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How To Get Through Thanksgiving As A Single Mom

How To Get Through Thanksgiving As A Single Mom

This year will mark my third Thanksgiving as a single mom. 

The holiday season certainly brings about thoughts of times when my family was all together and how very different the dynamic of my family is today. 

As each year passes, it does get easier accepting my “new normal”, but I will admit that it still presents its challenges.

Every holiday as a single parent is a dance. Some years, our kids are away from us on special days and sometimes they are all ours. Single parenting can be both structured and fluid because life is unpredictable and ever-changing. That is the most challenging part of navigating between two families. The ultimate goal, however, is to provide our kids the best possible experience we can.

I’ve learned a lot since that first Thanksgiving three years ago. Today, I’m sharing what parts of Thanksgiving as a single parent have and haven’t worked for me and my family, in the hopes that it can offer some insight and inspiration to yours.

Alone On Thanksgiving

For the years that our children are away with their other parent on Thanksgiving, whether that be for multiple days or a single day, it’s easy to slip into a sad, lonely state. I’ve been there. Not knowing what to do on that day, other than thinking about the old memories of how it once was. 

It’s okay to feel sad and/or angry about these life changes. That is part of the healing process. Time will allow us to slowly transition into new activities and habits during our time alone on Thanksgiving. Here are some suggestions to make this day special, even when our children are away.

Invite other single moms for a Thanksgiving dinner: Finding a community of single moms can be an amazing resource of strength and support, especially around the holidays.

Offer to host a lunch or dinner with other moms who find themselves without their children, too, and ask each one to bring a dish to cut down on time spent in the kitchen (so there is more time to chat). 

Spend time with extended family: If you have extended family nearby or even in another state, make plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. This offers the chance to reconnect and receive the necessary love you’ll certainly need while your children are gone.

Volunteer: Moms are natural nurturers, so when our children are away, we may seek comfort in volunteering our services in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter or by visiting an elderly community.

There are many people in our cities who are alone with no family to lean on during the holidays. With the Thanksgiving holiday being so food-focused, this, too, can become a challenge for those who have little to no income for a home-cooked meal. Helping our communities by simply showing up to spread cheer and offer service is a wonderful way to remember just how grateful we are for the family and life we do have.

Full House On Thanksgiving

Oh, how I love the years when my kids are with me on Thanksgiving! Since this only happens every other year for my family, I like to make it a fun and memorable experience. Having said that, I try not to work myself up to unrealistic expectations, as I feel the most important part of each holiday is spending time (i.e. being present) with my children and not being holed up in the kitchen.

Making new traditions: Creating new traditions, while keeping some of the old comforts of existing ones after divorce can be a fun way to make Thanksgiving different for each household.

These new traditions can include changing up the menu (tacos instead of turkey!), playing board games after eating, or spending some time doing activities outside (if the weather allows).

Easy meal: Even if you choose to do a full-on traditional Thanksgiving meal, perhaps purchase some store-bought items to cut down on the prep and cooking time. The time we get with our children as single moms is precious, so we certainly want to take advantage of these moments.

You may even consider using disposable cups, plates and cutlery to cut down on dishes. Any corners you can cut that save some time with our kids are certainly worth it!

Keep your budget in mind:  For many single parents, the holidays can bring our finances to the forefront. A big Thanksgiving meal can become quite expensive rather quickly if we’re not cognizant of it.

Some ideas to cut down costs is to purchase one non-perishable Thanksgiving item during each grocery shopping visit during the months leading up to November (to make a “stash” for later), choosing one meat item instead of two (ham versus turkey, etc), and asking for assistance from local food banks. There’s no shame in accepting help or cutting back compared to past Thanksgiving celebrations. The important part of the holiday season is spending time with those we love, not the number of menu items offered (which can become quite excessive).

Two Thanksgiving On The Same Day

Some years, co-parenting during the holidays can mean a lot of back and forth to different households, even on the same day.

If you find yourself having your children for just a few hours on Thanksgiving, you may consider some less-orthodox options.

Celebrate on another day: If possible, schedule your family Thanksgiving meal for another day around the holiday. This way, the kids (and you) don’t feel rushed to pull something together in such a short amount of time and the kids aren’t duplicating the Thanksgiving experience back-to-back on the same day.

Reduce the stress: If you do decide to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal with just a few hours with the kids, simplify the day so that there is less stress in the home.

Some ideas for cutting out Thanksgiving stress can include purchasing ready-made meals that can be easily heated up, preparing meals the night before, or cutting back on traditional menu items (side items can usually be scaled down).

Thanksgiving as a single mom can be a wonderful, magical experience if we allow it to be! With a little planning, thoughtfulness, and grace (that we give ourselves), we can create amazing memories for our children that they’ll remember forever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About The Author

Amy Bellgardt

Amy Bellgardt dove into the blogging world in 2008 as a way to connect with other mothers in the online space. Fast forward to 2022 and she’s the lifestyle blogging powerhouse behind - a trendy blog for moms that includes articles on parenting, food, crafting, travel, and social good initiatives. Amy lives in Oklahoma with her two sons, 22 and 14.

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