The holidays are a time of love and togetherness. It’s a beautiful thing – in theory. For moms of young children – especially moms who are breastfeeding – it can sometimes feel like a little too much togetherness.
If you have a little one in your arms or climbing on you or relying on your body for their nutritional needs, you might feel a little “touched out,” and the holiday season might be especially overwhelming. Add to that the extra mom guilt that can come with wanting a little space at a time when we’re supposed to surround ourselves with loved ones, and it’s a recipe for burnout.
It’s ok, mama. It’s ok to want a little space and a little time to yourself, even during peak “family time.” In fact, it’s healthy! As the adage goes: You can’t pour from an empty cup.
How to cope with too much touch during the holidays
So how can you cope with feeling “touched out” during the holidays? You may have diapers to change, a baby to nurse, baths to give, places to go – carrying kids to and from the car, bedtime stories to read, and the endless string of instances when your kids just want mommy to comfort them. Then there may be ornaments to hang, holiday events to hold them through, clean-up from cookie-baking, or snuggles through traditional movies. You don’t want to miss out on these special moments, and you can’t exactly skip the daily essentials, so what’s a mom to do?
There are ways to take care of yourself! You just need to make you a priority and trust that by doing so, you’re making your kids your priority too.
Talk about it
Because your children rely on you so intimately, you will likely need some help to counteract the effects of feeling touched out. If you have a partner, talk to them about how you’re feeling and ask for some extra support in this time of extra touch and togetherness. If you’re breastfeeding, maybe your partner can handle bath time or clean up older kids after cookie-baking. Maybe they can take extra bedtime story duty to allow you a chance to sit by yourself, watch your favorite show, or go out and do something for yourself.
You can also turn to other parents or a counselor for support. Knowing you’re not alone, and having someone focus on you and your needs, can help curb any guilt you may be feeling about needing more time to yourself. It can be cathartic to talk through any anxiety you are feeling so you can focus on the positives associated with touch, like the bond you make with your child.
Take a break
Find opportunities to take some time for yourself. Work with your partner, helpful relatives, or a babysitter to get away to enjoy a hobby or an activity you enjoy. Set aside time when your kids are out of the house or asleep to read a book, watch your favorite show, or take a relaxing bubble bath. Find snippets of time consistently to enjoy a soothing cup of tea – perhaps by waking up a little early, or during nap time, or while your partner is picking the kids up from daycare.
Taking time to enjoy the quiet or something that reminds you of your own humanity and needs can help you get through the more chaotic moments. The key is to truly relax in these moments! Don’t use your break to do chores, run errands, wrap gifts, or get extra work done. Remind yourself that making time for yourself – even if it’s just a few minutes each day – will help you be a productive and attentive mother.
Refocus on soothing touch
Sometimes, you might feel touched out because all of your physical contact seems to involve caring for your children. Even when you’re rocking the baby to sleep or receiving a sweet, tiny hug around your knees, it can feel like too much after being a human jungle gym (or human bottle). Refocusing on touch that involves caring for your own needs can help mitigate the feeling that your body isn’t your own or that the sense of touch itself is unpleasant.
You can schedule a massage or pedicure, care for sore nipples with Bamboobies organic nipple balm, or apply warming or cooling relief for your breasts in between feedings with Bamboobies soothing therapy pillows.
Find other ways to love on your littles
Incorporate ways to show your love for your kids that don’t involve physical touch to help break up the moments when it’s necessary or enjoyable. Do you have a toddler who likes to play with blocks or trains or dolls? Play with them! Find ways to show you care that allow you to maintain some distance. Instead of baking holiday cookies today, try singing holiday songs and having a dance party. Instead of snuggling through a holiday movie, have them host a holiday movie night with their favorite stuffed animals.
With younger babies, consider adding a holiday touch to their play gyms with some baby-friendly ornaments, and play with them as they kick and prod from the ground. You can also set them up in a bouncer or swing and sing holiday songs, making eye contact and allowing them to explore movement.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to show love and affection, and lean on those when touch feels like too much.
Reframe your thinking
Above all, give yourself some grace, mama! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of the holidays and put pressure on yourself to make them perfect for your little one. But it’s ok to let a potential tradition go if it’s not serving you. After all, if it isn’t fun for you, it may not be as fun for your children. It’s ok to wait another year to go to the light show where you’ll need to carry the baby. It’s ok to skip the movie-and-snuggles night with the toddler who probably won’t sit through the whole thing anyway. It’s ok to trade cookie-making and crafts (and the cleanup that comes with them) for caroling or story time – with you in the rocker and your littles on the floor. And it’s ok to take a break, even – or especially – during the holidays. Making adjustments or taking time to yourself doesn’t make you a bad mom. In fact, it makes you a strong mom who wants to give her kids the love and attention they deserve and who recognizes that she needs to take care of herself too.
Together doesn’t have to mean touching, mama. You can enjoy all the best the holidays have to offer – time with family, light and laughter, the magic of the season through a child’s perspective – while still caring for your needs. Take care of yourself, and remember that in doing so, you’re taking care of those littles who look to you for love and comfort.
Parents: What It Means for a Mom to Feel ‘Touched Out’ and How to Cope
Parents: No, Moms: It’s Not Selfish to Make Yourself a Priority
Good Housekeeping: Putting Your Family First Doesn’t Make You a Better Mom
Parenting Now: Self-Care Is Crucial For The Whole Family’s Health
The Washington Post: Why self-care is an important part of parenting, and how to make time for it