How To Survive That Weird First Christmas After You Have A Baby

Baby santa

by Gemma Exley |
Published on

While chatting with a friend about her decision to not have children, we mused over the lifetime of holidays she’d have ahead… ‘Yeah, but I won’t get Christmas,’ she concluded as we came back to reality. Of course, she was totally wrong, she would get Christmas - amazing ones with cocktails on the beach, but I understood what she was getting at… The traditional magic that’s associated with Christmas - whether due to nostalgia or popular culture - is generally portrayed as being ignited by the pure belief that kids have in the occasion. Unless you’re Buddy the Elf, shouting ‘SANTA! SANTA!’ on repeat will likely just make everyone think you’re drunk, which isn’t a bad state to be in if you can get away with it, actually.

If you decide to take the steps towards one of these traditionally ‘magical’ festive seasons, there’s limbo period all parents must face - Christmas With A Baby, where the 3am wake-ups are due to wind not excitement, and you don’t get dressed all day because you literally can’t, not because of your family’s festive onesie tradition. Let’s call it Christmas purgatory. It’s one that’s filled with hope for Christmases of the future, but also one that’s a little bit… weird. And even if you still go ahead and Instagram your baby in an elf romper next to a ‘my first Christmas’ milestone card with #blessed, it’s fine to admit this.

Considering all the talk of virgin births and mangers at this time of year, babies aren’t commonly associated with Christmas - they’d probably fall somewhere after turkey and before pickles in Family Fortunes survey, which is why it can feel pretty strange when all of a sudden you have one. Remember that Christmas in the 90s when you got a Tamagotchi that barely lasted until new year? That was your warm-up. This is the real responsibility.

If you were pregnant during the last Christmas and had to side-step all the fun stuff, it might feel like further insult that you still can’t get as hammered as everyone else (get some unpasteurised cheese and charcuterie down you quick though) - and even if you do make it out to a festive party (singular most likely), you may find that you’ve now forgotten how to talk to people, unless it’s about weaning or nap schedules.

But with your baby still too young to know the difference between Santa and Brad Pitt, it’s one of your last chances to indulge yourself. Even if you've been a self-sufficient professional for many years, now’s your chance to mope around at home like a teenager because you haven’t slept for more than two hours straight in many months. It can feel unfair that everyone else gets to sit around the table eating for two hours while you’re stuck in a cluster feed, wallow in this by demanding to be spoon-fed trifle. If you’ve got extra family around, make the most of any extra babysitting - and try to bite your lip when a well meaning in-law suggests you take a nap two minutes before the baby’s next feed is due.

On the flip-side, as a certified grown-up, you now have a get out of jail free card for any family occasions you can’t cope with, which is slightly ironic because now that you have a baby, everyone will want to see you. Don’t feel pressured to do anything when just changing, feeding and strapping the baby into the car seat/buggy can turn into an all day mission. You can also apply this the rule to phone messages - use the festive season as an opportunity to dodge that incessant WhatsApper who’s been spamming you since you exchanged numbers the week you gave birth. You may feel like hosting Christmas in your own home simply so you don’t have to move, which is fair enough, but bear in mind that you might automatically pick the turkey’s legs up, wipe its bum and stick it in a nappy instead of stuffing it.

Whether you choose to spend it with the whole family or as a threesome - or even twosome, don’t feel you have to go overboard with gifts. According to a Halifax survey, parents spend £3,186 on Christmas presents for each child, on average, up to the age of 18, so make the most of it before you’re running around trying to find 2022’s equivalent of a Fingerling Unicorn or Nintendo SNES.

Not that I’m in any position to offer advice on how to juggle a baby with the festivities - I went abroad for my son’s first Christmas in 2015, which wasn’t without its own issues (hello, Ryan Air) but certainly seemed like a good idea at the time (there’s nothing like a bit of vitamin D-filled Tenerife sunshine to keep you going during the four month sleep regression). Flights can be more expensive, but if you or your partner’s annual leave has been stretched by parental duties, it can be a great time to get away without chalking up more. And if you manage to travel before the crawling/rolling stage, you don’t have to give yourself a heart attack the moment you first look around your accommodation. Better still, kids under two generally fly free.

Now two years later, we’re almost through the limbo stage and reaping the benefits of having an excitable kid around to ignite a bit Christmas magic, although it transpires that that is nothing like the movies anyway (have you ever seen a kid trying to hang decorations on a tree?). Christmas can be magical whoever you spent it with, you just sometimes need a baby around to give you a kick up the bum and remind you not to take those special moments for granted.

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