Last year was my first holiday season as a mom. It was magical in many ways – getting to include my baby in family traditions, taking those baby-in-a-Santa-hat pictures, and simply being thankful for the gift of our sweet son.
But in between those lovely moments, I also remember some FOG. Sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, new mom fog.*
I walked into a room full of relatives on Christmas morning, all hugging and wishing each other a hearty Merry Christmas, and I felt guilty because I just wanted to crawl into the nearest bed. I had been up every few hours the night before – my usual drill for much of the previous six months – and nothing sounded better than if Santa could wrap me up a nice, long NAP.
I’m so thankful to report that this year I’m feeling much less fog and much more cheer – thanks to a few more full nights of sleep under my belt (and another year to build up some mom muscles)!
But when we traveled over Thanksgiving, I still found myself laying on a hard floor, shushing a toddler who did not want to sleep in his pack ‘n’ play, while the rest of the family enjoyed themselves (loudly) in the next room.
Really, no matter what kind of sleep bank you’ve built up throughout the rest of the year, the holidays can be hard on tired mamas.
I wish I had advice on how to actually get sleep during the holidays, but instead I’m realizing that if I want to enjoy this exciting and oh-so-short season with my little person, maybe I should plan for the inevitable holiday fatigue and make some adjustments to my holiday routines. Here are some things I’m telling myself (and extending to you) this year:
Allow shortcuts. Sugar cookies are still fun to decorate with pre-made dough. Gifts are still beautiful if wrapped by your kids. A gift card and lotion can be just as popular as that unique, specialty boutique item.
Play to your strengths. When you’re sleep deprived, the things that already sap your energy are extra life-sucking. If making cinnamon rolls and delivering them to the neighbors is life-giving, great! But if baking isn’t your thing, maybe you could have craft day with your kids and deliver hand-painted cards instead.
It’s OK to disappoint. We’re all managing lots of expectations — from everyone — this time of year. But when we’re short on sleep, our capacity is limited. So, we may have to let a few things fall – even if it means we don’t please everyone. Last year, I actually backed out of a big family trip we had planned for New Year’s. I felt horrible, but we ended up rescheduling the same trip for this fall, and it was such a blast! In the end, I’m glad we waited until I had more energy.
Give by receiving. Yes, the holidays are about giving … but they are about receiving, too (and not only those items under the tree). Maybe you can take your aunt up wanting to snuggle the baby, and sneak away for a nap. Or maybe the gift you could ask for from your husband an afternoon at a coffee shop! If moms can receive help that makes it possible for us to be a little less tired and a little more present with our kids and family, then I think that’s actually giving.
To my mom friends who are wandering into this holiday season a bit weary: know that you are not alone. If you find yourself rocking a baby for hours in a dark room or up all night on Christmas Eve (and not because you’re waiting for Santa), imagine me lifting a virtual coffee cup your way. This season is exhausting, yet precious and fleeting. Here’s hoping you get to enjoy many, many sweet moments with your family, even through the sleepless fog.
* Note: Postpartum depression and anxiety can be intensified by sleep-deprivation and the stress of the holidays, so if you’re experiencing particularly heavy fog, don’t be afraid to mention it to a doctor.