I never thought I would spend holidays without my kids. I wanted to be the mom with the perfectly crafted holiday cupcakes, not the mom who has to miss out on celebrations! When we were going through our divorce, the reality hit me hard that there were going to be some moments in my children’s lives when I couldn’t be there, and that was going to have to be okay.
The first year, it was hard to let my kids go celebrate a family holiday without me. Co-parenting at the holidays has its ups and downs, and the holidays can trigger some emotions for sure! What didn’t occur to me that first year was how much I would start to look forward to this little break over the holidays. Whether this is your first holiday or your 20th without your kids, here are a few things that may help you shift your perspective and start to look forward to the holidays in a new light.
- Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions come up. It’s okay to feel sad, or angry, or lonely. Pushing those emotions away will only make them creep up on you later, so if you need to have a good cry in the shower or work out to get some of your anger out, do it! I’m not saying you should wallow in misery for a week straight, but a good cry for 30 minutes doesn’t hurt, and it may even make you feel better!
- Treat yourself to something that brings you joy! What’s your “thing”, mama? A chick flick and a glass of wine? Bubble bath? Long run? Mani/pedi? Whatever it is, find something that makes you smile and treat yourself to it. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to count, it can be something as simple as cleaning the house as soon as your kids leave, and enjoying a clean house for a whole three days! Self-care is important, for you married mamas too. Remember, martyrs don’t make good mamas!
- Accept an invitation from a friend, co-worker or family member who has invited you to dinner, and actually show up. Listen, I know it can be daunting. When I am in a funk, or even just enjoying some solid alone time in my kid-free hours, the idea of putting on pants, brushing my hair and leaving my fortress of solitude seems overwhelming. But it does add a sense of normalcy to a holiday to venture out and be with people. Netflix and frozen pizza may sound appealing, but I have found that the people who invite you over do it because they love you and want to help you through this. Please let them! You don’t have to stay forever, but a couple hours out and about may help the time go faster.
- Talk with your kids while they are gone, if possible. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, but a quick FaceTime or phone call to say you love them and you are looking forward to seeing them will help you both! Being away from you is probably hard on them too; this is a change for them and sometimes kids even feel guilty enjoying their time away from you. Let them know you want them to have fun and be happy, and you are thinking of them.
- Make a plan or start a tradition to look forward to when you are back together. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my kids and I have a PJ and Pancake party for dinner and watch Christmas movies after we have caught up on everything that happened while they were gone. All three of us look forward to it every year and reminding myself that very soon, my house will be loud and chaotic, slightly sticky, and full of laughter, helps me to enjoy the downtime when I have it.
I am sure there are a million other tips that single moms could offer on making the best of their kid-free time. I’d love to hear how you handle it, or if you have any fun traditions my kids and I need to add to our list!