How to Enjoy the Holidays as a Single Mom
Much like at Thanksgiving, the holidays can also be tricky to navigate for a single mom. Each holiday season presents the various challenges of co-parenting, personal finances and busy schedules, but you can still enjoy this festive time of year with a little planning and mindfulness.
I’m coming up on my fourth Christmas as a single mother and I’m still figuring out what works best for my family, as well as for the equally important matter of my own wellness and self-care.
There is no perfect solution to the inevitable ups and downs in life, and that includes co-parenting with an ex-spouse or ex-partner over the holidays. Sometimes it can be downright difficult, and at other times it can be truly rewarding. The key is to prepare yourself for anything and be flexible when plans don’t go…as planned.
Whether you are kid-free, kid-full or a mix of both, I hope these suggestions help calm the chaos and allow you and your kiddos to enjoy a wonderful and festive holiday season.
Being Kid-Free During the Holidays
So much of the holidays are focused on their magic, joy and wonderment for children, so not having our kids with us during this special time can be a sad and often lonely experience for a single mom. If you find yourself without your kids, I suggest the following to allow yourself to still enjoy the season.
Don’t isolate yourself. The holidays can be a challenge for anyone, parents or not, but when we totally isolate ourselves from others, we sometimes only make the loneliness worse. Even if you don’t feel like celebrating the holidays without your kids there, you should make a concerted effort to spend time with other single parents, friends or extended family as an act of self-care. This face-to-face time with others can be therapeutic, especially if you’re spending it with people who can personally relate to your situation.
Host a celebration. Why not host a party of your own? Invite your single mom friends who are kid-free this year to a night of cocktails, games or conversation and catching up on current events. Spending time with adult friends is just as healthy and important as family time, so maybe this can even become a new holiday tradition for you.
Resist comparisons. When we’re alone on the holidays it is far too easy to hop on social media and compare our lives to those of others. Consider avoiding social media altogether during the holiday season. This will help you avoid falling into the “comparison trap” and allow you to focus on the present and live in the moment.
Hosting a Full House for the Holidays
If these holidays are your year to spend with the kids, a little planning may help ease the stress that can sneak up on a single mom if we’re not careful. You’re meant to enjoy the time with your children, so make sure you do.
Budget, budget, budget. If your kids are anything like mine, their gift wish lists are longer than Santa’s beard. Writing out a total spending budget based on your single mom income, and then breaking that total down on a per-child basis will help ease the stress of worrying about what gifts you can afford. There is nothing worse than overspending in December just to feel financial pain in January.
Easy meals. When the house is full during the holidays, you’ll need to stock more food to feed more people. Many of them will be young and energetic, so you’ll also need to fuel yourself to keep up. Planning easy snacks and meals ahead of time will make life easier for you when the holidays are in full swing. Spending too much time in the kitchen isn’t exactly where any of us want to be while the kids are visiting, so pre-packed or easy-to-make snacks and meals are the way to go. After all, the big, traditional holiday feast isn’t a requirement for making the holidays fun and festive. In fact, it may be a neat change of pace for the holidays to change up meals to more kid-friendly dishes, like tacos or spaghetti. This will also help with budget considerations as well.
Be Flexible With Your Time, and Plan Well
Some years we may find ourselves hosting our children for a few hours, a few sporadic days, or a mix of both during the holiday season. This is when we must put our “flexibility muscles” to the test and make the best out of what time we’re given with our kids.
Slim down expectations. If you find yourself allotted only a few hours with your kids on a holiday, slim down what you would normally do if you had more time. For example, if you typically have each kid open their presents one at a time, instead you might allow all your kids to go at it all at once. While it can be hard to change tried-and-true traditions, new traditions are inevitable when two families are involved. If you are calm and having fun, your kids are likely to be content and happy as well.
Different activities on different days. For those of us who will have our children here and there over the holidays, try scheduling gift-giving, meals and activities on separate days so that each day is both special and less stressful. Rushing to fit everything in will just result in unnecessary pressure on everyone. Remember, you are meant to enjoy the holidays and have fun.
As a single mom, you’re strong, resilient, and perfectly capable of handling anything thrown your way. Whatever your plans for you and your family this season, I have no doubt that you will pull it off beautifully and truly enjoy the holidays.
Happy and healthy holidays to you all!