Dear 'GMA' Advice Guru: Carla Barnhill

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Carla Barnhill from Minneapolis, Minn, is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her response to a viewer-submitted question below!

Question from Meredith in Colorado Springs, Co.:

The holidays are an especially hectic and stressful time of year for me and my husband. I come from divorced parents, which is a balancing act year-round, and my husband lost his mother several years ago, which is always difficult around the holidays. This Christmas, on top of the usual craziness, I am pregnant and will have my paternal grandparents in town as well! How can we maximize time spent with all of our family without stressing me (and subsequently the baby)?

Carla's Answer:

Meredith,

Okay seriously, I'm a little stressed out just reading your question. Clearly, something needs to change. And you're wise to make those changes now before your precious--and undoubtedly very popular--baby arrives and makes the holidays even more complicated.

Just for a moment, let me be the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come. We're looking at you and hubby and your sweet potato pie of a baby this time next year. You know what we see? Insanity. Everyone wants in on Baby's First Christmas and you find yourself with a crabby little bunny who's had too many strange people holding her and not enough naptime. You're exhausted because, well you just are. Your dear husband is dealing with a new layer of grief as he misses his mother's presence in his child's life. The whole month of December has been a blur and you hit January having missed out on everything you were looking forward to.

Now back to Christmas Present. You're on the edge of one of life's odd little shifts. Until now, you and your husband have been the "children" in the holiday scenario. You've worked hard to accommodate your parents and fit into the traditions and expectations they've created. But now you're the soon-to-be parents. It's time to take the reigns and create your own traditions, the ones your child will celebrate with you.

Think of this year as a dress rehearsal for what you want your holidays to look like from now on. Sit down with your husband and do some daydreaming. How do you picture Christmas Eve with your child? Christmas morning? What traditions from your childhoods do you want to recreate? What are some meaningful ways to remember your husband's mother and other loved ones during the season?

Once you have a vision for how your family celebration would play out, come up with simple--emphasis on the simple--ways to incorporate your extended families. You don't want to ace them out of course, but it's okay for them to find ways to fit into your life instead of the other way around. Invite your grandparents over for coffee one day and treat them to lunch at a nice restaurant another. If your parents can handle being in the same room for a few hours, ask them to join you for bagels on Christmas morning or a bowl of chili on Christmas afternoon. Find ways to include your father-in-law so he's not alone during this difficult time of year. Start with low-key options and add on if and only if you find you want to spend more time with family.

Whatever you do, make sure you don't wear yourself out. Take naps when you can and don't feel bad about leaving a party early or arriving late. We women have very few genuine opportunities to ignore our ridiculous need to make everyone happy and being pregnant is one of them.

Your parents and grandparents might balk a bit at these changes, but they love you and will eventually understand that your role is shifting--and so it theirs.

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