Whether you love Christmas or tolerate it for the sake of the kids, it can be a stressful time that leaves you physically, emotionally and financially drained. And for single mothers, it has a tendency to come complete with a big fat dollop of guilt too.
Just some of the thoughts that may come to mind include:
“My child only has one parent to celebrate Christmas with.”
“Our child has to move houses half-way through Christmas Day.”
“I won’t be with our child throughout all of Christmas.”
“I don’t know what curve balls my ex might throw at me this Christmas.”
“I can’t afford to give my child as much as their friends will receive.”
“My Christmas Day won’t look anything like that damned Aldi advert.”
I get it. I’ve been doing this Christmas gig as a co-parenting single mum for nine years now. I remember stumbling and stressing on the first one, but I soon got the hang of it and now Christmas is great again … actually, even better than before.
In this article, I’m going to grab your Christmas guilt and turn it into a ghost of Christmas past, freeing you up to have the joyous and happy Christmas you deserve.
How to shift the single mums guilts this Chrismas
Don't compare your Christmas to other people's
- My No.1 tip is to stop comparing Christmas to:
- What Christmas was like before you became a single mother
- How other people you know are celebrating Christmas
- The fantasised Christmas’s on TV and in magazines etc
- How the Kardashian’s are celebrating Christmas
This is your own personal Christmas to celebrate within the confines of your circumstances and budget. Work with what you have to create the best Christmas experience that you can.
You and your family are completely unique, meaning you will celebrate in your unique style. Your children will come to love that style and look back fondly on it … even if it doesn’t look like a TV commercial.
Traditions: Out with the old, in with the new
Celebrating Christmas after a family breakup can be difficult, especially if certain festive traditions are no longer possible. But, don’t let that bring on your seasonal sadness.
Instead, this a perfect time to create new traditions which work better in your newly structured family.
For example, I bought my girls new personalised stockings which mark Santa’s visit wherever they are on Christmas morning (they are late teens now and still put them out hopefully on Christmas Eve). On the lead-up to Christmas we have fun making yummy Christmas food (yes even as teens). And, we have a Christmas CD which it is mandatory to play as we decorate the tree (we have now upgraded to a Spotify playlist).
This is a great time to introduce new traditions that mean something special to you, perhaps a festive ritual from your own childhood that you would like to pass onto your children.
How to shift the single mum guilts this Christmas (cont.)
Don't get the frosty financial guilts
For most of us, when we think of Christmas, we see big red flashing dollar signs. And quite frankly, this spoils all the fun. Having money worries is enough to ruin your Christmas altogether as you feel guilty for not being able to afford certain gifts or all the trimming on the day itself.
There is so much you can do to banish these December downers.
Firstly, plan early for Christmas and work out a budget based on what you realistically have to spend, without paying off your credit card for the next year.
Secondly, stick to your budget. You have to be strong, but it will be a game-changer to eliminate guilt that can shadow Christmas.
And finally, get creative! There are heaps ways to have a cheap but cheerful Christmas that both you and your kids will love.
Further reading: 22 Homemade Christmas gift ideas that are easy to make.
The gift giving conundrum
Every family has different opinions and budgets when it comes to buying gifts for our children.
Please hold onto that thought.
I’ll put my hand up and admit I go a little crazy with gifts for my kids! However, for me it’s less amount how much I spend and more about how many gifts they have to open. My reasoning behind this is because all of our family is overseas and due to postage costs generally don’t send wrapped presents. For this reason, I give lots of smaller presents, so they have lots of gifts to savour and open on the day. And yes, I get so much pleasure seeing them open each one so that is what works best for our family.
Block out the consumerism vortex that sucks us in whole and forget about what your kid’s best mates are getting for Christmas. Instead, focus on your family and what works for you.
Know your best is good enough
Christmas is no different from the rest of the year when your best is absolutely enough.
Children can get carried away in the festivities, the parties, the general excitement and the onslaught of sugary food. They can easily lose sight of what is right and wrong and have the classic Christmas meltdown. This is normal, especially for younger kids (not so acceptable for teens but it does happen).
Don’t switch to guilt mode and feel this is all your fault and you didn’t get Christmas right. Instead, focus on the facts, which are:
- You are doing your best
- This is enough
- There is a hidden stash of Christmas cookies at the back of the cupboard which you totally deserve to binge on when the kids are in bed
Accept that Christmas will be different and that is OK
It took me a few years to work this one out.
I spent the first two Christmases post-separation trying to replicate our family Christmases before we broke-up. Of course, this was impossible. Christmas is completely different now, in many ways, most significantly ... mum and dad no longer live together. It throws quite a spanner into the works!
One I accepted that life was different, which meant Christmas had to be different, I was able to look forward and re-create a new-style festive season that worked for our single parent family. And it alleviated so much of the Grinch-style guilt I was carrying around.
You might also find, like me, that once you accept a different Christmas, your children will accept it too. It will become fun in different ways.
In fact, it might be better than ever before!
Re-think Christmas now you're a co-parent
If you are co-parenting at Christmas, your guiltometer can go through the roof as your children navigate the festive period between two homes.
If this is you, I’d like you to reframe your thoughts around it and consider that your child won’t think about this as deeply as you. As long as their basic Christmas needs are met, they will be happy. Think: presents, decorations, yummy food, Christmas movies and most of all, happy parents.
For many children of separated parents, they have the huge benefit of two Christmas’s with TWO lots of presents, decorations, yummy food and Christmas movies!
Could it be that you are worrying unnecessarily?
If your children see mum having a great time at Christmas then they will relax and enjoy it too. So, replace the guilt with goodwill and have a wonderful Merry Christmas.
Final thoughts on shooing the guilts this Christmas
Christmas is a time of happiness. There is no place for guilt.
Remember this: Guilt is a wasted emotion. It will get you nowhere.
All the single mums I know, go all-out to provide their kids with the best Christmas ever. Many go overboard in an attempt to assuage their own guilt because they are separated from their kids dad.
While I have no problem with going all-out at Christmas (I go overboard every year!) don't be driven by guilt.
Have another read of this article, and decide how to focus on more positive emotions during this special time of year, such as gratitude and love.
Then, move forward with grace into a guilt-free Christmas and holiday season.