The festive season is different when you're a parent. Maybe you're carefully planning where to place the Diwali diyas or wondering if the rangoli colours or flowers are safe to use with a baby around.
During Christmas, decorating your home is fraught with peril as you weigh the pros and cons of hanging breakable ornaments. And the blinking floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree could well be a disaster waiting to happen in small hands.
Then there's the pressure to make the celebrations a magical time for your family. Is it any wonder that stress levels rise around this time of year` Fortunately, it is possible to preserve your sanity and still have a festive season to remember. Here are some ways to keep your spirits bright:
- Scale down your ambitions
Accept that with a baby or toddler in the house you just can't do everything from scratch this year. So unless you've got lots of household help, you'll probably want to skip marathon baking or mithai making sessions, extensive household decorating and making personalised cards for everyone in your address book.
If you need to visit friends and relatives plan ahead so that you don't spend too much time on crowded roads. On the other hand, you may be able to work out a way to have everyone visit your home instead.
- Simplify the present buying
Very young children appreciate the attention that comes with gift giving, but they probably don't need as many presents as you think. In fact parents often find that their little ones get bored after the initial thrill of opening gifts is over. Let your child keep a few presents and store the rest for later
- Shop online
Nowadays you can buy everything you need online. The prices are often as good or better than you'll find at your local store, and you'll save yourself the stress of hitting a packed shopping centre with your little one in tow. Plus you won't have to spend half a day queuing at the billing counter or struggling to carry everything home.
- Avoid family conflicts
People often feel that they must resolve in one day any family issues that have come up during the year. It's a good idea for families to declare a truce during get-togethers and focus on having a good time rather than fixing family problems. Being in a joint family has its advantages but may also come with a few challenges. You may need to make plans in a way that works for everyone. However, if you've just about had it with people criticising your cooking or home management skills, try this basic stress management technique: take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, and exhale slowly. It could well save the day!
- Set expectations
Talk to your kids about expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Be open with them if money is an issue. Depending on a child's age, parents can use this as an opportunity to teach their kids about the value of money and responsible spending. And be realistic. Take small concrete steps to deal with holiday tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too far reaching for a busy time.
- Share the workload
Your husband could take turns to look after your baby or a grandparent or willing relative could help with babysitting while you finish chores. Maybe your mother or mother-in-law could help with preparing traditional dishes or managing visitors and guests.
Invite close friends or family members to bring starters or desserts to your party instead of trying to do all the cooking and baking yourself. That way, everyone can feel involved and you don't have to be slaving in the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying themselves. If your budget allows, hire a caterer to help out with a few dishes this will give you some much needed rest.
See the festive season through the eyes of your child
A trip to see the Diwali or Christmas lights or a small family party may be all the excitement your child is ready for. Babies are oblivious as to just what the festivities are all about, so moderation is the key.
While it's nice for children to have an early memory of lighting diyas, making rangolis, baking and tinsel hanging, they don't need a whole month of it.
- Make connections
`Good relationships with family and friends are important. So, view the holidays as a time to reconnect with people. Additionally, accepting help and support from those who care about you can help alleviate stress. Even volunteering at a local charity with your kids is a good way to connect with others, assist someone in need and teach your kids about the value of helping others.
- Give yourself a break
Finding time for yourself can seem impossible at this time of year, but it's important. Small children are very sensitive to a parent's mood, so schedule some 'me time'.
Do whatever makes you feel refreshed, whether it's a visit to the beauty parlour, having coffee with a friend, reading a book or taking a long bath. Finally, don't pretend to be full or beans if you don't feel that way. Memories, good and bad, tend to resurface at this time of year and that's OK. Don't force yourself to be cheerful. Just try to keep things in balance and, you never know, you may even enjoy yourself!