I wrote this a couple of years ago, and revisit each holiday season for both myself and readers. I admit that the holidays are hard for me personally — so much pressure to make them memorable, spend more than I’m inclined to, and be cheerful when I often feel lonely and overwhelmed. Last year was first time my kids will not be with me on the actual holiday (we celebrate Christmas), something I advocated for as part of my effort to create a more equal parenting relationship with my children’s dad. I am mostly OK with it, thanks to the fact I am not very sentimental, but did fret about what I would do on Christmas Eve. I made a couple calls, and was warmly invited to an old friend’s dinner party in a pretty part of Brooklyn in her beautiful brownstone apartment. She is an excellent cook, hilarious with a filthy mouth, and her friends are fabulous. I had an amazing time!
Related posts about being a single mom during Christmas and other holidays:
Here’s my rulebook for muscling through the tough parts and making the most of this time of year. (Each item used to start with “Thou shall not” but that was annoying, so I changed it). What would you add? What is the hardest part of the holidays for you? The best? Share in the comments!
Single mom holiday manifesto
- I will not try to recreate holidays of years past. Those are from another time in my life, and I will celebrate this holiday, this year, in a way that makes sense for this moment.
- I will create at least one new holiday tradition for my family that is allll ours.
- I will not resent that I either actually am or feel like the only single parent at the school holiday events.
- I will not spear or fantasize about spearing with a sharpened candy cane the stay-at-home Pinterest mommies in the neighborhood.
- I will shop within my budget.
- I will not over-spend on my kids out of guilt because their family does not look like said mommies’ Pinterest boards.
- I will not argue with the ex this holiday. I will remind myself that my children will not remember that they did not wake up on actual Christmas morning at mommy or daddy’s house, but they will remember that mommy and daddy screamed at each other on the snowy front porch on Christmas morning.
- I will give others the benefit of the doubt. The Fox News republican cousin, the manipulative ex, the passive-aggressive mother — if some iteration of these characters are in your life, you will remember that poor behavior stems from human suffering, and thou shall be gracious, kind and patient.
- If I am apart from my kids on the holiday, I will not be depressed. I will grieve what I previously hoped the holidays would be, what my family would look like, and I will accept that it is different now. I will visit a friend, go to a movie, soak in the bath, call a male escort, spend time with people in a nursing home, work on my dream career, or attend two yoga classes back-to-back. Love Actually, come to Mama.
- I will remember that the holidays are at least a little crappy for most people.
- I will give thanks, and give back. Especially if I am feeling poor — financially, emotionally, socially or spiritually — thou shall find a way to give time, money or energy to others who need it. Because we all need it at some time or another.
- I will prioritize experiences over things — for myself and my children.
- I will recognize community. Whether attending a religious service, an office, neighborhood, friend or family party, giving a shout-out in a Facebook community that is valuable to me, delivering holiday cards to service people (crossing guard, barber, grocery store clerk, mail carrier) who are part of the fabric of my life, I will recognize how vast and rich my circle.
- I will ensure my kids give me a gift. It’s not all about them.
- I will not use the holiday or my current situation as an excuse to eat and drink like a sow.
- I will enjoy good food and good, good drink.
- I will remember: It really is just another day.
What are you most excited about this holiday? What are you most stressed or sad about? Share your single mom holiday tips in the comments!
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Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.