Ah, the holidays! The commercials love to tell tall tales of cheer and goodwill. Images of happy families with pearly white grins gathered around a perfectly browned turkeys served by a beautiful, not at all sweaty, hostess. Ha! Because apparently there’s nothing wrong with setting (yet another) unrealistic standard for moms and families to live up to. I would like to take this opportunity to call total BS. If your holiday looks like this and you aren’t crying inside, good for you. You can now move on to another blog. But if you’re like me, with a fulfilling but less than ideal life, toting around a kid on your own, dealing with people you might love but don’t always like…well this is for you folks. Here are some lessons (learned from the trenches) for how to actually enjoy the holidays as a single parent.
1. Stop comparing to your old holidays (or any unrealistic version)
First and most critical. Stop comparing what you have now with what you had. And while we’re at it, stop comparing to what you think you should have too. And this goes for every mom, not just the single ones. Life is too short to live someone else’s holiday.
Comparing (with anything for that matter) will always make you feel bad. If you are a single mom, chances are you didn’t plan on this. It doesn’t do anyone any good to compare to what you wish you had. So just promise to stop it.
My first holidays as a single mom sucked big fat [fill in creative body part]. And they sucked because all I could think of was what I had, and what I thought I should’ve had. The truth is my one-year-old didn’t care that we couldn’t afford a tree that year. She didn’t care that our “turkey” was a chicken. She didn’t care that Christmas was spent with only a handful of people. My child didn’t care about any of that because she was loved, warm, and happy. And that folks is a big ol’ dose of single mama wisdom!
2. Pave your own way with new traditions
So now that you’ve told your holidays of yesteryear to f&%k off, start thinking about what you will do instead. There are no rules folks. No Christmas spirit of holiday expectations is going to kick down your door if you deviate from tradition.
This is actually my favorite part of the holidays as a single mom. I can do whatever I like. No more in-laws to impress. No husband demanding food that requires me slaving away for 6 hours. No more pretending to like, eat, or do things I actually hate, only to impress people I don’t really like.
Do what works for you and your little ones. Be creative and make up your own unique traditions. Your kids will remember time spent together more than any fancy presents.
Our new Halloween tradition is a day at Knott’s Spooky Farm (a local amusement park here in California) with my daughter and my brother who dotes on her like no one else. It was honestly the best Halloween ever.
For my first Thanksgiving as a single mom, my friends and I had an awesome single mom’s potluck. We all brought food, drank wine, and laughed till our sides hurt. It was so much better than the rigid events of years before!
3. Make sure your plans are doable
Sure I’d love to cook the entire meal, bake three pies, tablescape like Martha, and look stunning at the end of the day…but that’s a dream that will never see the light of day. Doing it all and being a parent is tough. Really tough. So please don’t make plans that require you to jump through flaming hoops. Stress shouldn’t be mandatory for the holidays. Leave that shit for the gals with no kids and expendable income.
Plan what is budget friendly and doable. Focus on the relationships and being happy.
Doing just that has given me some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. I no longer care about tablescapes, or pairing cheese and wine. I don’t spend hours trying not to look like a frazzled mom, cleaning the house, or buying “perfect” gifts for people who probably never liked me to begin with. Nope.
Instead I handmake all my gifts with love, write thoughtful cards to people who truly care about me, and take lots of pictures of those moments with friends and family who don’t care what my makeup looks like.
Yeah, my scrawny silver foil Target Christmas tree doesn’t look anything like the majestic 10-foot tall noble fir that graced my former Christmas (and required three people to set up). But damn it, my baby girl loves that little silver tree, and she’s ridiculously happy decorating it with her adoring mama.
4. Let go of past hurts and leave out unsupportive people
This is a biggie for a lot of folks. The holidays tend to remind us of what we had, what we don’t have, and who’s hurt us. I fell into this trap too. With all the warm and fuzzy expectations, it’s hard not to.
Now I don’t recommend you bury all that stuff deep down; that’s no good either. But I do suggest you deal with your feelings in digestible bites until you are as whole as you can be. Preferably BEFORE the holidays. You also need to surround yourself with people that support you.
Remember that people who would break your spirit are themselves broken. People who hurt you aren’t worth your tears. You are an amazing person, and no jackass should ever make you forget that.
One way I worked through the emotions of a life imploded was by writing. You can read more about how I healed myself with writing here.
If you must deal with people you don’t like, then make it quick and simple. Don’t hang on their every word, opinion, or latest shiny object/project. They don’t matter to your world so don’t waste precious energy thinking about them or analyzing the non-existent meaning of something they’ve said. I get that this is easier said than done, but I promise, the freedom from not giving a shit about assholes who don’t care about you is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
5. Focus on what matters
You saw this coming, but here’s a reminder. Life is short. Enjoy every day you have with those you love. Cherish every moment with the children who will too soon be grown up. Take the holidays as a chance to gush about the people who’ve stuck by you through the drama, supported you through the aches, and loved you no matter what.
Because when you have hit the sunset of your life it won’t be those damn tablescapes you remember. You’ll remember the people who lit up your heart, hugged you with every part of their soul, and showed you what real love feels like.
Happy holidays single mamas, single papas, and all you happy families!
So what do you do to make the holidays more enjoyable? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Until next time! Hugs!