This time of year, we’re supposed to be going, going, going.

Shopping and cooking and cleaning and partying. So.Much.Partying. Which, if I’m being completely honest, is not an issue for my extremetrovert self (Yes, I just made up that word. If it applies to you, fellow extreme extrovert, feel free to steal it and use it. I’d like to see this word in the dictionary someday…) I actually enjoy the uptick in social events. They feed my soul.

But I know that for many pregnant or newly parenting families, this time of year and all of its busyness, can really suck the wind out of the Holly-Jolly spirit you’re supposed to be full of. In fact, even if you’re not “in the family way” you might be feeling the same bah-humbug-ness of it all and trying to figure out how to slow down and enjoy what this holiday season is really supposed to be about: Peace. Joy. Love. Magic.

I’m going to share a little secret with you about becoming a parent that people around you are already doing and have been doing for years without you even knowing it: they’ve been using their children.

Yes, they’ve been using their children (or, soon-to-be-born children) as excuses for getting out of all kinds of commitments! I don’t really want to out these people, as much as usher you into this secret society so that you can find ways to say “No” this year to anything that will not contribute to what the holiday season is really supposed to be about (refer to the list above.)

So what do I mean? As an example, my husband thought this might be the year for us to revisit driving out to who-knows-where to cut down a live Christmas Tree.

This is something that we did before children, and it was a fun (albeit long) adventure that we shared with good friends making a full day of picking out the perfect tree, drinking hot chocolate, visiting the gift store to pick up new ornaments for the tree. I think we might have even sat on Santa’s lap for a picture.

We stopped doing this the same year that our first was born. After all, she would have only been about 2 months old, it was really cold, she didn’t even know who Santa was — and I probably wouldn’t have let him hold her on his lap anyway!

Fast forward to this year… We have four children ranging in age from 8 to 18. Just finding a day to get a tree from anywhere that would work for everyone’s schedule was a headache. And this didn’t take into account that we all know (and love dearly!) the man who suggested this plan. It sounded like it would be a fun day, but only if the weather and crowds weren’t nasty — two things that we couldn’t count on. My husband doesn’t like either of these things much. Getting the tree home, setting it up, putting on the lights and ornaments in what we were all sure would turn into a late night didn’t appeal to anyone… except Roberto.

5/6 of us realized that it would be much more likely for us to have a lot of those things on the list above, if we just drove down the street to the lot that we’ve gotten our tree from for the past 15+ years and got on with it.

You see, for us, the beauty of this tradition is that it takes us about 15 minutes in total to pick out the most beautiful tree you’ve ever seen. They trim it, we know it will fit into our base, and we don’t have to worry about the tree flying off the top of our car on the highway because it’s only about 1/2 mile away from our house!

Almost every year, we grab the first tree we look at. We always ask them to open two or three more to compare, but we always go back to the first one they show us. Then, we head home, make some hot chocolate on our own stove, put in one of the 15 CDs of Christmas music that we’ve made for family and friends over the years —CDs that have the recorded voices of our children singing Christmas songs from when they were first able to speak and carry a tune — and reminisce about where we got each and every ornament that’s starting to weigh down the branches of our tree.

My point is this: All of those things that you’ve done to celebrate the season in years past, before you had a baby, don’t have to be the same things that you do now, after you’ve had a baby.

Don’t get me wrong! Some of these traditions are a part of your DNA and to deviate from them with or without children would be heresy! You will be doing them until the day you die. I get it.

But I want to let you know that it’s okay to create new traditions for your new family. And that it’s also perfectly okay to say “No” to anything that doesn’t add more Peace. Joy. Love. and Magic to your life during this season (or any other season, for that matter).

Using your children as an excuse to get out of things is something every parent has done many times over in their lives. It’s one of the unspoken perks of having kids!

Office party? “Can’t make it, my kiddo doesn’t do well after 8 pm.”

Family cookie-making day? “It’s right during her nap time, sorry.”

Winter concert? “He’s got a soccer game that conflicts. Bummer!”

Long drive to cut down the perfect Christmas tree? “Ummm, it’s awfully cold out there — I think we’ll just go to the lot down the street. Have fun!”

Just think of all the things you might be able to get out of this year that would allow you to make more space for creating the traditions that matter to you as a new family.

Remember the phrase, “Sorry, we can’t. We have a baby now…” doesn’t have to mean that you’re missing out. It can mean that you’re taking care of yourself, your baby and your relationship by paying attention to and creating space for those traditions that will fill your hearts and your home with the true spirit of the season.

Expectant parents: Does this help you let out a sigh of relief? Feel free to share this post with any friends or family that might need the reminder to give you some space to create your own traditions. Veteran parents: What old traditions did you drop in order to make space for some new ones? Please share in the comments – I love to hear from you and I promise I’ll respond.

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