Walking into your Holiday gathering you feel excited, anticipatory. The warm glow of a roaring fireplace is calling to you. A table bedecked with the Holiday china is spread with all of your favorite dishes. You grab a small plate of appetizers and a cold beverage and begin catching up with your favorite aunt from across the country. You exchange the normal pleasantries and then the conversation takes a turn. She makes a comment that catches you by surprise. Suddenly you feel criticized. Judged. Less than. Like you are making terrible mistakes with your life.
You hope this is an unfortunate misunderstanding, but, intended or not, words can wound.
If you are pregnant, a new parent, or just the odd man out when it comes to your political affiliations, the Holidays can present difficult conversations. Even with loved ones. Maybe especially with loved ones! Here are some tips to help you navigate and escape these situations with grace.
If you are hosting, you brave soul you, it is absolutely appropriate for you to set some boundaries. It is your home and your rules. If you know that Uncle Randy has strong political views and a boisterous spirit, pull him aside for a moment and let him know that you would prefer to keep your event politics-free. And then make sure everyone else gets the memo as well. If things start going badly, break out a board or card game. It is hard to be involved in serious conversation when you are focused on your UNO cards.
If you are pregnant during the Holidays, you are probably already prepared for comments and "helpful advice" from everyone around you. At least you can remind yourself that your family's advice is likely coming from a place of love, but you still may not want to hear it. Everyone seems to have, and want to share, their opinions on how to care for your pregnant body, how to give birth, and even infant care. It if perfectly acceptable and respectable to say "Thank you for that advice, we are still considering our options." Then make a quick escape to the cheese platter.
If you are bringing your new baby to your celebrations, you are sure to have lots of volunteers to snuggle that baby. You are also opening yourself to the wide world of routine questions about newborns! "How is baby eating? How was the birth? Are they sleeping through the night yet?" It can be a lot to handle. Remember that every baby is different, just like every family is different. You do not need to make excuses for your little one. They are who they are. lt is okay to tell grandma that you know a lot has changed since she had kids; she did the best she could and you are just doing the same. And you do not need to defend your parenting choices; even though it may feel necessary sometimes. You know what is best for your family.
If you already have small kids, remind yourself heading into your gatherings that the Holidays are super exciting for them! But can also be overwhelming and stressful. Breaks in routine and especially nap schedules can be really difficult for small people. Be patient with them if they are having a few more meltdowns than usual. Be prepared to escort them out of the room for some one on one play or cool down time just to reconnect. This is another situation where words from loved ones can really feel like judgement. "Is he *always* like this??" or "What's the matter with her today?" Remind your family (and yourself) that too much fun is exhausting for everyone.
Holiday gatherings are a wonderful thing, but they are not without challenges. Whether you are seeing close family or catching up with extended family from around the world, the Holidays are a time of sharing news, filling in gaps since last visits, and discussing the current state of affairs in the world. Remind yourself that it is okay to declare certain topics off limits. Or to say that your reasons for making certain decisions are not up for debate. If things get too dicey, you can always excuse yourself to get a piece of pie. Definitely a perk of the Holidays.
By: Kirsten Ludwig