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The holiday season is supposed to be merry and bright, but due to the high cost of the holidays and the interpersonal "politics" of things like gifting, shopping and entertaining, it can also be filled with friction between family, friends and loved ones.

A recent Bankrate survey found that 45% of Americans feel compelled to go beyond their comfort zones when buying holiday gifts, and it turns out women are significantly more likely to feel pressured to overspend—moms especially!

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite tips to help manage the pressure and stress of the holidays so you can actually relax this holiday season without worrying about your finances.

1. Look for the best holiday travel deals—but avoid hidden fees.

Holiday travel can get expensive quickly, especially if you're traveling with kids. Plane tickets add up fast, and it can be hard to keep kids occupied for long periods of time. To get around this, always hunt for holiday travel deals.

Websites like Hipmunk or KAYAK search multiple airline and travel sites at once, making sure you're getting the best deal on all your holiday travel. Remember to be careful of fares that might have hidden fees, though—lots of airlines have "basic economy" tickets now that don't allow you carry-ons or for you to choose your seats, and the last thing you want is to end up having to spread your family out across an airplane.

2. Split the cost of travel whenever you can.

Whenever you can, split the cost of travel with family who live nearby—after all, if you're all going to Grandma's for the holidays you might as well all go together. Renting a minivan or even an RV and playing road trip games on the way is a way to save money and keep your kids occupied at the same time.

Instead of constantly passing money around throughout the trip, let one person pay the cost of gas money or rental car charges and then split the costs. Points junkies will rejoice and the money will be in their bank account before their credit card bill is due. Plus, you'll all save on ATM fees if you're not withdrawing money in towns where your bank doesn't have a branch.

3. Skip the travel, share the party.

If you can, skip the travel entirely and host a party together at someone's home. This year, team up with family to host a higher quality get-together without going broke when you share the responsibilities, and the costs, instead of going out for a big expensive group dinner or trying to cover the costs of everything solo.

Not everyone is an A+ party planner though, so let everyone take on the responsibilities that best suit them. Maybe your aunt makes a mean mulled wine and your cousin would rather just pay for a cleaning service the next day or a babysitter who can keep kids occupied while the adults stay up past their bedtime.

4. Trade competitive gifting for collaborative gifting.

When it comes to gifting, this year is your opportunity to trade competitive gifting for collaborative gifting. When family open gifts together, it can get competitive—who put the most thought into a gift, who gave the most expensive gift, who spent the most time on a gift, or which kid got the most. These competitive moments contribute to so many of the reasons holidays are stressful for lots of moms and families.

Instead of competitive gifting, come together and decide on one higher value gift for each person, then divvy up the cost throughout the family, this way everyone gets equal credit and you can all stick to your budgets. Maybe your mom just wants a day at the spa, and you and your siblings can split the cost of a massage upgrade together. Or you can get your kids a single big gift from the entire family instead of several smaller gifts.

As you're looking at ways to make it through the holiday season with your finances intact, don't forget that the New Year is coming up rapidly. Make sure you come up with a spending plan for the next year before it starts—after all, you can't blow a budget you don't have.

Just like experts recommend an "eating plan" as a more long-term approach to dieting, I recommend a "spending plan" instead of a crash money diet. A sustainable spending plan is broken down into the three E's: Essentials (70% of your overall monthly budget for basic expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, insurances); Endgame (15% of your monthly budget for things for your future like savings accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts); and Extras (15% of your monthly budget for, well, whatever does it for you). Set this budget before the New Year starts and use whatever tools work for you to track your spending, and then set regular check-ins to make sure you're staying on track throughout the new year.

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Dear past me,

This is future you writing. The one who has been through the full nine months of pregnancy. The one who gave birth and breastfed and stayed up all night with a baby full of gas and sore gums. This isn't you, yet.

But it will be.

It's hard for you to fathom that you will become me. You look at other mothers, mothers with squirming 1-year-olds or rampaging toddlers, but all that seems so far away. You can't marry it together, your bump with those giggling, giddy kids. It seems miraculous that one will become the other. It's too hard to believe.

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But it will happen.

Right now you hold the baby inside of you. You are the only one who feels every kick as he wiggles and wriggles around. How can you begin to imagine how it will feel to pass that baby, that baby that inhabits you, that lives because you live, to someone else?

