I suppose most of you are preparing for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Some of you may have traveled, or have an influx of relatives in town. You may be feeling a mixture of excitement about showing off your beautiful new baby and dread about how you’re going to pull this all off. Let’s just talk about this, shall we?
In the New Mama classroom, I see a few holiday themes recur every year. There are takeaways to each.
First, new parents, especially mothers, are sometimes taken aback at how public their new baby is. You spent your pregnancy being the only one to feel her movements and kicks, and only you got to hold her. Then she was born. Into the public arena. Where everyone could hold her. In theory this was a good thing, but…many new moms feel a tad (or a lot) protective about their new babies, even from the baby’s own family. Along with the love and support a family brings comes germs, quirky advice, an overstimulated baby, boundary issues, and sometimes the well-meaning relative who wants to show your 7 week-old his aptitude at tribal drumming right during nap time (true story). Or possibly another relative who is convinced that the solution to your baby’s crying is The Vicks (VapoRub) (another true story).
Second, you’ve got a potentially swirling storm over who’s in what position in the family. New grandmothers are understandably trying to figure out their new role – are they The Mom still, or are you? Who’s at the helm of this ship? Sometimes it’s hard for a new grandmother to share the limelight that is Motherhood. Other grandmas don’t yet know how to help you, or where the boundaries are. Sometimes, frankly, you haven’t found your own voice yet.
And lastly, there’s the issue of your baby’s own reaction to family gatherings. Some infants are perfectly comfortable being passed around, and others find this a total invasion of their rights. Your baby may keep it together during the gathering, and then let it fly starting at 10 pm. This can be particularly challenging if you are staying in a house full of relatives who aren’t used to staying up all night and don’t want to get used to it.
So what are the takeaways for holiday gatherings? I’ve learned a few things over the years. Here they are:
- You are The Mom. You’ll always be The Mom. It starts right now, and you really do know best. You just need to find your feet and your voice. And you’ll learn how to deliver a message in the most gentle way – “We’ve learned that our baby needs a quiet, dark room to settle down. I’ll be back in a little while.” “Our pediatrician told us to make sure everyone washes their hands before holding our baby.”
- It’s ok to take a break. Nursing, changing a diaper, giving a bottle – these are all fabulous opportunities to take a breather with your baby in a quiet room.
- The best response to crazy advice is, “Thanks, I’ll think about that.”
- Babies really do come out introverted or extroverted. You’ll quickly get a glimpse of how they do in a big gathering. You may need to support your baby by giving him breaks and quiet time if he reaches his threshold.
- There is such a thing as gatekeeping – restricting access to a new baby. Remember that one of the best things you can do for your children connect them to a strong, supportive family who loves them. Maybe those tribal drums are a way of connecting and showing love.
- All conflict is a result of an unmet need. Stop – think about where this conflict is coming from. What is it, and what strategies can you think of to meet it? New parents, extended families, and even babies have needs that can range from the physical (sleep, blood sugar, needing personal space) to emotional (power, acceptance, validation). Take the heat out of a conflict by drilling down to the unmet need.