How to have a cool yule
Christmas starting to feel a bit of a smash and grab? Eleanor Tucker wraps up top tips for mums who just want to enjoy the best bits
Surely Christmas is the time of year we look forward to the most (well, and the summer holidays of course)? So why, then, is it that the thing most often absent is the 'peace on earth' part – especially when you've got small children? Tantrums, tears, tellings off... and that's just me. That can't be right, can it? But if it all sounds familiar, don't despair. This year, you – and I – might enjoy the holiday season a lot more by employing a few smart techniques for keeping your Christmas cool. So when it seems like the odds (in the shape of a baby chewing the fairy lights and a toddler having a meltdown in the middle of Santa's grotto) are against you, try one of these tricks.
Beat the baby brain
Trying to get organised at Christmas is tricky enough, but try it when you've got 'baby brain' and you could end up forgetting something as crucial as the turkey (we've all been there). 'If you're hosting (are you mad?), make life easier for yourself by using as many apps as possible,' suggests Nicola Joseph, health visitor and newborn advisor for Bepanthen. You can list-make while feeding your baby – try Wunderlist or Evernote for 'To Do' lists, or Gift It for Christmas shopping.
If you don't usually shop online, this is a good time to start. Create a 'Favourites' list on a supermarket's website and you'll never forget the regular items again. And make sure you stock up with extra supplies of all the essentials – we're talking nappies and wipes – because you really don't want to be frantically fashioning a nappy out of a tea towel on Christmas morning.
'Also, don't be afraid to "cheat" with some prepared meals or ingredients,' says Nicola. 'It's far more important for you to bond with your baby than to be making cranberry sauce, so don't feel guilty about it.' Oh, and while we're at it, don't be shy about corralling your partner into helping out – you're not superwoman and you shouldn't try to be.
Safe and sound
At this time of year there are lots of unusual things around for little hands to grab, so make sure your home is baby- and toddler-proof –with everything else that’s going on, worrying about whether your children are safe is something you can well do without. The good news? ‘Coloured lights, shiny decorations, tinsel and glitter will stimulate your baby’s senses and accelerate their learning,’ explains Dr Lin Day of learning and development programme Baby Sensory.
But it’s important that this is achieved safely. ‘Put gifts such as perfume out of reach, make sure tree decorations are shatterproof, and don’t use mistletoe or holly. Use low-voltage LED tree lights or, better still, battery-operated fairy lights, which don’t get hot.
The best option is to pick your baby up and look at the Christmas tree together. This will help your baby to be safe and feel a part of what’s going on.’ And that will help you feel more relaxed, too.
Hostess of the year
Christmas is all about family and friends, but when you’ve got a new baby it’s vital that you don’t feel ambushed in your own home. ‘Don’t feel you have to make your baby’s first Christmas your best ever,’ says Nicola. ‘Being a new mum is hard enough without the added pressure of having a “picture perfect” Christmas thrown in.’ Save the handmade baubles and home-baked cinnamon cookies until next year (or even better until the tots are old enough to help you) and simply focus on spending time with your family. You’ll create happier memories than you would if you were trying to ice the cake and breastfeed at the same time (now there are two things you don’t want to get mixed up – messy).
‘Visitors may well arrive with the best of intentions, but you and your baby should be the priority,’ adds Nicola. ‘Don’t feel the need to change your routine – or your baby’s – because of guests. If you explain to them, they’ll understand when you need to pop off for some quiet time or to breastfeed.’
Filter your feed
‘We’re the first generation of parents to live our lives online – and at Christmas, it all goes into hyperdrive,’ says comparison coach Lucy Sheridan. But it’s important to remember that, while it might seem like all the ‘Instamums’ out there are having a perfect Christmas and you’re not, in reality many of those pics will have been as primped, practised, tweaked, manipulated and curated as Kim Kardashian’s bottom.
‘Clean up your social media feed – keep it festive but friendly,’ adds Lucy. ‘Treat your social media channels like your living room – a fun place to relax and hang out. If certain people’s Facebook posts or Instagram feeds annoy you, then why not hide or unfollow them during December and focus more on what you want to do, rather than obsessing about other parents’ perceived standards.’
It’s all about me
Don’t forget to look after yourself: stress levels are heightened by a less-healthy-than-usual diet. And while nobody’s suggesting you skip the mince pies (that way a happy Christmas definitely does not lie), make sure you get all the nutrients you need (especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding).
Try snacking on satsumas: a German study found that vitamin C doesn’t just help stave off winter colds, it also reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which triggers the release of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical, while pistachios may help lower blood pressure.
‘In the run-up to Christmas, if you can, book yourself in for a little beauty treatment,’ suggests Nicola. ‘Leaving your tot with family or friends to go for a manicure or pedicure is a quick way to feel more like yourself, and sparkly nails make everything feel more festive. Being a mum is such a change that having some “me time” is very beneficial and can re-energise you. Then the time you do spend with your family at Christmas is even better.’