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The Not-So-Happy Holidays

The most wonderful time of the year is not so wonderful for many of us.  What about the woman struggling to conceive?  Who is surrounded by reminders of what she is missing.  Too few stockings on the mantle, too few presents under the tree.  Perfect family Christmas photos and holiday-themed pregnancy announcements.  People “discreetly” checking to see if she’s drinking at the Christmas party (she’s not, but it’s because she’s starting a cycle of IVF, not because she’s pregnant).  Or not so discreetly asking when she’s going to have kids.  The reminders are everywhere.

What about the woman who is struggling with motherhood?  Who is not as happy as she “should” be this time of year.  Who finds the thought of getting dressed overwhelming, let alone doing all the parties, all the shopping, all the pictures, all the wrapping, all the baking, all the cooking, all the socializing and all the talking...basically all the things that the holidays are requiring of her when all she wants to do is sleep.  She feels tired and overwhelmed and GUILTY because this is the happiest time of the year!  She should be GLOWING with holiday motherhood perfection right now!  She should be wearing perfectly coordinated family outfits all month long while engaging in perfect family holiday activities while enjoying her freshly baked holiday cookies in her (very CLEAN) very perfectly decorated house.  Sigh.

And what about all of those for whom the holidays just bring up not-so-happy thoughts and feelings?  Maybe family issues.  Maybe feelings of loss, or of grief, or of loneliness. 

To all of those people out there - we see you.  A few friendly tips this holiday season:

  1. It’s okay to say no.  In fact, it’s encouraged.  The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years (and beyond — what’s up with the holiday parties in January??) are crammed with parties, festivities, activities, family time, traveling, and holiday cheer.  AKA, obligations.  Remember that just because you were asked, does not mean you’re obligated to say yes.  Pick and choose which things you commit to because you WANT to.  Notice what happens in your body when you receive an invite.  Is your immediate reaction something like, “UGH!!!”  (Insert exaggerated eye roll and racing heart)?  Maybe say no to that one.  Remember you don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to please everyone.
  2. Self-care, self-care, self-care.  Remember that the only person you have control over is yourself.  Making time for self-care might be especially difficult during this busy season, but it’s more important than ever.  Take a break.  Go for a walk.  Do some yoga.  Read a book.  Try some mindfulness meditation.  Stretch.  Breathe.  Do something with intention for yourself.  Try a gratitude journal:  use this tool to take your focus away from the chaos and move it towards the positive.  Even if what you are grateful for today is “I’m grateful for my dog because he doesn’t talk to me” - that’s great!  Mini-win!  Schedule some more one-on-one time with your pup.
  3. It’s okay to not be okay.  You are not alone in this feeling.  Do you have a supportive person in your life who you can talk to?  A good friend, or family member?  A therapist?  Someone who can relate to what you’re experiencing? 

Be kind to yourself this holiday season.