As a single mother who has spent a couple of Christmases with an empty nest, I understand the heartache you feel if your kids are with dad on Christmas Day.
The holiday season, with its twinkling lights and festive cheer, can feel like a cruel reminder of the shared sacrifices that come with co-parenting.
In this article, I extend a virtual hand of support to those navigating the labyrinth of separation sadness during the most magical time of the year. I'll share the insights and ideas that have helped me through (and even enjoy) Christmas Day when my little ones are celebrating with their dad.
You're not alone in your yearning for a heartwarming Christmas, and together, we can explore ways to find joy and make the most of the holiday season despite the physical separation from our children.
Arrange a time to video chat your kids
The greatest thing these days is that we can see each other, even if we're on different sides of the planet. Can you imagine how mums coped before smartphones? Today, we can bridge vast distances with video calls.
But, be considerate of your ex's and your kids' time and plans. Work the schedule of your video chat around their itinerary, and make the call short and sweet.
Balancing this newfound convenience with sensitivity to others' commitments ensures harmonious co-parenting on Christmas day, fostering a warm and inclusive holiday atmosphere for your children.
Spend the day with family or friends
Having the kids with dad on Christmas day doesn't mean you must be alone.
For many Aussies, Christmas means family reunions, so if your family has one, go.
Not all of us have good relationships with our parents, but if you do, and they live close by, definitely take this opportunity to share the day with them.
If not, you might have friends who are willing to adopt you for Christmas day. Surrounding yourself with people to love will make this situation a lot better.
Do some volunteering
Another excellent idea for coping with the sadness of having your kids with dad on Christmas day is sharing your time and resources with those who need it.
Orphanages, children's hospitals, homes for the elderly, and animal shelters are just some places you can visit. Or, you can contact your community library for opportunities to cosplay as Santa and read Christmas stories to kids.
Better yet, why not tag your friends along? Bringing your friends into these acts of kindness not only multiplies the joy you can spread, but also creates lasting memories during the holiday season, even if you don't have your kids with you. Together, you can make a meaningful impact on the lives of those less fortunate and find solace in the spirit of giving.
Further reading: How volunteering can seriously help your mental health.
If it's your first time sending your kids with dad on Christmas day, it will be hard to stay positive. Your head will be filled with the smallest worries. Have they eaten? Are they having fun, or are they missing you too? Did they brush their teeth? And the worst: will they come back?
I've been through these intrusive thoughts, especially the first year. And that's natural: I'm their mum.
But, you will soon learn that overthinking is counterproductive. Most likely, nothing will happen, and you just wasted your time dwelling on your loneliness. Since emotions are contagious, you may even send negative vibes to the family or friends around you.
After all, there's really nothing you can do, being miles away from them. You just have to trust that your ex knows what he's doing and they'll have a great Christmas Day.
As a mum who runs a business, most of Christmas is honestly an ordinary day. I still have to put in hours on this website, and I'm grateful for that because it keeps my mind off the sadness of having my kids with dad on Christmas day. An idle mind is the devil's playground.
If you have a job, lucky for you. If not, you can still find something that will keep you busy for most of the day. For one, you know there are a lot of chores waiting for your free time. I personally find tending the garden to be the most therapeutic and effective in passing time.
As I mentioned before, you can also do volunteer work, like in a home for the elderly or an animal shelter. Volunteering will not only shift your thoughts from your situation, but you will also be giving the gift of your time and presence to those who need it.
Make the most of a kid-free day
We all know it's impossible to do a lot of things when kids are at home. I mean, when was the last time you deep cleaned the fridge? Or played your films with adult themes on the TV? Or, better yet, the last time you walked around the house with an open bottle of booze?
That you have your kids with dad on Christmas day means you have 24-hours to do the things you have been shelving for some time.
My friend Annie uses this one day to purge her toddler's old toys and clothes, which is also great timing since he gets so much new stuff during the holidays.
Have self-care day
Our children mean the world to us. But it's okay to admit we sometimes wish we could have time all to ourselves. Guess what? This is it!
If you've been putting aside self-care for the whole year, the time you send your kids with dad on Christmas day is probably the only time for that much-needed rest and relaxation. Head to the day spa for a facial, a foot scrub, or a full body massage (check it is open on Christmas Day). Or spend the whole day in bed. Instead of dwelling on the sadness, grab this rare opportunity to have yourself all to yourself.
I mean, you also need to recharge for when your kids return ... and for the year ahead. So take this time to sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Connect with other single mums (online or locally)
I'm a huge fan of mum groups. There's nothing like being around people who share your experiences and feelings to beat the loneliness of sending your kids with dad on Christmas Day. These mums know your worries and anxieties at this time, so you can rest assured you're not ruining anyone's holiday with your sad stories.
And it doesn't end with sharing your experiences and having a shoulder to cry on. Your small "sisterhood of lonely mums on Christmas" can organise a fun get-together, online or offline.
In fact, that's how I met two of my closest friends today. The first time our virtual mums group decided on a Christmas picnic at a park, I hit it off immediately with a couple of fellow single mums there. We had so much fun that, to be honest, I completely forgot about my kids for a time!
To meet single mums online see: The Single Mum Vine Facebook group.
Plan a celebration for when your kids come home
Finally, hyping yourself up for your kids' return home will help you make it through. For me, this is one of the most effective ways to cope with loneliness. As a planner, I love thinking of new ways to make my children look forward to our post-holiday reunion.
Celebrations can be as simple as hanging 'Welcome Home' garlands by the entrance or the fireplace along with some gifts and treats. You can also set up a dinner at home or take them to a nice family restaurant. For my all-girls family, our absolute favourite is booking a few hours at the day spa because they get to relax after a long journey.
Don't be scared if your celebration is not going to be as grand as their Christmas adventures with their dad. Remember, you're not in a competition. What's important is to give your kids something thoughtful to look forward to and to make them feel that you are as excited to have them back.
Final words: Surviving separation sadness if kids with dad on Christmas Day
As a mum, I know that sending your kids with dad on Christmas day can be emotionally challenging. But with technology and a touch of creativity, there are numerous ways to navigate this situation with positivity and purpose.
Thanks to smartphones, it's now easier to talk to your kids wherever they are in the world. But since you don't want to have your kids on their phones all the time during the holidays, the best thing for you to do is distract yourself from things that remind you of your aloneness this holiday by shifting your thoughts to more positive things.
Share the day with other people you love, volunteer, or find with other single mums who may be in the same situation. You can also keep yourself busy with work, do chores you have been holding off, or grab this rare chance to practice self-care. Finally, you can use this day to set up a simple (or grand) homecoming party for your kids.
Remember, it's not about competing with your ex's Christmas adventures, but about creating memorable moments that make them feel cherished and appreciated upon their return. Embrace these strategies, and you can transform a challenging situation into an opportunity for personal growth and shared joy.