Dear Single Mama at the Holiday Season,
It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. But as a single parent, the holiday season can be especially trying. I feel you. I see you. And I’m sending a big virtual hug.
This is the time of year when memories come back to haunt us and the future seems either too uncertain or too certain. This is the time of year when co-parenting can seem like torture and loneliness creeps in like dust on the shelves. This is the time of year when everywhere you look you are presented with perfect pictures of perfect families celebrating together. From marketing at every possible angle to Facebook and Instagram feeds … you are surrounded by pictures of what the perfect family is supposed to look like. And odds are, it looks like something you may have had at one point or what you envisioned for yourself, but does not look like your current reality. It can be really hard and really sad.
I want you to know I see you trying. I see you trying to make a perfect holiday season for your kids. Whether it’s budgeting for presents or biting your tongue when co-parenting gets difficult, I see you. I see you trying to smile at the families you see out celebrating. I see you neglecting your own self care and your own personal growth. I see you trying to do for others often at the expense of yourself. I see you sometimes doubting yourself and your self worth.
And I’m telling you to FUCK that.
Fuck the beautiful pictures of 2 parent families with fluffy dogs and 2.5 children. Fuck the insensitive comments others make. Fuck the societal stereotypes that single moms are destined to be lonely and destined to struggle. It doesn’t have to be that way and you don’t have to be part of the sad story our society tells about single moms – especially at the holiday season.
Trash the guilt and take care of yourself
You don’t have to reside in painful memories. Think about the gift you’ve been given to rewrite your future. Your future is truly a blank slate – what will you fill it with? Use this time of the year to consider what you want for your future. Don’t feel guilty for putting yourself back on the priority list. A well cared for mommy is a happy mommy, is a good mommy. You deserve to take care of yourself and your kids deserve it too.
Maybe you travel to a spa, read a book and sip on tea all day, or take a day completely to yourself and binge watch Netflix while snuggled under a blanket. Whatever you do, single mama (or papa), don’t let guilt follow you around. You deserve some time to yourself and for yourself.
Don’t let loneliness win
Co-parenting at the holidays can be very lonely and a little bit heartbreaking, especially if it’s a new arrangement for your family. Don’t let loneliness take away the joy you deserve. Time and again we hear about the benefits of community and spending time with loved ones. If you have time away from your kids, don’t wallow in loneliness and heartbreak. Make a point to be around others and celebrate the end of the year and holiday season in a way that brings you joy and community. Volunteer, travel, visit an old friend. Try to find the positive in difficult co-parenting situations by doing something that puts a smile on your face and honors the time you have without your children.
It can be very, very tempting to focus on difficulty surrounding the holidays as a single parent. After all, the reality of your situation is often very clearly contrasted to the ideals we see in our culture about this time of the year. But don’t let negativity win. Yes, it’s as simple as that. You don’t have to focus on the negative. And a great way to make sure you’re focusing on the positive is to practice gratitude. Spend some time meditating on the things you are grateful for, begin a new tradition of a gratitude journal, fill a mason jar with slips of paper expressing gratitude and review often, send cards to loved ones detailing your gratitude … the possibilities are endless and you will probably be surprised by all the beauty and joy in your life when you take the moment to practice gratitude.
Show care, heal wounds
Some things get easier with time. As you begin to heal from divorce, it will become easier to show care for your ex. Believe me, I know how hard it can be to let go of anger and hurt. I also know that showing a little bit of compassion and care, especially during the holiday season, can go a long way toward healing wounds. This may look like simply wishing happy holidays in a text, refusing to fight over small things, giving in a little bit when it comes to requests for extra time or changing co-parenting arrangements, giving gifts … it really depends on your situation, but lean into kindness and care and away from anger and resentment. It may be difficult, but you will probably be pleasantly surprised by how wonderful it makes you feel knowing you are being the bigger person and acting out of kindness.
Mama, have a beautiful holiday season. Love yourself and love your kids. Celebrate the end of the year knowing you are doing your best everyday, taking stock of where you are, and making plans for where you want to go.
My best, Ashley