Kim Morgan is Managing Director of Barefoot Coaching Ltd and one of the UK’s most successful business and personal coaches. Kim has over 25 years’ experience in psychology and people development and has dedicated much of her career to working with parents and families. Here, Kim looks at Christmas with a new baby and how to cope with the stress of the festive season as well as the stress of being a new parent….
January is often a busy time for coaches as many people find the Christmas period stressful. This can be particularly true if you have a new baby. I once had a client who invited both sets of grandparents to spend Christmas Day with her, her partner and four-month old baby girl. She wanted everything to be just perfect – like a TV advert come to life. She wanted to find the perfect Christmas gifts for everyone, have a beautifully decorated tree and house and cook a wonderful Christmas dinner. She wanted to prove to her partner that having a baby would not stop her from being the high achieving, competent woman she had always been. After all, she thought, she was still on maternity leave and not working. She had managed Christmas easily when she was holding down a demanding full-time job. Surely not working would make it easier this year? She was really excited about the idea of Christmas with the whole family but as the day approached she found herself feeling more stressed and anxious. She spent every day obsessing over minute details and worrying that the day wouldn’t meet her and other people’s expectations.
By Christmas Eve, she was arguing with her partner and feeling resentful that he hadn’t helped her enough when she knew that she hadn’t asked him for help or told him that she was struggling to cope with all the planning, shopping and preparation. On Christmas morning she developed a severe migraine headache and had to stay in bed, in a darkened room, for the whole day. All her planning fell by the wayside. Her mum took over the cooking and the celebrations seemed to go ahead despite her absence. As she lay upstairs she realised that her perfectionism had led to complete emotional burnout for her.
I reminded my client that if you look at any list of life events which can cause stress the following factors score highly:
- Early parenthood
- Changes to working life
- Increased contact with family members
- Changes to finances
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in social life
Your first Christmas with a new baby gives you a full house on all of them! Add into this a tendency towards perfectionism you can easily see how the Christmas period can become overwhelming.
The songs tell us that it’s the most wonderful time of the year – and Christmas with a new baby is magical but it can be stressful. Here are my top tips for surviving your first Christmas with a new-born:
All I Want for Christmas…
Let everyone know what you need and want this Christmas. Tell people what works for you, what you can manage, what timings work and whether or not you are able or willing to travel. Tell people specifically what help you need too. Be bold – call the shots this year and you won’t need to harbour resentment about other people not realising how difficult it is for you with a new baby.
Learn to say “No”
Set limits on the amount of money you are going to spend, the number of Christmas activities you are going to attend, the amount of travel you are going to do, the amount of disruption to the baby you will tolerate and the amount of entertaining you are going to do. Overcommitting ourselves is one of the greatest contributors to holiday stress. Let go of guilt and realise you are not responsible for other people’s feelings.
Plan your responses
If you see lots of family members over the Christmas period, the chances are that a number of them will be keen to give you their advice on sleeping, feeding, weaning and how it was when they did it!
Develop some ‘scripted’ answers which will shut down the conversation politely and quickly and allow you to move on to talking about other things!
The Great Escape 1
When you or your baby have had enough company, noise or attention, make sure that you can escape somewhere quietly together. Having some quiet time will help both of you recharge your batteries and feel settled again. One of the benefits of having a new baby is that it gives you an excuse to leave the party early.
The Great Escape 2
Everybody wants to be with baby on their first Christmas so make sure you take advantage of willing babysitters and take the opportunity of spending some quality time with your partner. That doesn’t necessarily mean a night out but perhaps a Christmas walk together or half an hour spent in the local pub can do wonders for your Christmas spirit and goodwill towards one another.
Kim Morgan is author of Coaching Cards for New Parents – a pack of cards containing 50 powerful questions designed to make honest, open conversation between new parents easier. The cards cover everything from the changes that having a baby brings to practical issues such as family finances and fun questions about the future (out now, published by Barefoot Coaching, RRP £15).
Also in the Barefoot Coaching Card range are Coaching Cards for Christmas – a pack of festive conversation starters, perfect to get the whole family talking this Christmas.