Your Family Holiday Survival Guide for Modern Parents

With Thanksgiving behind us, it dawned on me just how different the holidays are now that we have a toddler in tow. What used to be an easy, quick trip to mom's house for a few days is now an over-packed agenda, over-packed suitcase, and an under-prepared mom and dad. While I am incredibly excited to have my little human experience Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time (she was only 12 weeks old last year) there are few things we still need to get in order. And by a few, I mean a lot. 

It made me realize that if I am going through this change-of-season planning, then certainly there must be other parents who are, too. So, I racked my brain, bothered my husband, and decided to use this post as something parents can actually reference. I mean, who doesn't want advice from a tired, worn-out parent, right?

The Family Holiday Survival Guide

Packing

Oh, how I miss the days of throwing a few garments of clothing into my oversized purse and calling it a day. Now, to go to my moms (and I write this as I stare at the pile of stuff about to be loaded into my car) and it looks like we are about to climb Mt. Everest with a party of 20. I didn't even know I owned this much stuff! Pack N Play, bathtime toys, clothes for warm weather, clothes for cold weather, clothes as back-up to both, dog food, dog crate, dogs themselves, cooking utensils to fry/smoke/bake three turkeys (because one is apparently not enough) and so.much.more. The list goes on and on.

I honestly wish I had better advice for you here, but I only leave you with this: make sure you have air in your tires and if anything is strapped to your roof rack, drive with caution. God speed. 

Shopping

I used to LOVE shopping this time of year. Whether I was sampling wine and cheese at the grocery store while planning my holiday meal, or perusing the mall with my long list, I always made a day out of it and enjoyed every second. Even the long lines and grouchy/pushy people could not get in the way of my holiday spirit. And then I had a kid. 

You see, I never knew going to the grocery store could feel like a holiday until I was able to experience both. Once your kid becomes mobile, if you have someone - anyone for that matter - willing to watch your kid so you can run out to the store, use them. Right now, I have to do a lot of the shopping with Lennon in tow because my husband works later hours than me. My only chance of survival is to bring puffs, pouches, and water. I also need to make sure she is changed, napped, and the stars have aligned just right or else it's a nightmare.

There is hope, though. Most major malls or outlets now have onsite daycare you can take advantage of. The cost is minimal and you get to keep your sanity. I'd check that off as a win. If you have to go food shopping with a kid, bring snacks, play a movie, hire a clown to entertain in the cart while you push. Just be smart about it. Another option? Amazon when the baby goes to bed. You can't lose. 

Sleeping

This entire category makes me LOL. Sleeping at a family members house is hysterical now that we have a kid. It usually ends up with me on the bed, Lennon in the pack n play, and my husband on the couch or a deflated air mattress. Lennon loves to wake up about 2 hours earlier when we aren't in our cozy, quiet house, so those late night holiday parties really don't mix well with for this mama. Unfortunately. it comes with the territory of visiting family during the holidays.

My advice? Bring your own air mattress, bring extra pillows and blankets, and have a DaysInn reservation as back-up (just in case.) 

Eating

This is the main reason I am happy the holidays only come around once a year. If I ate every day like I do during the months of November through December, I would be an entirely different shape. I never know leftovers could last 8 days, or that turkey as breakfast would go so well with my coffee. Who even know it was possible to be ready for dessert while you are currently still chewing dinner? Now, with your little person in tow, eating might not be as fun as it used to be, but it can work to your advantage!

My baby is at that fun age where she eats everything. Literally, everything. So, when I make a plate, she eats half and I eat the other half, allowing me fewer calories. My plan is to do the same with these upcoming holiday feasts. I'll let me kid clear half my plate so when I go for seconds, it's really only firsts. Genius, I know. I'm sure this method of "calorie counting" is not FDA approved, but if the baby is full and I'm content, does it matter? 

Recovering

You did it. You made it through the holidays and you are back home, your house has finally cleared out, and you are back to worrying about work and everyday life instead of things like, "Who was supposed to bring the sweet potatoes?" Now, you can try to get yourself and your kid to detox off of that sugar and carb-only diet you have been so strictly following for the past two months. Your sleep schedule is off, you can probably sing every song on the Mariah Carey Christmas album (guilty as charged), and the thought of a full work week gives you extreme anxiety, but it was all so worth it. 

Now, you need to work on getting your little family unit back on track, and I can promise it won't be easy. If your little one is in school and has to go back to a strict bedtime, then you might want to reintroduce bedtime a few nights before. Also, plan something a little earlier in the day so you all have to practice leaving the house on time again. If your babies are too young for school, you might want to practice the latter just so you don't piss your boss off your first day back from vacation. 

In the end, it's the time with family that matters most. So what if that family time was spent sleeping on a deflated air mattress with your spouse in the middle of your mom's living room floor or having to pack a suitcase as big as your mini-van just for a three-night getaway; it's totally worth the experience for your kid and you as a family.

Just keep smiling. Everything is perfect. 

Just keep smiling. Everything is perfect. 

For sanity sake, talk to other parents who are going through the same thing. If possible, stay off Instagram and Pinterest where people are portrayed as the perfect family painted by Norman Rockwell. Rest assured there are plenty of parents struggling (this one included) on trying to make it through the holidays with minimal meltdown due to sugar overload and withdrawals, schedule changes, environmental changes (both literally and figuratively), and just overall mishaps that you cannot control. Remember, YOU GOT THIS... And also remember to be thankful it only comes once a year.