The holidays are typically a time filled with happy, smiling, gorgeous joy. Well at least, that's what we're told by all the commercials, signs, songs, co-workers...
But if you've ever looked around at the holiday time of year, you see A LOT of stressed out, tired, even pissed people. After years of cognitive therapy, I'd say that the Holidays suffer from cognitive dissonance.
The Holidays Should be... fill in the blank. And during the Holidays you should feel, buy, be... fill in the blank.
Don't get me wrong, I love my son's excitement during the holidays. I love seeing him happy. He loves to decorate. He loves the music, the movies, the gifts.
But the Holidays, to me, don't always feel joyful. They feel stressful, like another thing that I need to deal with, a drain on resources, and just not fun.
My son's father is not around, so we don't see him during the holidays - a knife that cuts both ways. But maybe you haveyour child's other parent (about whom you feel ambivalent, at best) and maybe even their new spouse, and there you have a recipe for over indulgence of eggnog - the alcoholic kind.
So here it goes:
I cannot stress this enough. I, for one, am always burning the midnight oil. Or, laying awake worrying about things.
Get a good nighttime ritual that encourages sleep, as opposed to house chores and work that you couldn't do during the day.
If you're not getting enough sleep, try to nap - 20 minutes can really make a difference.
If you're like me and sometimes spend the night hours just ruminating over all the crap you do wrong or whatever - watch some escapist movies and TV.
I vacillate between the dark and deliciously addictive "The Americans" and "Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce."
Both of which are totally escapist. I'm not a murderous spy or recently divorced floozy, but I sure can fantasize. And hell, when I see murderous spies battling with some of the same parenting struggles I do - it makes me feel like less of a failure. At least I haven't strangled innocent lab workers who happen to come in for their shifts while I'm looking for secret crop destroying pestilences.
My infractions, parental or otherwise, pale in comparison.
While binge watching shows can, and will eat away at your sleep. You'll realize that we all suck, at one time or another, and hopefully be more forgiving of your perceived shortcomings.
Same goes for all the other people you love. It's just human to err.
My mom went with me to a Pilates class. She was going to take a private session after my class. Well in the middle of the class, she wanders in to ask the teacher about what happened to the bakery that used to be across the street.
Ugh. Yes, senior moment.
Thankfully, Pilates makes me calm. I calmly announced that I would help my mom with that question AFTER class. Thanks.
While I did say, "screw everyone else." I meant people that routinely annoy you - your boss, your co-workers, the dude that parks his car right up on your bumper EVERY DAY...
However, helping others who truly are in need can be soothing to the soul.
While I do know of one Maserati driving single mom (and that's her "weekend car"), most of the other single mommies I know are not living in the lap of luxury. But, most of us are still WAAAYYY more fortunate that those living on the streets. And sometimes, having an Amazon credit card that tosses 5% in cash back at ya, can make you and your kids forget.
I know it does us.
Commercials are designed to be aspirational - and make us feel like, "If I buy that widget, I'm going to experience the same level of JOY that smiling mum in the ad is feeling." Oh yeah, not to mention, I may even get thin, gorgeous, and well groomed like her...."
You don't need to purchase a lot of crap that ends up forgotten or on the floor broken. Experiences matter more.
Genuine time, listening with eye contact, asking actual questions that connect, eating good enough meals with decent bottles of wine, playing together....
I'm not saying to not get any gifts, especially for the kids, or yourself, but don't blow your budget or feel like you've got to get objects to make up for... whatever.
All right, I lambasted, "JOY" above. But there's something to be said for smiling. It can actually making you feel better.
Breathe and smile.
Instead of people pleasing everyone - focus on the handful of people you genuinely like. Single moms, especially, need to foster the connections that feed them.
I'm not saying you actively hate on friends or family that you're not so in love with. But you don't need to go out of your way to please people that you don't like.
This was very liberating for me when I just allowed myself to be OK not liking certain people. I don't actively go out of my way to tell them that I don't like them, or treat them cruelly... I simply distanced myself. I don't deal with their drama. And I'm much happier for it.
Who says you need to follow the same rituals that you did when you were married - or younger - or whatever.
Divorce and single parenting is a new chapter. And You (and Your Kids) can use the new chapter to change the direction of your rituals.
We broke family tradition by spending Thanksgiving with friends. It was really fun. We got to be out of the usual family drama and have a nice social event around good food, friends, and new people. It was awesome!
So many divorcees and single moms feel guilty about how the kids’ holidays will be different. I get it. I even do it.
And inherent in "different" is "bad."
But what no one ever says is that different is interesting. Different is not dull.
It's not always fun to be differnt - but that's how it goes.
In a perfect world, divorce is really about you and your ex. It's not about the kids.
Try to focus on the benefits your kids get seeing both of their parents.
Do things that bring you happiness and fulfillment while your kids are with their other parent. This will make you happier and less annoyed.
It's like Pavlov's dogs.
Anticipating the visitation exchange with your ex will mean you get to... go to the gym, go to the spa, go out for a nice dinner, go to the movies, or window-shopping.... There's something good on the other side of that interaction.
If you are just divorced, it can be super tempting to wallow at home alone with the remote, a tub of creamy sweetness (aka ice cream), and a bottle of my best friend Chardonnay.
But it's a bad idea.
Sitting at home like that only reinforces that you are alone, lonely... missing out.
Being a divorced or single mom, can be a tough path. You may or may not have someone to count on. At the least, you have days where you parent alone, and that can feel lonely.
I think while I talk - so you can only imagine when I'm facing a parenting decision that I find difficult - and I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of - well, it gets lonely.
But the flip side of that is that when you parent alone, you are the commander and chief. You don't need to negotiate or confer with anyone else - you can be the mom you want to be without judgment or compromise. There's power and joy in there.
I, as a single mom, will spend money on lessons and school for my son, without any tinge of guilt. However, I'll barely buy myself a $25 bra without torrential downpours of guilt.
I also happen to like nice things, from a distance mostly. However, that being said, I've been perusing thrift and consignment shops, and have actually managed to get myself some really nice things for really reasonable prices.
So for this holiday season, I went out and got myself a used designer bag for a fraction of what it would cost new. I love this bag. It makes me feel as if I'm a powerful woman with an amazing designer bag.
I've got single mommy power - and a great designer bag.
Get a gift for yourself that signifies forward movement towards the new you. Something you would not normally get yourself that you will actually use, but don't necessarily need.
As a single mom, it's easy to watch "happy families" all around you, everywhere, and feel bad. I know that I've done that, and sometimes still do.
But what I've come to realize, hanging out with all these couples who look so happy from afar, is that no one is the poster child for utter happiness all of the time. It's not humanly possible. We're human and shit happens that forces us to dodge and adjust.
It's ok to be a single mom. It's not only OK; it's downright awesome sometimes. While all the crap falls on your shoulders, all the glory does as well.
Embrace it, love it, and feel the gratitude and get a vision for where you are headed.
As a single mom, you've got A LOT on your plate. It's OK to say no.
I am one of those people who will jump in and help wherever, whenever possible. Especially during the holidays with all the school and work events, I find that I end up over committing myself. Everything gets done, but I'm fried and frustrated.
I've recently started saying no to things are not on my top list of to-do's.
It's made me happier, more relaxed, and a better parent.
What would you add to our list of ways single moms can stay sane during the holidays?