The hustle and bustle, joy and chaos, excitement and overwhelm of the December holiday season surely don’t discriminate. Many parents struggle with the blessings of an influx of toys and other stuff exploding all over the house. There’s a general increase in activity. The to-do list grows longer no matter who you are. And the hours of daylight are, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, so much shorter.
There are a few things, however, that are unique to working parents at this time of year. When I had my first son, I remember several of these taking me by surprise. Here’s my rundown on how this time of year specifically affects those of us with jobs and children.
6 Ways the Holiday Season Changes When You Have a Baby and a Job
- Childcare Closures: An obvious one, to be sure. But not something I gave all that much thought to before I had kids. Your work schedule suddenly becomes dependent on the availability of your caregiver. And if daycare closes or your nanny travels to visit family, your schedule needs to be able to pivot to align with these changes. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve tried various winter break camps, at least for a few days over the winter school closure. (In the Washington, D.C. area there are many, many options.) And during one of those winter break camp days, my husband and I get together to do our own annual planning day. Which prepares us for the next daycare closure in the spring!
- Your Gift Giving List Grows: At some point after entering the world of child care, we said, “Oh right! We need gifts for our kids’ daycare teachers!” Our daycare came to the rescue, though, by permitting parents to donate part of our deposit each year to a “Teacher Holiday Gift Fund.” With our current after care program, we focus more on the end of the school year as a gift-giving time. Regardless, the holiday season becomes an important time to express gratitude to the people who love, nurture, and care for our little ones daily.
- Synchronized Slowdown: I know not all jobs close, come to a halt, or even slow down over the holidays. But many do. Especially in the U.S., where we don’t all take the entire month of August off, it’s refreshing to have a time of year where for at least about a week, work seems to slow down a bit. I find the synchronized slowdown of client demands to be refreshing. Freeing me up more to concentrate on the home front.
- Family Members Have Opinions: True, they had opinions before you had a baby. But now they have opinions on new topics. From whether you swaddle your baby. To your work hours. To your child care choices. If you’re spending time with family members over the holiday season, and their opinions conflict with your own, I advise three things. First, assume positive intent. Second, repeat the mantra, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And third, remind yourself that you’ll be back in your normal routine in a few days.
- Lay Down the Battle of the Clock: I don’t know about you, but just getting out the door in the morning and getting everyone where they need to be on time can be a Herculean daily task. Even if just for a few days, I love that we don’t need to rush in the morning to get everyone’s layers of clothes on, and make it to work and school on time. (While I’m thinking of it, here’s a tip for the perennial lost glove dilemma. If you buy the 12-pack of identical knit gloves – like this one – the kids can lose them left and right. You always have more to spare. And they’re all the same, so you’re never looking for a match!)
- A New Appreciation for Your Job (and Your Caregiver) on January 2: Good, bad, or in between, the holiday season always comes to a close. And every January 2 or 3, there’s always that cartoon that goes around Facebook with two people standing in an elevator, returning to their office after the break. The non-parent looks glum, and sad that the vacation has ended. The parent is gleeful to be back at the office. I always have a new outlook on things after spending a week at home with my (delightful, cuddly, and energetic) boys!
Wherever you live, and however you celebrate, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.