Sometimes it will be hard, to watch your precious little one getting passed around. He'll seem so vulnerable out there without your stretched skin protecting him inside the cocoon of your stomach. But it will also be wonderful.

Just wait. Just wait until your mother meets him for the first time, the little quiver in her voice as she tells you he's beautiful. It will remind you of the first time you brought your husband home to meet her, your boyfriend as he was then, and you knew that she knew that this man was special.

I know you dream of it, your husband holding his child, the child you brought into the world, for the first time. You imagine how it will feel to see them together. Will there be pride? Or worry? Will you feel happy? Will you feel put out?

Let me tell you.

You will feel all of those things, like watching a film in 3D high resolution with surround sound. Every emotion is more intense than ever before, so intense it is overwhelming. You'll apologize to your husband for taking the baby back because he's screaming and he probably needs feeding. You'll feel like your intruding on their life-affirming moment, when you ask your husband to pass him to you so you can try, again, to get him to latch on. The midwife will tell you not to apologize, that it's your responsibility to feed him and that's the priority. She's so sure and confident, even in the way she handles your precious newborn. That doesn't live inside you yet.

But it will.

Time will race away from you and, before you know it, you'll be spoon-feeding puréed vegetables from little Tupperware pots. You'll be tired. More tired than you are now when the baby kicks every time you get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

But time flies by.

And someday soon you will be me, the mother of a 2-year-old. It's the same baby you carried in your stomach, that made your belly wobble when he hiccupped and that kicked you when you drank orange juice. It's the same one you gave birth to, the one you brought home from the hospital and placed in the crib next to your bed on that first night in the house.

Yet, he's different now. He's more whole somehow, a proper little person. He doesn't know all the names for the parts of a face so when you call him a cheeky monkey, he strokes his chin and giggles. He loves wearing hats—bobble hats, summer hats, it doesn't matter which—and he pulls them off better than you ever could.

He's so perfect and wonderful and some days you'll feel like you're not good enough for him. You'll be utterly convinced that any moment he'll figure you out. "Mommy," you imagine him saying, "you're not that funny after all. And the activities you do with us aren't very exciting, no matter how hard you try and make buying bananas fun. Can I get a different mommy?" Of course, he'll never actually say this.

Because he loves you.

It was obvious from the start, in the way he used to look for you when someone else was holding him, searching you out in the room, making sure you were close by. He loved you when he gave you his first smile, his first giggle, his first step. I know you're worried you'll miss it because you have to go back to work, but he'll save it for you, the stumbling toddle across the room from mommy to daddy and back again. It will be your reward for making it through the first year of parenting. By the time he's two he'll treat you by telling you he loves you, stroking your face and smiling because that's what you do to him. He knows it means love.

All of this will come. Take my word for it; I'm the future you and I've lived it. But right now, enjoy these precious pregnancy moments because, even though it feels like it will never end, you won't be pregnant forever. Breathe every second of it in.

But also know this: the best is yet to come.



Love,

The future you

Life

I don't think anyone told me I was "glowing" either time I was pregnant. I'm not sure that is the word I would have used to describe me in the early months, either—nauseated is more like it, or tired. Add to that some extra-dry skin and acne like I hadn't had since middle school, and let's just say I wasn't feeling my most beautiful. Apparently I wasn't alone.

"Hormonal changes, and, of course, all the ways your life is changing, can lead to some unpleasant skin changes during pregnancy," says Diana Spalding, Motherly's Digital Education Editor, midwife and writer of The Mother Guide to Becoming Mama. "It's so easy to get dehydrated during pregnancy, which can lead to issues like dryness and itchiness. And nights spent tossing and turning (because how is anyone supposed to sleep with all those sweet baby kicks?!) can lead to dark circles."

If you're suffering from any of the common pregnancy skin issues, but you don't want to pile chemicals on your skin, there are natural, healthy pregnancy-safe makeup and skin care products out there for you. Some even contain treatment ingredients that could help alleviate your skin symptoms, all while covering them up in the meantime. It's also worth noting that the FDA maintains an updated list and categorization of ingredients used in beauty and cosmetic products women should avoid if they are pregnant. A few include: retin-a, hydroquinone, formaldehyde, dihydroxyacetone, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acids.

