Heather Lancaster

Heather Lancaster

When my husband and I found out we were expecting a little one, I had a picturesque idea of what motherhood would be.

Sweet cuddles, long stroller walks, adorable outfits, the list goes on and on. Of course I knew there would be little to no sleep, consoling a crying baby, and extra laundry among hundreds of other things, but my anticipation to meet our baby outweighed everything. The “mom worry” began immediately. Will she be healthy, how will I handle her first boo-boo, what if she’s bullied by other kids as she grows, and how on earth will I deal with being covered in spit-up?

When my husband and I welcomed our daughter in September 2018, the love we felt for her was immediate and immense. It was like she had always been a part of our lives, but we hadn’t known it. I knew that motherhood would be life changing, but I never realized how it would change my outlook on the world.

The days go quickly and the nights can be long, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. The most important thing that motherhood has taught me, so far, is to slow down and enjoy every moment.

I thrive on organization and completing tasks and chores quickly, but with a newborn, those tasks take a back seat and the care of my daughter comes first.

Daily duties like drying my hair, unloading the dishwasher, and making and eating dinner are a little more challenging, but they are accomplished eventually. I’m even learning to enjoy cold meals. Instead of trying to constantly keep up with having our home organized and spotless, I’m living in the present and watching the dust bunnies roll by. If a load of laundry doesn’t get folded right away or I don’t make it to the grocery store, I’m not worried about it because I have an adorable little face looking up at me and counting on me to take care of her.

The thing is, being a parent is messy and beautiful at the same time. It’s unpredictable and incredible and you can never truly be prepared for the amazing journey. Despite being covered in spit-up and on my 100th load of laundry this week, the baby snuggles and smiles are more important than anything and I plan on soaking in every moment.

The Christmas season has always held a special place in my heart, but this year it means so much more because my husband and I can share our yearly traditions with our daughter as well as begin new. There is something so magical and cozy about chilly weather, twinkling lights, holiday carols and the anticipation for Santa.

As an adult, the magic of the season can become lost in the shuffle and lose its luster.

We become focused on shopping for the right gift, wondering if we have enough gifts, over-scheduling ourselves, and losing sight of the real reason for the season. I’m definitely guilty of this.

What I’ve discovered after having our daughter, however, is that the magic is rekindled and I am looking forward to Christmas with the anticipation I had as a little girl. I can’t wait to see the holidays through her eyes as she sees Christmas lights for the first time and hears her first holiday song.

She may not remember, but my husband and I will. Even though she is only a few weeks old, my daughter has taught me to slow down and look at life with a fresh perspective.

Oftentimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves to live a certain way or have things just right, but they don’t need to be as long as you are happy.

My Christmas decoration storage bins outnumber all of the other holiday totes.

Between family heirlooms and new items I’ve picked up along my travels, I always look forward to unveiling each one when the time comes. I usually spend the day after Thanksgiving transforming the house from fall to Christmas while listening to holiday music and snacking on Thanksgiving leftovers. My husband and I decorate the large tree, unpack and place all of the interior décor, and put lights on the exterior of the house. This year, however, we’ll do our best to accomplish what we can and I’ll be thrilled if only the tree makes it up.

It’s not about how many decorations are displayed, or how many dozen cookies are baked, it’s about spending time and making memories with loved ones. You don’t need to have a newborn and it doesn’t need to be a holiday to apply this thought process to everyday life. I find myself expecting life to be as ideal as possible and the reality is that it already is in its own perfectly, imperfect way. I have a roof over my head, wonderful family and friends, and our sweet little girl to share this journey with so in reality, I already have it all.

In the off chance I have some free time between diaper changes, feedings and laundry, there are a few fun holiday traditions I’d love to start with my new little family. These traditions aren’t specifically for baby’s first Christmas, but apply to anyone wanting to add fun new memories to the holiday season.

• Spend some dough: Create a salt dough ornament for the tree using baby’s footprint or handprint. You could apply the same idea with a pet’s paw, a new home key, or fingerprints of each family member.

• Get ready for bed: Start a tradition of opening new Christmas-themed pajamas and watching a holiday movie on Christmas Eve.

• Selfies anyone?: Have holiday-themed family photos taken for a Christmas card.

• The Mall Santa: Take a photo of baby’s first visit to see Santa. Taking pets to see Jolly Old Saint Nick or re-creating Santa photos with older children or spouses is a great way to make new memories.

• Charity begins: As our daughter grows, I think it’s important for her to understand the importance of giving rather than receiving so I would love to start a tradition where she chooses toys and donates them to children in need.

• Decorate cookies: Baking holiday treats with family is one of my most treasured memories. Gather family and friends to bake classic family recipes or try new ones. You can also prebake holiday-shaped sugar cookies and have everyone come over to decorate them.

Children and adults of all ages can participate. Make decorating more interesting with a competition and include a holiday prize for the winner.

• Let the countdown begin: Start a holiday countdown with an advent calendar. Since our daughter is too young for chocolates and I’d have to eat them myself, I like the idea of starting a holiday themed book countdown where we open and read a new holiday story each night. Books can be pricey so utilize holiday books from your childhood, if you have some, or purchase them from a consignment shop. You can also get creative and use candies, mini bottles of wine for adults, ornaments, or small toys such as Legos for kids.

• Community events: Attend a tree-lighting ceremony or drive around neighborhoods to look at the lights. Make it extra fun by packing thermoses of hot chocolate and candy canes to enjoy along the way.

• Most important meal of Christmas Day: Make a special Christmas morning breakfast. I will always remember my mom baking warm cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. The sweet cinnamon smell filled the house and, it was a treat we didn’t have often so I looked forward to it every year.

• Letters to Santa: Have your child write a letter to Santa and keep a copy for a special binder you can gift when they are older.

From my new little family to yours, we wish you a safe and joyous holiday season! May you find time to savor the true magic of the season with loved ones and create new memories for generations to follow.

Heather Lancaster is an interior designer with experience in high end residential, commercial and model home design. She graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2009 and currently designs model homes for Model Home Interiors in Elkridge, Maryland, as well as local freelance projects. This story was originally published December 2018 in Allegany Magazine.

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