Being a new mum and dad at Christmas is lovely. But it can also be hard. Christmas is a pressured time without the demands of a new baby. Add a newborn, hormonal/knackered new mum and a tired new dad treading on eggshells into the equation and you could have a recipe for tears rather than turkey. So I’ve come up with a list to help you survive your first Christmas as parents (with as few tears as possible).
Some advice for both of you.
- Lower your expectations. This goes for everything once you become parents but is especially true at Christmas when the pressure’s on, emotions are heightened and you have extended family’s expectations to deal with too. Keep it low key. Remember you’ll have a baby to look after/feed/get up in the night with and make things as simple as possible during the festive period. It’s not going to be like it was last year because, well, the baby thing.
- Put yourselves first. Maybe you do usually alternate Christmas at each other’s families. Maybe you always host. Maybe you go out for dinner. You do not have to do any of these things this year. Your first Christmas as a little family will feel very special. Because it is. Now is the time to be selfish and do what you both want to do (don’t let family put pressure on you to do what they want). If you can’t agree and you end up getting into a big row about it (which, let’s face it, so many couples do at this time of year anyway) try and come to a compromise. That said, I’m a big believer that new mums need looking after in the early, most vulnerable weeks and the most important thing is that she feels comfortable wherever she is. Being a new mum at Christmas can be a bit rubbish when everyone else is getting sozzled on mulled wine and sherry. So maybe this year isn’t the year to go trekking off to family just because you always do. New Dad, protect her, put her first and listen to her (no matter how irrational or unreasonable you think she’s being). It’s just one year. And she’ll remember it forever.
- Try to be a team. This really goes back to the above. Try to stay on each other’s side. You don’t need added complications at this stage, when your relationship is very likely feeling fragile already. You two and your baby. You guys come first. The End.
- Buy thoughtful gifts for each other. You’ve given each other the greatest gift of all (Hallmark card anyone!) but, amidst all the transition, a thoughtful gift can go a long way to saying, ‘You’re still important to me too. I care.‘ The wrong gift, on the other hand, can bring on those tears again. A friend recently told me he had NO idea what to buy his ‘new mum other half’ at Christmas. Obviously I directed him towards The New Mum’s Notebook. But there are lots of other things that make thoughtful gifts for a new mum at Christmas too (check out The New Mum’s Notebook Advent Calendar, launching next week with a daily gift suggestion and even some exclusive discounts). New mums tend to like something pampering rather than practical, to remind them they’re still in there somewhere. Likewise, a new dad may be struggling a bit with his new role (and may even have been shouted at a few times for things he doesn’t really understand), ahem. So buy him something you know he’d like. Something that says, ‘I do still love you, even if I do occasionally come across as a crazy and unhinged b**** sometimes.’
Some advice for New Dads.
- Buy her a ‘Mummy’s First Christmas’ card. Unless me and all of my friends are psychopaths (which we could well be), New Dads, THIS is a must. Your first Christmas as a mum is emotional. And nothing is more important than a card which reads something like, ‘To My Mummy at Christmas.‘ We want to see those words up in lights. MUMMY. My first Christmas as a mum, poor Daddy Pig got utterly confused and thoughtfully bought our daughter a card saying ‘Baby’s First Christmas.‘ No card for me. I cried. For about five minutes. In front of my whole family. I know. It’s bonkers. I can look back now and see that, but at the time it was so important to me. (Since then, I’ve had a precautionary three ‘Mummy’ cards from each of the kids for EVERY national holiday, even Easter. I’m drowning in the things. Be careful what you wish for, eh?)
- Take over Christmas dinner. One of my friends had a 12 day old baby on Christmas Day. A few days before this, her other half offered to cook the Christmas dinner (something he’s done ever since), after she went to the shops with her six day old baby and returned with a load of random stuff and not the parsnips she went out for. She said this took a HUGE pressure off of her. So, if you do usually host (but don’t usually cook) or you decide that it would be easier to stay at home and have family come to you, a gesture like this goes a long way. And stops everyone eating crumpets topped with Brussel sprouts because you let a sleep-deprived, foggy new mum do the food shop. Better still, buy it all ready done! (Cook are doing a meal for 8 for £110.)
Some advice for New Mums.
- It’s normal to feel out of control. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, if your other half is driving you crazy, if you’re just stressed about all the ‘what ifs’ of Christmas and feeling out of control, DON’T WORRY. This is all completely normal. At the same time, a lot of what you’re feeling will be magnified by hormones, sleep deprivation and the sheer responsibility of looking after your new baby. This is not to take anything away from what you’re feeling. It’s just to say that your other half probably isn’t trying to drive you mad or make suggestions, which seem insensitive to you. It’s simply a steep learning curve for you both. (And he’s possibly a little scared of saying the wrong thing/doing the wrong thing/breathing.)
When all else fails, remember. It’s only Christmas. It’s supposed to be joyous and Noelly, but a lot of the time it’s just stressful. So, when it’s all getting on top of you, tell yourselves that most people are feeling the same and they don’t have a new baby in tow. Then look down at that little bald head, grasp those tiny fingers and remind yourselves you’ve got everything that matters right there.
You two and your baby.