It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas as advertisers ramp-up their campaigns and subject us to images of perfect families enjoying perfect festive celebrations. As a single parent it’s not unusual to feel twinges of anxiety around this time. Christmas is sold commercially as “family time” and if yours isn’t a stereotypical set-up it’s not just the Christmas shopping that could be stressing you out.
The pressure is on to ensure the important little people in your world have the best Christmas ever, and you probably wouldn’t mind having a little fun yourself.
Those days of pondering whether to make or buy the mince pies are well and truly over as you deal with the logistics of co-parenting at Christmas, possible money worries and good old guilt if you fail to replicate the Christmas from the Aldi ad.
Well it’s time to ditch the unrealistic expectations and accept that your Christmas offering may be a little different from the norm, but it’ll be just as good. And as long as the presents are wrapped and the kids are happy, you will have pulled it off.
Here are 10 super-simple tips to survive Christmas as a single mum.
Further reading: 5 Tips to stop your narcissistic ex ruining Christmas.
10 Tips to survive Christmas as a single mum
1. Crystal clear communication
If you’ve been having communication break-downs with your children’s father then now’s the time to get it sorted. Don’t allow room for error on this all-important day.
Make plans well in advance. If it’s done verbally then confirm it by text or email. And confirm it again a day or two before.
Better still, include arrangements for Christmas in your parenting plans as they will dictate what happens, eliminating possible confusion and the need to communicate. Less communication can mean less opportunity for disagreements.
Further reading: 12 Suggestions for successfully sharing Christmas as a co-parent.
2. Spare your children the dreaded question
Depending on the ages of your children, don’t ask them who they want to spend Christmas day with. They’ll be crushed by the weight of indecision, guilt and worry that is not their burden. Unless your children are old enough to make sensible and stress-free choices, you make the decisions to ensure they have a happy and memorable day.
Don’t be fooled here, our gorgeous kids will often say what they think we want to hear, and not what they really want. Christmas is too important to take that risk.
3. Santa and his sat nav
Younger children living between two homes can get understandably confused and upset regarding the arrival of Santa.
Don’t brush-off their concerns. Take time to explain that Santa knows exactly where all children are sleeping, even if there’s a last minute change. You could even get technical with an app to organise for your child to get a personalised message from Santa … what will give them better peace of mind than a message from the man himself?
Think ahead and don’t allow worry to infringe on their magical childhood moments.
How to get through Christmas as a single mum (cont.)
4. Enlist the help of some friendly elves
Christmas is a time of good will, so make sure you accept everything that comes your way.
Older kids can help by wrapping presents for younger kids and decorating the house. Ask friends to grab you certain bits while they’re out Christmas shopping.
And, if it’s possible, delegate some jobs to their dad. Make a list and remind him it’s a team effort.
5. Don’t blow your Christmas budget
There are lots of ways to have a cheap, yet cheerful Christmas.
Plan a budget for gifts and for the day itself, and stick to it. Draw your Christmas shopping money from the bank and keep it in a separate purse so you can track your spending. Shop online for Christmas presents and make the most of free delivery and price comparisons.
Don’t get carried away buying heaps of luxurious food in an attempt to make the day perfect. Everyone will fill up on chocolates and mince pies anyway.
6. Get the gifts right
Money may be tight so don’t waste it on unwanted pressies.
Make sure your children do a list for Santa (or wish list for the older ones). Get them to start a good six weeks in advance and leave it on the side for ideas as and when they think of them. It’ll be more precise and you can get started on the Christmas shopping earlier.
Remember, you don’t need to keep up with the Jones’s and what everyone else is getting their kids for Christmas. Focus on your children and your budget, then buy accordingly.
7. Create new family traditions
If Christmas just doesn’t seem right anymore initiate some new festive traditions that you and your children can continue through the years.
Make a different snack for Rudolf, have a particular brekkie or watch a certain festive movie on Christmas Eve. Be guided by your kids and fall into sync with what they like to do at Christmas.
New traditions are fun and will make your new-style Christmases more familiar, comfortable and easier to manage.
8. Spend the day with the kids … not in the kitchen
Don’t get carried away with an elaborate meal plan for the big day. Let’s face it, we all fill up on naughty Christmas treats anyway.
Keep it easy and cheat!
Utilise the massive array of supermarket offerings such as pre-plated platters, ready to roast meats and prepared veg and salads. Grocery shop online to ensure you stay within budget and avoid the crowds. Oh and if you have guests coming make sure they don’t turn up empty-handed.
Your children would much rather you checkout their new presents with them, than watch you slaving over a stove for a meal they are too stuffed with chocolate to eat.
Further reading: What to do if you're alone with your kids on Christmas Day.
9. Capture the moment
Make sure you get some really good photos of the day.
Then frame one where everyone looks particularly happy and place it strategically in your home. It’ll be a constant reminder to your children (and you) that even though Christmas is different now, it’s still a fabulously fun day.
10. Merry Christmas to me
Remember it’s your Christmas too. Use the day to chill out and relax a little.
It’s important for your children to see the day’s not all about them. Arrange small gifts they can give you so they feel the spirit of giving as well as receiving.
And, if your children aren’t with you on Christmas Day, make plans so you don’t feel down. Arrange to see friends or family, get a volunteering gig or simply enjoy the peace and quiet.
My final thoughts about Christmas as a single mum
In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, remember this: as a single mum, you are already a superhero in your children's eyes. Christmas may come with its unique set of challenges, but it's also an opportunity to create beautiful memories and show your little ones the true meaning of love and resilience.
Let go of the pressure to conform to unrealistic standards. Embrace the fact that your Christmas may look a bit different, but it will be just as special. Your crystal clear communication and thoughtful planning will help navigate the co-parenting maze, ensuring a smoother holiday season. Spare your children the burden of tough decisions, and let them revel in the magic of the day.
Santa will find his way, and friendly elves (friends and family) can lend a hand. Stick to your budget, focus on meaningful gifts, and create new traditions that reflect your family's uniqueness. Spend quality time with your children instead of slaving in the kitchen, and capture those precious moments.
Remember, it's your Christmas too. Take a moment to relax and appreciate your own spirit of giving. Whether your children are with you or not, cherish the holiday in your own way.
This Christmas, celebrate the strength and love that define your family, and let the joy of the season fill your hearts.
Further reading: Christmas gifts for mums to gift themselves.