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Holidays without the kids

Categories: Missing Parent, Tentative Steps


This year will mark my second Festive Season as a Single Mom. And I’d kind of rather wade into a teeming cesspool of leaches with cement blocks on my feet than hang out without my three-year-old sidekick on Thanksgiving and Christmas — but it looks like that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

My relationship with my little boy’s Father crumbled two years ago, a few days after New Year’s Eve, after a final-straw breaking, gut-wrenching argument, when he returned to our house in my Jeep and took down Christmas decorations in silence, in the home we shared.

I stayed for a while with my son at my Mom’s apartment, numb while she surrounded me in crackers and mandarin oranges and steaming cups of honeyed tea. And I piled up walls of crumbly Kleenex on her varnished tabletops, and I held on to the warmth of my one year old baby and I wondered what would become of us. And yes, it really felt that dramatic.

I wish that I could have told that shattered woman that most things would get better from there: solo grocery shopping expeditions get much easier with a pre-schooler than with a baby, for example. And, that there is a certain beauty in not having to pick up socks or bathroom-sink hair and to unapologetically eat olives for dinner. In time, I wish I could have explained, most things will be so much better solo than they were when things were bad, together.

But. The one thing that’s not better is the holidays. Last year I had our son on Christmas Day, and his Father had him for a few days afterward. This year, it’s his turn to have him on Christmas, and I am already dreading it. What is Christmas, without the delighted squeal of a small child? What am I going to do with myself on Christmas Day, when everything is closed, when (it seems) the rest of the Universe is with their family? Perhaps, I think, I could volunteer at a soup kitchen downtown for the day. My Mom has already talked about “delaying” our holidays until Nolan gets home and can enjoy them with us. Or rather, we can enjoy watching him thrill to them - because that’s what really makes them so great.

I could go snowboarding, I guess - maybe I could book a last-minute trip somwehere sunny and beachy, but most likely I’ll ruminate and clean, reflect a little and shed a few cleansing tears before the time will be up and my son will be back home with me.

Single parents, what do you do when your kids are with the exes for the holidays?

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10 comments so far...

  • As a single parent I do look forward to the down time when they are with their father. Even on the holidays. Except Christmas Eve and Morning. I made sure that is exclusively my time with them during the divorce. I don’t think I could handle not being with them that night and morning. Too much of a magical time. I have friends asking me to visit with them for Thanksgiving dinner but I think I will stay home clean, sleep and maybe pick up a book! I really don’t think I will miss all the cooking and dishes.

    Terri  |  November 25th, 2008 at 6:21 am

  • The date isn’t important. The celebration is. Our big three are with their mom and stepdad on Christmas itself, and come to us for the rest of winter break a few days after… we’ve spent nearly 10 years celebrating Christmas on Dec. 27. Now, with two little ones at home, they think that’s normal… being with their big siblings is the important celebration, Dec. 25 is just another fun day.

    Maybe you can create your own celebration — just for you — for the years your little guy isn’t with you on the day itself? Pampering, Snowboarding, window shopping, reflection, meditation, double features at the movies, whatever. It’s hard at first, but eventually it becomes something to look forward to in a different way.

    Lylah  |  November 25th, 2008 at 11:01 am

  • Oh, I just blogged about this!

    Holidays without the kids is sucky, indeed. I cope by cycling on my Bianchi road bike.

    You’ll survive! Be well.

    dadshouse  |  November 25th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

  • I agree that it isn’t about celebrating on December 25. Between work schedules, travel schedules, and having family spread all over the globe, I can’t remember when we last celebrated Christmas on the official Christmas Day. This year we’re celebrating on the Dec. 22 and January 3, and it’s going to fine. You’ll be fine too.

    Leah K  |  November 25th, 2008 at 5:34 pm

  • Kristin

    I used to be an avid reader of your blog back in the old days, when I was just starting to try for a baby.

    I’m so glad to see that things are generally going well with you (and that you’re still blogging).

    Best of luck x

    Dr Barreness  |  November 25th, 2008 at 6:20 pm

  • I have to admit, this is when I’m so incredibly thankful that my ex and I are still a family. Not in the traditional sense, but a family nonetheless. This year, we’re doing what we did last year…he’s coming over on Christmas Eve to have a family evening and then he’s sleeping on the couch so that we both get to wake up to our daughter’s christmas morning excitement. I’m sure, five years from now, or even next year, this could change. But for now, I get to have one of my best friends and my favorite kid around on the holidays, even though I’m a “single mom.” I wish you, and everyone, and all the kids, could have that way too.

    single mom with tiny tot  |  November 25th, 2008 at 9:58 pm

  • I understand. My son’s father will have him for an entire week over Christmas. And while people say that the date isn’t important, it really is.

    The fact is, YOU know it’s Christmas. And you know you’re alone. And the only way not to be alone is to invite yourself to the houses of friends and family. Or you could stew and clean. I’m sure I’ll be doing a little bit of both, with a little bit of wine. :)

    Erica  |  November 26th, 2008 at 9:30 am

  • The holidays will be hard for you, I’m sure. But, I think it is wonderful that you are willing to allow your son to spend the holiday with his father.

    EmilyP  |  November 26th, 2008 at 11:09 am

  • I just blogged about this, too, at

    But my post focused on how to deal with my ex’s absence at the holidays, which will probably be difficult. He was a real ham and enjoyed by my family. Fortunately my best friend, also super fun, is flying in to fill the void and my nephew will be here as well. This is the first post-divorce holiday season. I don’t know what I will do when Pumpkinhead isn’t with me. :(

    PT-LawMom  |  November 26th, 2008 at 11:26 am

  • This really speaks to me - thanks!

    Julia Moore  |  November 26th, 2008 at 4:16 pm