Becoming a Mom Changes Everything -- Including Thanksgiving

mother setting table with baby

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. I love my tradition of going to my hometown in Florida and having a huge, decadent meal of predictable entrees and sides made with love by each member of my immediate family.


Prep begins the night before, with my mom marinating a massive turkey in a brine and checking off all the ingredients she needs for dishes like her epic sweet potato casserole, topped with toasted coconut flakes and marshmallows (trust me, it's incredible). Early the next morning, my dad meticulously seasons, stuffs, and starts roasting the bird.

Closer to dinner, I whip up my contribution -- a pumpkin pie from scratch. My mother, by all accounts the Latina Martha Stewart, sets up her gorgeous, autumn-themed DIY centerpieces, candleholders, table runner, and place mats. Then my older sister arrives, predictably late, with her hubby, three kids, and signature green bean casserole.

There's no major family drama. Just good eats and some innocent ribbing amongst parents and their offspring.

But this year's different.

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This year I'm a mom. And I won't be with the fam in Florida. (The only other time I skipped Thanksgiving with them was when I spent the holiday in Paris; forgivable, right?)

The break with tradition isn't simply because I have a baby. It's more of a timing thing. My fiancé (whose parents also live in Florida) and I will already be traveling down for our baby Isabella's first birthday, which is the day after Christmas. Plus, my mother made the ultimate sacrifice this year by spending baby's first 10 months with us in New York, so she could be her nanny. She'll return home in early December.

I guess this means it's time to start our own Thanksgiving traditions. And I'll admit the thought of that is more than a little overwhelming. After becoming a mom, taking on -- and fully embracing -- the matriarch role of a holiday like this one is another level of "growing up" that I'm still figuring out.

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Did I mention my mother is like the queen of domesticity? I didn't inherit her passion for homemaking, cooking, and crafting. Baking a pie by following a simple recipe, I can handle. Roasting a 12-pound turkey to perfection, in addition to getting all the sides on the table looking and smelling fantastic, is a little trickier.

But it's about more than food prep and table settings. You see, in my household, I was the one who couldn't wait to leave the nest and explore the world. Starting a family was an idea so far on the back burner it fell off the stove. My priorities had always revolved around moving to New York for my career pursuits, experiencing different cultures, and savoring my independence. It wasn't all great all the time, but it meant I called the shots about everything in my life. And I liked it that way.

Now that Isabella is here, it isn't just about me anymore. I have a little human to raise. That is, until she discovers her own independence -- hopefully many, many years down the line. For now, as I prepare to host our first big feast, I'll be lucky that Mom (and, of course, Isabella's daddy) will be on hand to help make sure I don't forget essential ingredients, give myself enough time for side dishes, and avoid overcooking or undercooking anything. I think I'll skip the elaborate table decor my mom's known for. That can be her thing. And my daughter will get to experience Grandma's talents soon enough.

Moving forward, I'll try to focus less on being as good as my mother at killing it as a hostess, and more on simply getting my new family's favorite comfort foods on the table. I also want Isabella to learn to appreciate the sentiment behind Thanksgiving.

Be thankful for family. Nothing's more important.


Valerie Berrios is a Brooklyn-based first-time mom to a baby girl. She's never been one to squeal with joy at the sight of little ones, but after giving birth, she realized she was more maternal than she thought. When she's not chasing after her increasingly mobile child, you'll find her writing and editing, squeezing in Pilates, checking out foodie and cultural events in NYC, and rooting for the NY Rangers.

Image via Gagne

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