Just remember that sometimes itching skin can be a sign of a "serious complication known as cholestasis, so definitely check in with your midwife or OB before trying to treat the issue on your own," says Spalding.

The bottom line is, whatever your pregnancy skin care issues are, we've got you covered.

Here is what you need to fix eight common pregnancy skin problems:

For oily skin: RMS Beauty 'Un' Powder

Un Powder RMS BEAUTY

Sweaty? Oily? Yup, you can thank those pregnancy hormones for that! The RMS "un" powder can help! This ultra-fine, super-silky powder has only two ingredients (mica and silica—not to be confused with silicone) and will never give you a white cast. It's so sheer but so effective. We promise no one will know you're wearing powder.

$34

For dull skin: Plant Makeup Pink Rose Shimmer Balm

Plant Makeup\u2019s Pink Rose Shimmer Balm

Pregnancy can make a lady tired, and along with fatigue comes dull skin. Plant Makeup's Pink Rose Shimmer Balm to the rescue! Made by hand with French pink clay and pure natural mica, this very subtle balm moisturizes, highlights and adds a little sparkle. We love that it's not glittery, but rather reflects light for a hint of highlighting.

$3

For breakouts: Juice Beauty Photo Pigments Perfecting Concealer

Juice Beauty Phyto-pigments Perfecting Concealer

Oh, hello, pimples. We meet again. Juice Beauty's Photo Pigments Perfecting Concealer will mask your blemishes while healing them with organic coconut oil, known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties.

Editor tip: For best results, warm formula with finger or brush before application.

$25

​ For dry + itchy skin: Suntegrity 5 in 1 Tinted Face Suncsreen

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Tinted Face Sunscreen

Winter months can take a toll on your skin, and with low temps come flakes, bumps and cracks. And if you're pregnant, dry skin can during this time can be even worse. So how about a multitasking product that moisturizes, soothes and protects while providing a light tint for that no-makeup look? If you suffer from parched and dry skin during pregnancy, Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing face sunscreen is the product for you.

$45

For dark circles under eyes: W3ll People Bio Correcting Multi-Action Concealer

W3LL PEOPLE Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer

Tossing and turning at night because you cannot get comfortable? You know what that means. Dark circles and puffy eyes are sure to appear. We love W3LL PEOPLE Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer because it contains caffeine, so while the gorgeous mineral pigments cover those circles, the caffeine also depuffs your under-eye area.

$22.99

For capillaries + visible veins: Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

During pregnancy, your veins may make your body look like a country map. Nothing to worry about, your network of veins is actually here to carry your increasing blood supply and provide a support system to your growing baby. Unfortunately, you may also experience spider veins (also spider angiomas or spider nevi) on your face, which is also due to increased blood circulation. Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation is a serum-to-powder formula, almost like a multi-vitamin for your skin and provides seamless coverage.

$62

For dark brown spots: 14e Aloe Nourish Foundation

Aloe Nourish Foundation

Are you noticing, dark, blotchy brown spots on your cheeks and forehead? Blame it on an estrogen surge stimulating melanin production. Aloe Nourish Foundation by 14e Cosmetics provides medium, buildable coverage while leaving you feeling weightless with a satin semi-matte finish. It has only a few ingredients, and its base is aloe, which means it soothes as it covers.

$38

For tired eyes: Alima Pure Natural Definition Mascara

Alima Pure mascara

In my opinion, nothing wakes up a face like a good mascara. Alima Pure's Natural Definition Mascara makes one that's super-subtle, if you're not much of a makeup wearer and don't want to look like you suddenly went all-out.

$22

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides

When we buy baby gear we expect it to be safe, and while no parent wants to hear that their gear is being recalled we appreciate when those recalls happen as a preventative measure—before a baby gets hurt.

That's the case with the recent recall of Baby Trend's Tango Mini Stroller. No injuries have been reported but the recall was issued because a problem with the hinge joints mean the stroller can collapse with a child in it, which poses a fall risk.

"As part of our rigorous process, we recently identified a potential safety issue. Since we strongly stand by our safety priority, we have decided to voluntarily recall certain models of the Tango Mini Strollers. The recalled models, under excessive pressure, both hinge joints could release, allowing the stroller to collapse and pose a fall hazard to children. Most importantly, Baby Trend has received NO reports of injuries," the company states on its website.

