I was a brand new mom during the holiday season of 2019. It was a challenging season for me between the hustle and bustle of the holidays, managing family traditions, entertaining houseguests, and living with postpartum depression and anxiety. Layer in COVID-19 on top of flu and RSV season, and I can only imagine the anxiety that new moms feel going into this year’s holiday season.
One piece of advice I give to all new moms is “your house, your baby, your rules.” It is easy to get caught up in thoughts like, Will I offend my uncle if I ask him to wear a mask? How will my parents react to me greeting them with a giant bottle of hand sanitizer at the door? Or Will my mother-in-law get upset if we limit visits to only an hour per day? Maybe you will. But your family and friends should ultimately respect your rules, even if your rules do not excite them. And if they are unable to respect your rules? Unfortunately, they will have to wait to meet the baby until it is a better time for everyone.
Dealing with Houseguests as a New Mom
Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries and expectations and seeking agreement before visitors come to your house will alleviate any awkwardness. For example, if you limit visits to only one hour, you can kindly remind your visitors via email or text message what they agreed to before they come for a visit. Again, if they cannot adhere to those expectations, it will be healthier for everyone if their visit is postponed. When they can respect your requirements for protecting your family, just reschedule! Be sure to enlist the support of your partner if you have one in setting and enforcing the boundaries you have established.
One topic that can be controversial lately is the wearing of masks indoors. If wearing a mask while being around your infant is important to you and your immediate family, be upfront with any houseguests before they arrive. Then they can decide if it’s something they are comfortable with or not. Setting these expectations in advance will allow your guests to choose to come and visit within your boundaries or stay home. Allowing your guests to choose within your limits will help alleviate any tension that you may feel imposing these boundaries on your guests.
Make a List of How Visitors Can Help
I can assure you that all of the visitors who come to see your new family during the holiday season want to come and help and not be a burden. Visitors will automatically default to wanting to hold the baby. Who doesn’t love a newborn?! And perhaps holding the baby while you take a restful nap is the best way for them to help. But there may be other activities that they could be helping with to ease the burden of new motherhood.
There might be chores that your houseguests could easily help you with that would take a burden off of you. Some examples of tasks that I wanted help with when I had a newborn were emptying and loading the dishwasher, hand-washing and sanitizing bottles and breast pump parts, bringing or preparing food and snacks, or doing a load of laundry.
I vividly remember sitting on my couch with my newborn son while my mom reorganized my linen closet, which desperately needed it. I felt guilty for putting her to work instead of letting her relax with the baby. But that chore was exactly what she wanted to do for me at that time. Shortly after, my in-laws helped us break down all of the cardboard in our garage and take it to the recycling center. I was immensely grateful for help in doing the things that I was not physically or mentally up to doing at that time.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Entertain
The holiday season naturally lends itself to entertaining and parties. Please do not feel the pressure to entertain your guests! That chores list we discussed earlier? Let your guests know (in advance) that you won’t be able to entertain them. But mention how much you’d appreciate some help with chores around the house after they have had a chance to meet the baby. Have them throw on a pot of coffee. Or boil water for some hot chocolate. Maybe even put on a Christmas movie! No need to clean in advance or have activities prepared. The most important thing for you to do this season will be to relax and get as much rest as possible.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries for your visitors and providing them with ways to help around the house while visiting will make everyone more comfortable during the visit. And not feeling pressure to entertain houseguests this holiday season will be critical to enjoying those first few weeks with a new baby.
What advice would you give a new mom going into this holiday season? Were you a new mom during a holiday season, and if so, how did you handle houseguests?