Holiday Survival Guide For Single Moms

by Michelle Dempsey
Originally Published: 
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For some, the holiday season is the most exciting time of the year. But as any new single mom knows, the holidays — more specifically, your first as a divorcée or newly single mom — are about as exciting as accidentally shaving off your eyebrows.

Only, after you shave off your eyebrows, there’s a guarantee that they’ll grow back.

Having separated just before springtime, I tried to follow everyone’s “take it one day at a time” advice. I wasn’t thinking about what the holiday season might feel like — I was just worried about breathing. And I did take things one day at a time, only because it was hard enough to survive each day as it was without having to worry about another one. I knew divorce wasn’t going to be easy. I’m not saying I wish my situation were different, but if I’m going to keep it really real, nothing has induced more anxiety in this new single mom world like having to plan for the holidays while riding solo.

Literally, nothing.

If you’re a single mom, you know this to be true, whether you’re a veteran or a first-timer. The holiday season as a single mom is scary for more reasons than just having no one to kiss under the mistletoe. It’s scary for the fact that your children will, undoubtedly, ask where your ex-spouse is and why they can’t open presents with him. Someone in your family will make a snide remark about how sad it is that you’re no longer a couple. Someone even more annoying in your family will ask, yet again, why you couldn’t just work it out. Or worse, what if you wake up on New Year’s Eve with nothing to do and nowhere to go?!

The list of things that will suck as you embark on your first holiday season without the family you thought you’d call your own forever is endless. Sorry, there’s just no way around that.

But look, no hubby to help you hang Christmas lights or pick up applesauce for the Hanukkah latkes is not the end of the world. Having to fend off invasive, passive-aggressive comments from your Great Aunt Misery is not so horrible.

But a shitty attitude in front of your children who have waited for the holiday time all year long is horrible, so buck up, buttercup.

Here are my seven tips for surviving the holidays as a single mom:

1. Accept what is.

Unless you’ve figured out how to turn back time, you’ve got no choice but to accept the cards you’ve been dealt. You are single, not dead, and you still have a responsibility as a parent to bring the holiday magic to your household this holiday season. Don’t ruin it for everyone by staying stuck in the what-ifs of life.

2. Enjoy a moment of pity (but only a moment).

I’m not expecting you to be superwoman. Lord knows life is hard enough without having to pretend like hearing about your best friend’s holiday plans doesn’t make you want to pull a Britney Spears circa 2007. Be sad, be lonely, be whatever you need to be — but only allow yourself to host said pity party for a short time. You can’t heal without grieving, but you also can’t heal if you wallow too long.

3. Tell your Great Aunt Misery to shove it.

Seriously. The comments will never end unless you find a way to shut them down. This goes for anyone who thinks they bear the right to push their opinions about your situation on to you. When so-and-so makes a comment about how nice it would have been if you could have stayed married, respond with something along the lines of “It would have been really nice to be in a marriage that was full of the respect I deserve.” That’ll not only teach her, it’ll shut her up, and might even make her spit out her eggnog.

4. Spoil yourself.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but all this money I am saving by not having to buy my ex-spouse a gift is going right to my self-care fund. Right after I cross every last gift off my daughter’s wish list, I’m taking care of me, big time, because I freakin’ deserve it. This involves good wine, good food, and probably a gift or two for myself that’ll make me feel like the boss lady that I work so hard to be.

5. Plan ahead.

No, you don’t need to sit home alone this holiday season just because you’re solo. Plan ahead to make sure you’ve got something to do that involves friends, family, food, and enough fun to keep you distracted. I know you’ve got people in your life who would be happy to open their home or involve you in their plans. Don’t be too proud to ask what everyone’s plans are for New Year’s Eve way in advance — let them know you need a plan and are happy busting in on theirs.

6. Do something with your ex.

Seriously. I mean it. Nothing helped my ex and I tamper down our anger and pain over this whole divorce process like deciding to team up and get over it. Like the well-intending parents that we are, we finally chose to try this whole positive co-parenting thing and took our daughter pumpkin picking — together. My daughter’s face, when she saw her dad hop into mommy’s car to head to the pumpkin patch, was something I’ll not soon forget. Even though the pain isn’t gone for either of us, my daughter’s happiness is way more important to me than holding a grudge, and that’ll be at the forefront of my mind when she wants to light Hanukkah candles with mommy and daddy.

7. Realize how lucky you are.

Yea, I said it. Lucky. You’re lucky to have had the strength to walk away from a situation that didn’t fulfill you. You’re lucky to be the one who has the ability to recreate her life and handpick happiness in a way the best suits your needs. You’re lucky to not have to fake a smile in your family holiday photos when you’re dying on the inside. You’re lucky to have children who still rely on you for all things good and comforting this holiday season.

You’re lucky to be raising children with the opportunity to grow up alongside a mom who is so badass, so strong and independent, that she can survive the holiday season, all by her damn self.

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