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It’s Ok If Your First Post-Divorce Holiday Doesn’t Look Like It ‘Should’

You’re doing so much better than you think.

Originally Published: 
Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Stocksy
Hilarity Of The Holidays

For three years, Christmas morning looked like it was “supposed” to look. A husband, two kids, and a scrappy-and-adorable family dog all sitting around the tree in the living room. The fireplace was turned on and Frank Sinatra sang “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire” in the way only he can. The scent of cinnamon rolls and coffee filled our small city cottage.

Of course, sibling arguments — and quick makeup sessions — were interspersed throughout the day, but overall, Christmas was, as usual, a pretty magical day.

It was one of those days in which we weren’t interrupted by work and all focus was on family and making memories. And then, they stopped being magical in their “typical” way, because my husband and I divorced.

Being a single mom is no easy feat. And while not everyone has the same struggles with divorce, I had a really difficult time in the months after we separated.

That first Christmas — just a few short months post-divorce — was tumultuous. For the first time, Christmas morning didn’t look like it was supposed to look — not yet at least. Where there was supposed to be a husband and a scrappy-and-adorable family dog, there was sunlight cascading into the apartment living room with a newly purchased flocked-pencil Christmas tree. It was loud with kid squeals and music in the background but it was so…quiet. Where there were supposed to be visits to extended family, there was a need to stay put. To stay home and show myself I can do hard things like a single-Mom-Christmas-morning, and that I can make new memories, positive ones, with my new family unit.

I remember how hearing my then-young kids call for me that Christmas morning made me instantaneously tear up. I remember them seeing me tear up and initially wanting to hide it. But I didn’t. I told them in kid-friendly terms that I was feeling a bit sad and also so happy, and that it’s okay for me to feel this way. I told them I love them very much. The truth is, I felt so grateful for these little humans and also so worried that I wouldn’t be enough for them. That Mommy wouldn’t be enough and Christmas might be a flop this year.

That first Christmas, I pulled out the store-bought cinnamon rolls, as I didn’t have the energy to make them from scratch. What I did have the energy for, though, was pulling out the red and green decorative frosting and Christmas sprinkles I had picked up at the grocery store a few days prior.

I let the kids pile on the icing and use half the container of sprinkles. I let the kids consume it all without a smidge of sugar-guilt. I snapped photos of the whole thing and caught myself laughing, and them laughing in return, with green-dyed teeth and tongues and red icing lipstick, or rather “cheek-stick”.

Without words, they were telling me I’m more than enough. They were telling me we were all going to be okay and they believed in me. So I’m telling you, you are more than enough. I am more than enough, and your first single Mom Christmas with all the highs and lows, does not make it a failure.

It’s perfectly normal, on your first single-mom Christmas, to be both sad and overwhelmed, and for your kids to still have a magical Christmas. I want single moms to know those complicated emotions are felt by other single moms experiencing their first Christmas without their children’s father. And it’s okay to not be okay this holiday season.

Permit it. Permit yourself to be deeply sad on Christmas as you’re building your new practices and determining what is and is not for you in this time of rebirth.

So to the newly single mom this Christmas, look for the joy mixed in with the sadness, and risk vulnerability by reaching out to family or friends to let them know how you are feeling and what you might need. For me, I didn’t want to be around anyone other than my own two kids. For you, it could be different. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing so much better than you think.

Meg Raby is a mom, children's author of the My Brother Otto series, and Autistic residing in Salt Lake City where you can find her playing and working with neurodivergent children as a Speech Language Pathologist and friend, or writing and planning big things in the second booth at her local coffee shop that overlooks the Wasatch Mountains while sipping on her Americano. Meg believes the essence of life is to understand, love and welcome others (aka, to give a damn about humans).

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