Christmas with kids is a totally different ballgame to one without. Forget long afternoons in the pub sipping mulled wine, relaxing shopping trips interspersed with a boozy lunch, and elegant ice-skating with your girlfriends. Here’s Rachel Tompkins’s guide to surviving the festive period with babies and/children in tow…

Manage expectations (yours that is!)

If you expect it to be on a par with Christmases-gone-by in terms of boozing, partying and relaxing, then you’ll be bitterly disappointed. That’s not to say it won’t still be fantastic of course, but it’ll be a new fantastic. When you scroll through Facebook and suffer from FOMO at the sight of everyone else’s parties, remember that those early years go so fast that it really won’t be long before you’re back there. And in the meantime, you can feel slightly smug about the fact that maternity leave means that you don’t have to get roped into secret Santa, sleazy workmates, and the post-Christmas return to work dread!

Re-invent Christmas

Not the whole nativity – where would you start?! By ‘reinvent’, I mean think up new traditions and experiences that work for this stage of your life. Whether that’s finding a cozy pub that’s got space to park ten buggies in the corner while you and your mum mates indulge in a mulled wine, or taking the children ice-skating somewhere that has those plastic penguins that they can push around to avoid spending the whole session face-planting the ice. Now you’re a mum you’ve got the luxury (or stress) of making this time of year special in a way that suits your current life-stage.

Surrender to stereotypes

Pre-baby you may have eye-rolled at everyone else’s festive pictures of babies trussed up like turkeys in miniature Santa suits, toddlers sitting in front of mountains of presents (we all know they’ll be more interested in the box), and school kids standing in front of wonky Christmas trees. I, like many others, vowed never to curtail to such stereotypes. And then I had a baby and did exactly that. There were endless awkward mini Santa-suit selfies, the presents, the tree poses, the home-made cards, wrapping paper…you get the idea! Whether it’s hormones, or just because they’re your kids, for some reason you suddenly think it is cute. Your family usually do too (or they put on a good act if they don’t). And it gives you some good pics to fill the void of the usual office party ones, not to mention providing good bribery material for when your precious cherubs are older…

Treat yourself

Babies and children are like magnets to friends and family at Christmas. Suddenly, everyone wants to come to your house to see your little ones open their presents. If you spend the festive period hosting it’s hard work, so remember to make time to treat yourself too, whether that’s an express facial on Christmas Eve, or a relaxing bath while your guests mind the kids. And while it’s not advisable to drink too much when you’re breastfeeding, current NHS guidelines recommend that breastfeeding mothers have no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week. So you can still have a few Christmas tipples to get you in the spirit!

Be honest (ish)

We don’t do it enough in this country, but sometimes honesty really does make life easier. So if you’re hosting the whole family on Christmas Day but still want to be in bed by 9pm, tell them. Even if it’s not exactly the truth, sleep deprivation at the hands of a newborn is a great excuse to get rid of everyone – giving you and hubby some quiet time to watch the Strictly special!

Money doesn’t matter

OK, so it sort of does. But the point is that you soon realise that with children it’s not always the big, expensive things that make their Christmas special. When they’re young it’s the perfect time to introduce little rituals into their lives which will slowly become traditions. Whether that’s sprinkling the garden with sparkly reindeer food for Rudolph, (the biodegradable, non-metallic kinds that doesn’t hurt wildlife), or leaving Santa’s muddy boot prints in the hall, it’ll be these little things that provide a true sense of magic when all the toys have been long-outgrown.

@RachTompkins @mushmums