Life as a New Mom

A first-time mom adjusting to her new everything

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A family dynamic

Sandy’s questions, over at The Reluctant Entertainer were so good I ended up writing a massive comment and thought I’d write a post as well.
This is the first year my husband and I will have some external motivation to develop our own family dynamic.  With the holidays coming up, this affects our ability to entertain guests or travel to our extended families as guests.  Baby is the entire reason we now have the motivation to strike out on our own and find a new rhythm for our holidays.

Previously, we had a routine that worked for us as a couple, since we had no children and could easily travel with the dog for the 8 hours one-way it took to get home to our families for Christmas and Thanksgiving.  They had, of course, fallen into the rhythm of hosting these holidays, and it was always expected that we would be there at one family’s celebration (or both, in the case of Christmas).  It was complicated because my husband’s parents are divorced, so there were essentially 3 sets to see.  But we never saw the need to rock the boat, and the one year we offered to host Thanksgiving, people said they would come and we were alone after everyone decided it was inconvenient to drive to us.

This year, the question of their convenience doesn’t matter to us as a family as much.  We do want to see them, of course, but at the same time we emphatically do not want to travel with a newborn for that period of time.  It provided a great opportunity to sit down as a couple and discuss what mattered most to each of us and reach a compromise.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I always feel closest to my husband when we resolve issues like this together.  It brings us an additional degree of intimacy, because we’ve proven to each other that we can open up about our feelings, good and bad, and be safe with each other.

So we talked.  About how he wants to involve his family, and I want to establish ourselves as a family first, with our own traditions.  How I was afraid of traveling that long with an infant, and disrupting any forming routines.  How I was concerned about the immune system that wouldn’t be fully established.  How we both deeply want to share our family with our extended families during the holidays, and how our family is now ourselves and Baby.  We talked and talked, and came to the conclusion that we could manage about 2-3 people at a time, not staying with us at the house, for long weekends.  We’ll offer each couple or person a weekend, invite them to stay for 3 or 4 days, and if they can’t come we’ll do our best to make it work with them, but our schedule will be our top priority.  And we’re not inviting anyone for the weekend of Thanksgiving, or for Christmas Eve/Day.  Those are for us, our first opportunity to share the best of our childhoods with Baby, and once we figure out what we want, next year we can discuss with our extended families what we would like to see happen (and compromise again!).


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It should be fairly obvious from all the advice out there that holidays make new and new-ish parents cringe.  I am no exception.

My experience has been that even though my husband and I have been together over 5 years, we still did holidays mostly the way our parents wanted us to.  It wasn’t a battle worth fighting, and we were comfortable in our traditions, even though we had to adopt some of the other family’s in order to make everything fit.  I am slightly shamed to say that my parents made way more of an accommodation than my in-laws, but now that we’ll have a child for the Big Holidays (possibly Thanksgiving this year, though I’m due about 4 days after, and definitely Christmas) I am not willing to go with the status quo.

Until now, it’s been about doing what our families wanted and trying to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.  The result of this, of course, was that we never really had a good time.  Extra complications arise due to my in-laws being divorced, so there are 3 sets of parents involved.  Where’s the harm in this, you ask?  So far, there hasn’t really been any harm aside from our feelings of stress when we try to make everyone happy and no one actually is happy.

But we haven’t had the chance to develop our own holiday traditions, or find our own holiday identity.

This Thanksgiving, no one is allowed to come down.  That was a rule put in place by me, because I don’t want 9 people in my home either right before I have a baby, or right after, or (god forbid) during their visit.  Christmas is likely going to be delayed, again at my instigation.

I have no problems with people coming down to see us – our family all live 8 hours away and I understand they’ll want to meet the newest family member.  As my sister-in-law T. put it,”we’re not coming down to see you anyway – nobody cares about you!  We just want to see the baby.”  The visit is a double-edged sword since they live so far away: we get to see them, a rare thing, but they never come down just for a few days.  It’s usually at least 5 days, and they stay with us.  That can’t happen this year.

It’s about knowing yourself; I know I’m introverted and social situations drain me rather than energize me, and having them come while our child is barely 1 month old is too much on what will already be drained resources.  I also know that having so many people staying with us before 12 weeks is ill-advised in terms of baby’s immune system.  Our Christmas compromise is this: people must stay at a hotel instead of with us, and they must come in January, so we have the actual holiday to bond and spend as a family.  I’m also not refereeing the non-amicable divorce between my in-laws, so they’ll have to either be cordial or work out with us when the other is coming so paths don’t cross.

I hope this all goes as smoothly in reality as I imagine it happening in my head…

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A kick-off!

I’ve been trying to think of a clever way to start these posts, and suddenly it occurred to me: a Father’s Day post!

Yes, technically my husband is not exactly a father yet, but considering he’s only got 4 1/2 months to go, I thought it deserved some recognition.  There’s also the fact he’s put up with me for the past 4 1/2 months, with the crabbiness, fatigue, and nausea, and being a champ like that practically screams for a special day where I’m extra nice to him.

The thing about my husband is that he really doesn’t care about “things”.  For the first few holidays we spent together, back when we were dating, I got him stuff, but one year for Christmas, I took him to a resort to look at Christmas lights because he had mentioned he enjoys them.  That’s when he told me he cares far more about spending time with the people he loves than getting a particular item.  He loves sharing experiences with his family, and so now I make it a point to gift him experiences instead.  That might mean he only gets one gift a year, instead of something on each holiday, or one really awesome experience and some small, daytime ones.  A small, daytime experience was perfect for Father’s Day, as an “I love you” and as a “thank you for putting up with me.”

I took him out to a park near us, rented a boat and we spent almost 2 hours out on the water.  It was a rowboat though, and that worked against my master plan as I hadn’t really wanted him to have to do the manual labor…but he picked it, so I can go with the flow on that.  It was so lovely to just be out there, together, and not talk about anything in particular.  Sometimes I think of the comic that said once you live with someone, you talk more, but communicate less.  That’s not something I want for my family, and it throws into relief how special these moments are.  After boating, I took him out for dinner to a place we’d never tried before, where we got to continue just enjoying the company of the other.

He thought I was being silly for making a big deal out of something he doesn’t think applies to him, but honestly?  I’m glad I did it, because it made me feel good to do something for someone I love so much and not be told “you don’t have to do that.”  A perfect excuse to do something I enjoy.