When it’s Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Sad woman celebrating Christmas at home alone: she is sitting on the sofa and waiting for messages on her smartphone

The holiday season can bring an array of emotions for many. Excitement. Joy. Love. Hope. After all, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” right? 

The holiday spirit can be contagious with all of the family events, light displays, and shop local events. It’s easy to quickly fill the calendar up with plans. As much as I love to get wrapped up in the magic of the season, it’s also a time where sharing custody is the hardest. 

My daughter is fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with her dad and his family. While I am thankful for that, it doesn’t mean I miss her any less when she’s gone. We follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which leaves me with an empty house at least every other weekend…and every other Christmas morning. 

At first, it was heartbreaking to think of trying to celebrate anything holiday related without my little one beside me. I felt guilty for having fun without her, especially if it was something I knew she would love. It became an unhealthy habit of hiding from anything filled with joy. 

Thankfully, I learned early on that the worst thing for me personally was to stay cooped up in the house, pretending like the holidays aren’t happening until she came home. A dear friend (and fellow single mama) once told me that the holidays are what you make them, and something you celebrate with your kiddos on your time no matter the day. What kiddo doesn’t love opening presents? It doesn’t matter to them if it’s Christmas day or a week later. 

Here are some ways to make the most of the time with and without your kiddos during the holidays: 

Take it at their pace. 

As an adult, it’s easy to think of all the things we can jam into the two days of the weekend. My daughter is only five years old, just teetering on the edge of naps no longer being necessary. After running around all week, and being gone the weekend before, often times she just wants to have a play day at home. Sometimes that means we miss out on the holiday extravaganzas, and as much as I had the perfect picture in my head of how fun it’d be, I have to recognize that there will just be things we have to miss out on.

Be flexible.

Those random ‘can we just stay home today’ days really throw my grown-up plans for a loop! I’ve tried explaining all the fun things we could go do. Sometimes she’s interested, sometimes she’s not…and that’s okay. I like to include her in the options, which help build the excitement for her as well. If it’s something she’s not interested in but I am, I’ll save that for a weekend I don’t have her so that I can still enjoy the holiday festivities. 

With both parents trying to make the most of the time we each have her, the holiday events can be overwhelming for her. Twice the Christmas cookie decorating, twice the Santa visits, twice the holiday everything. Quite honestly, I don’t blame her for wanting a chill day (or two). 

Santa time. 

One of the upsides for weekends without her is a set time for Christmas shopping and gift wrapping. I know the exact time she leaves and comes home, so it gives me dedicated time to knock out holiday gift buying without needing to sneak around. 

Keep your traditions.

There’s nothing I love more than holiday family traditions. Listening to Alabama’s Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear while putting up decorations Thanksgiving weekend. Or opening up new jammies on Christmas Eve and watching the NORAD track Santa before heading off to bed. But what about those years where I don’t see her all of Thanksgiving or when I only get her from Noon-9:00pm on Christmas day? We try our best to squeeze in the fun no matter the day. Sometimes the tree takes three weeknights to finish. Sometimes the Christmas jammies become New Years jammies. Either way, we still create the memories! 

I don’t know what the holidays look like for you and your kiddos. If it’s your year to celebrate with them, hug them close and create lots of memories! If it’s not your year, find ways to enjoy the holiday by surrounding yourself with friends and family. It can be hard, and feel nearly impossible at times. But you’ve made it this far, sweet mama! Christmas may officially be December 25, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the season whenever it is convenient for you.

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