Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks over here between Thanksgiving, Aiden’s birthday and a few work obligations (including a trip to Halifax where I am writing this) it has taken a lot to keep from totally stressing out. I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce this interview I did with author and blogger Rebecca Cofiño on her book Stress Free Holidays: Bring Back Joy & Peace (affiliate link), a smart guide to help you recapture the magic of the holiday season.
Tell me a little bit about your experience with babies around the holidays. Do you have any examples of stressful situations? How did you resolve them using mindfulness?
I once took a redeye flight with an infant and a toddler from Seattle to Miami all by myself coming home from Christmas. My husband had to fly home a week earlier. There was one moment on the flight when both babies just lost it because they were exhausted and out of their element. Both wanted me to hold just them. I wanted to cry too! It was just so awful.
But fretting isn’t really an option for moms, so I took some deep breaths and doled out my love as best I could. I recognized that the situation was beyond my control, but rather than dwelling on that fact, I accepted it and moved on. That’s the key to mindfulness, accepting life as it is and making deliberate choices, rather than living in a perpetual state of reaction.
I held my baby and put my toddler’s head on my lap and stoked his forehead. Instead of crying, I sang soft lullabies. The moment passed and my babies finally drifted off to sleep. I actually caught a few winks myself, but boy was I happy to see my husband at the airport that morning.
What do you see as the biggest challenge new moms face during the holidays?
Perfectionism, without a doubt! It’s really common for new mommies to want everything to be just perfect for baby’s first Christmas, but that’s unrealistic. Babies throw monkey wrenches in the best laid plans. Besides, making everything look perfect requires a lot of attention and effort. It’s easy to take on more work than you anticipated, and then be stuck finishing projects late at night and feeling grumpy. Most moms would be much happier if they kept things simple and just spent time relaxing and cherishing their baby during the holidays.
What advice do you have for first time mamas to managing all the stress that comes with balancing new motherhood, family, gifts and time?
Cut yourself some slack! Most new moms aren’t getting enough sleep which means they can’t think clearly. At the same time, hormone levels are still out of whack, which means they feel everything deeply. That combination is a recipe for stress. Taking care of yourself by exercising regularly or even meditating for just 5-10 minutes a day will help center you, so you can be present to enjoy the holidays.
Do you have any tips for the holidays for new moms?
Sure. Buy all your gifts online. It saves so much time and hassle. It’s easy to find great deals and free shipping these days. Also, every time you cook a big meal in December, make two. So if you’re having lasagna for dinner tonight, make two. Freeze the second meal, so you will have dinner ready on busy days. Another great tip is to assemble all toys before Christmas Eve. What seems easy is often maddening and can take hours to put together. Doing it ahead of time can really reduce stress. Also, unfasten toys from their boxes before you wrap them, so when your child opens a present he or she can play with it right away. Babies get frustrated waiting for you to cut their toys free which can take a lot more time than you’d ever expect. Nobody ever accused a baby of being patient, so keep it fun by doing this ahead of time.
What does mindfulness mean/look like and why is it important for new moms?
Mindfulness simply mean being present in the moments of your life. Rather than worrying, planning, hustling or reminiscing, you draw your attention to what is happening in the here and now. You choose to be happy. This is so important to new mommies, because they want to treasure their babies first holidays! It’s so exciting to introduce your new little life to all of your family traditions. It would be such a shame to be so busy that you weren’t ever able to settle into the moment and experience the joy, peace and love of the holidays.
What is your number one mom-hack to stay sane during the holidays?
Whatever you do, keep your baby on the same sleeping and eating schedule. As best you can, work gatherings around your baby’s sleep. This sometimes means leaving early, bringing a pack and play (and baby monitor), or declining an invitation. Remember, a baby can often be happily awake at a party way past bedtime. This seems wonderful until it’s 2 am and baby is crying because he or she is overtired. Don’t let your baby’s smiley disposition fool you. If you drastically change their sleep schedule, it will take some effort and sleepless nights to get it back on track.
Sometimes it isn’t feasible to work around your baby’s schedule. In that case, try to find a quiet safe place where your baby can rest. Also, try not to make too many back-to-back exceptions or you will lose whatever sleep training you have already established. It’s hard to imagine a party that’s worth a month of sleepless nights.
Why did you write this book? How will it help first-time/new mamas?
I was saddened by the general shift in our culture that has made the holidays so stressful. The truth is the majority of that stress falls on the shoulders of mothers. Holidays are supposed to be sacred times when we retreat from the hectic pace of life so we can connect with our families. In recent years, it’s morphed into an extravaganza requiring a ridiculous amount of work. As a mother, I want my children to grow up rooted in gratitude and meaning. Also, I want to actually be present, so I can experience their joy. Watching my children squeal with delight is pure magic to me. I think a lot of other moms feel the same way.
When I wrote this book I made sure to include equal parts of holidays hacks and mindfulness lessons because moms need both. Being organized and knowing helpful tips really can alleviate a lot of stress, so I wanted to share my knowledge. On the other hand, we need to cultivate some mindfulness to change the overall tone of the holidays away from stress and perfectionism and back to joy and peace. I really hope my book contributes to that change. That would be my personal holiday miracle!
Rebecca Cofiño is the author of Stress Free Holidays: Bring Back Joy & Peace. She is a mindfulness expert who specializes in everyday spirituality and family life. Rebecca is the founder of mamaguru.com, a website devoted to helping people create meaningful happiness. She lives in Miami with her husband and two little boys.