that take it all away? No.
It doesn't matter how much you give your children on Christmas or otherwise. They are still little people with emotions (big, at times) and their own thoughts, feelings and expectations. What might look like selfishness and being ungrateful to some is usually a classic case of overwhelm.
Give because you want to give. Don't give because you think it will alleviate or change some of the normal behaviours developmentally appropriate for your child's age.
3. Lower your expectations even further
Don't be too upset if toys get thrown to the side to make way for the next present to unwrap. Or if your child just unwrapped a mountain of gifts and is disappointed there isn't more. Your child isn't a "brat". We want our children to grow up to appreciate and express gratitude but even at a minimalist Christmas, our children are gifted too much. It's hard when marketing and comparison with others can subtly yet surely influence our purchases. Before you know it, you've bought more than you thought or done a "top up" shop to even it out. "Is he/she getting enough?" The answer to that is "yes". And it might be a bit overwhelming for them - especially with people staring and taking photos. Go gently with this. They have the whole year to play with their new toys.
As a side note, I don't push "please" or "thank you" as I think it's great for children to express this authentically and learn by my example (my oldest daughter is 3). But you might like to explain before the big day that relatives and friends may have picked something special just for them and usually what you do when receiving a gift is to say "thank you". If that doesn't happen, ignore the "now what do you say..." comments and thank relatives on your children's behalf. It's not a big deal.
4. Let go of other people's opinions
If you parent in a certain way, as we all do, don't change that to suit others. If something's important to you, it doesn't stop being so on Christmas Day or in the presence of other people.
For me, I'm very passionate about body autonomy and am teaching my daughters from a young age that they don't have to hug or kiss anyone - even me - if they don't want to. Tickles must be stopped if they say "stop". It's not funny to continue. People around me know this now and don't push it. But in the company of extended family who aren't so familiar with your style, this can be tricky. Stay true to yourself and your family.
The bottom line is this: your children don't have to give Aunty Lyn a kiss and you don't have to breastfeed in a bedroom unless you want to. And your relatives don't have to understand you either. You can agree to disagree, even on things you feel passionate about, or offer to send information at a later date for their interest and leave it at that.
5. Enjoy the anticipation
It might just be the best bit.
Repeat after me: "today is a day, like every day, an opportunity for contentment and gratitude."
Christmas can be such a beautiful time. But it doesn't have to rob an "ordinary" day of beauty. Enjoy the lead up and all its lovely moments. Especially if it's your child's first Christmas (like it is for my youngest this year!), release any very tightly held hopes for the day. Your baby is probably going to love the wrapping paper more than anything and you might not remember in 18 years time what you bought (and they certainly won't!). As much as it's a first, it's the first of many and this one Christmas doesn't have to surpass the rest. Enjoy each day as an opportunity to feel excitement without that excitement adding to the pressure of Christmas Day.
6. Be ready for the slump
Be kind to yourself if in the afternoon you feel tired and are thinking: "is that it?!" Yep, that's it. But it's what you make of it too.
Breathe and release those expectations. Release the built up and now deflating anticipation. Release the disappointment if it is present. Just be in the moment. Relax.
You've done it. You've done Christmas. And you nailed it.
Did any of these resonate with you? Do you have anything else to add? What does Christmas look like at your place? I'd love to hear from you!
Don't forget - Mama, Let's Be Honest is on sale right now. Use the code XMAS for discount. You're so welcome!