Holiday Stress Looks Different this Year

Before becoming a parent, the joy of the holidays likely also came with a certain level of stress. We were navigating the decisions on whose holiday party do we go to, which days to spend with family, and figuring out what gifts to get one another. In these moments, there may have been visions of what this experience would feel like after having kids—dreaming of creating new traditions, reliving old traditions, and experiencing the magic of the holidays through the eyes of our little ones.

As new parents, the holidays really “leveled up.” While some of our stressors were the same, each decision became much more weighted. The concerns of offending a family member on where you did or didn’t go during the holidays was anxiety-provoking, to say the least. Everyone wanted time, and all felt so much more complicated than in years past. Building out your own traditions became just as important as experiencing old traditions with others.

The holidays this year have provided so much uncertainty for all of us as we bounce back and forth from locked down to the various versions of semi-locked down. The personal decision making becomes more complex as we try to navigate COVID-19 risks. What we feel comfortable doing may not align with others, including your partner.  

For pregnant and new moms, the overwhelming response is the decision making of the holidays is exhausting. The emotional and physical toll it takes to navigate safety, pregnancy, expectations between family, and disappointment of what this time should have looked like are leaving parents depleted.

Here are some tips to navigate having these conversations with work, family, and friends to simplify the decision tree process. 

1)    When you are trying to decide whether to proceed with plans, ask yourself, will this decision bring you anxiety? Will this decision impact your ability to enjoy the moment?

2)    Once you have made your decision, stand firm when communicating with others. An example of this would be, “I’m experiencing variations of anxiety around this particular circumstance, and I am looking for support to respect our decision. I know you may feel differently, and I accept that as well. This is my current comfort level. Can we agree to work within these parameters?”

3)    The next step really comes with accepting the disappointment. Even though these decisions feel monumental right now, acknowledging things will be different during the holidays is a really great opportunity to capitalize on creating some new traditions that can be part of your family for years to come.

While none of this is easy, breaking down how you make a decision during this time and how you communicate to express your genuine needs should aid in lessening the decision fatigue. These three steps provide you with the opportunity to share how you feel in a way that allows your choices to be supported while still acknowledging that this is not easy for anyone. 

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Author Kimberly Didrikson has three small children aged 6, 4, and 2. Kimberly worked in corporate America for over 15 years before founding Learning Motherhood, an organization that helps women returning back to work after having a baby. Learning Motherhood creates customized programs to assist organizations in building a work environment that embraces families to strengthen company values, sustain and retain employees while attracting strong talent to their organizations. For daily support for working parents follow @learningmotherhood.