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The strollers were sold through Amazon and Target in October and November 2019 and cost between $100 and $120. If you've got one you should stop using it and contact Baby Trend for a refund or replacement.

Four models are impacted by this recall:

  • Quartz Pink (Model Number ST31D09A)
  • Sedona Gray (Model Number ST31D10A)
  • Jet Black (Model Number ST31D11A)
  • Purest Blue (Model Number ST31D03A

"If you determine that you own one of these specific model numbers please stop using the product and contact Baby Trend's customer service at 1-800-328-7363 or via email at info@babytrend.com," Baby Trend states.

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[Editor's note: While Motherly loves seeing and sharing photos of baby Archie and other adorable babies when the images are shared with their parents' consent, we do not publish pictures taken without a parent's consent. Since these pictures were taken without Markle's permission while she was walking her dogs, we're not reposting them.]

Meghan Markle is a trendsetter for sure. When she wears something the world notices, and this week she was photographed wearing her son Archie in a baby carrier. The important thing to know about the photos is that they show the Duchess out for a walk with her two dogs while wearing Archie in a blue Ergo. She's not hands-free baby wearing, but rather wearing an Ergo while also supporting Archie with her arm, as the carrier isn't completely tight.

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When British tabloids published the pictures many babywearing devotees and internet commenters offered opinions on how Markle is holding her son in the photo, but as baby gear guru Jamie Grayson notes, "it is none of our business."

In a post to his Facebook page, Grayson (noted NYC baby gear expert) explained that in the last day or so he has been inundated with hundreds of messages about how Markle is wearing the carrier, and that while he's sure many who messaged with concerns had good intentions he hopes to inject some empathy into the conversation.

As Grayson points out, these are paparazzi photos, so it was a private moment not meant for world-wide consumption. "This woman has the entire world watching her every move and action, especially now that she and Harry are leaving the umbrella of the royal family, and I honestly hope they are able to find some privacy and peace. So let's give her space," he explains, adding that "while those pictures show something that is less than ideal, it's going to be okay. I promise. It's not like she's wearing the baby upside down."

He's right, Archie was safe and not in danger and who knows why the straps on Markle's carrier were loose (maybe she realized people were about to take pictures and so she switched Archie from forward-facing, or maybe the strap just slipped.)

Grayson continues: "When you are bringing up how a parent is misusing a product (either in-person or online) please consider your words. Because tone of voice is missing in text, it is important to choose your words carefully because ANYTHING can be misconstrued. Your good intentions can easily be considered as shaming someone."

Grayson's suggestions injected some much-needed empathy into this discourse and reminded many that new parents are human beings who are just trying to do their best with responsibilities (and baby gear) that isn't familiar to them.

Babywearing has a ton of benefits for parents and the baby, but it can take some getting used to. New parents can research safety recommendations so they feel confident. In Canada, where the pictures in question were snapped, the government recommends parents follow these safety guidelines when wearing infants in carriers:

  • Choose a product that fits you and your baby properly.
  • Be very careful putting a baby into—or pulling them out of—a carrier or sling. Ask for help if you need it.
  • When wearing a carrier or sling, do not zip up your coat around the baby because it increases the risk of overheating and suffocation.
  • Be particularly careful when using a sling or carrier with babies under 4 months because their airways are still developing.
  • Do not use a carrier or sling during activities that could lead to injury such as cooking, running, cycling, or drinking hot beverages.

Health Canada also recommends parents "remember to keep your baby visible and kissable at all times" and offers the following tips to ensure kissability.

"Keep the baby's face in view. Keep the baby in an upright position. Make sure the baby's face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier or sling, your body, or clothing. Make sure the baby's chin is not pressed into their chest. Make sure the baby's legs are not bunched up against their stomach, as this can also restrict breathing. Wear the baby snug enough to support their back and hold onto the baby when bending over so they don't fall out of the carrier or sling. Check your baby often."

Meghan Markle is a new mom who was caught off guard during a moment she didn't expect her baby to be photographed. Every parent (no matter how famous) has a right to privacy for their child and the right to compassion from other parents. If we want people to learn how to safely babywear we can't shame them for trying.

Mama, if you've been shamed for wearing your baby "wrong" don't feel like you need to stop. Follow the tips above or check in with local baby-wearing groups to get advice and help. You've got this.

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