A Single Mothers Official Christmas Survival Guide
We may have only just gone trick or treating for Halloween, but already the Christmas tunes are on the radio, Christmas TV ads have started popping up, and it’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as we count down how many days until the kids break up for the summer holidays.
While many look forward to celebrating another Christmas, for single mothers, it can feel a lot different. There’s so much more to consider, and single mothers often put extra pressure on themselves to deliver a Christmas that outdoes all that have come before it.
Ella Hickman, principal at Hickman Family Lawyers in Perth, has put together her top tips on surviving Christmas as a single mother.
Start Planning Early
We all know how much needs to be done during the Christmas period – arranging trips, family events, preparing meals, shopping for presents, and so much more. It’s tricky enough for any family but even harder for single mums.
The earlier you start planning, the better, especially if this is your first Christmas as a single mother. Planning well in advance allows time for everyone to know what to expect and exactly how Christmas will work this year.
It also allows your whole family to adjust to the changes in your usual family traditions and leaves time to make further changes if something unexpected crops up. Last-minute planning can lead to rushed decisions, raising the stress levels for both you and your ex, but especially for your children.
Involve The Kids in Your Planning
Involving the kids in your planning not only makes them feel important and part of the family but also gives you an indication of what they need to feel the joys of Christmas.
Get them to help with decorating the tree, ask them to choose a meal they love, or even get them involved in deciding what presents to buy for their family and friends (if they’re past the Santa-believing stage, that is!).
Make them feel the Christmas spirit and look forward to this special holiday time.
Include Traditions – New & old.
While it’s always good to retain certain family traditions during Christmas, it’s inevitable that after a separation, certain things are bound to change. Doing something different and starting new traditions can be just as exciting.
It could be spending the day somewhere different, watching a favourite Christmas movie with the kids, opening presents at a different time, getting matching Christmas pyjamas, having a Christmas breakkie instead of lunch, or visiting someone special.
Set A Realistic Budget
After many divorces, both parents may find themselves less financially comfortable and may have to watch the pennies for a while. Don’t feel pressured to spend spend spend just because it’s Christmas. Set yourself a realistic budget that you can comfortably afford for this year’s festivities.
Make sure to budget for everything, not just presents. Days out, food, decorations – they all add up over the holidays, so make an allowance for them all. This handy Christmas budget planner can help you work out your costs for the holidays quickly and easily.
We know that Christmas is a time of giving and indulging, but whatever you do, try to avoid overspending on credit cards. It’s often not the expensive gifts that your family will remember but the quality time you spend with them.
Talk To Your Ex About Your Plans
Even if you have a parental plan in place where all holiday arrangements are set out, you still need to talk to your ex about your plans so everyone is on the same page and to avoid any conflict. Sometimes, it can be useful to have a parenting plan or court orders in place that deal with Christmas and how the time will be divided.
You may need to decide how the kids will split their holiday time and with whom they spend specific days like Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Eve.
You’ll also need to discuss whether you want to spend any of your time together or separately, and don’t forget to plan what presents you’ll each give so there’s no doubling up of the same gifts.
Be Prepared and Flexible
Always be prepared to be flexible in your plans – this goes for planning in general, not just for Christmas.
There may be last-minute emergencies or changes to your plans for you or your ex. Instead of being difficult, try to help each other if your plans need to change. Working late, illness and other last-minute and unavoidable changes shouldn’t ruin your plans or your kids’ holidays.
The more flexible you can be with your ex, the more flexible they may be prepared to be with you when the roles are reversed.
Keep Your Meal Planning Simple
Christmas is often a time when we go completely overboard with food. We start shopping weeks in advance buying snacks, sweets, chocolates and mince pies galore. Not to mention the meats, veggies, side dishes, salads and breads that often make up a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner.
Keeping your meal plan as simple as possible keeps your costs down as well as your time in the kitchen to a minimum – who wants to spend the whole day cooking one meal that will likely be devoured in probably less than 30 minutes?
You could even consider asking each guest to bring a plate, and that way, everyone contributes to the Christmas table. I know someone who has a great multi-cultural Christmas tradition where everyone invited to her for Christmas Day brings their favourite dish to share, so they always have a table laden with amazing food from around the world.
Take The Kids on a Holiday
If you can afford it, taking the kids away on holiday is always guaranteed to stir some excitement and create some long-lasting memories for you all.
Going away may just be what you and your kids need to break away from your daily routine. Both you and your kids may also get to meet and make new friends, and perhaps some may be in the same situation as you.
This would likely require planning well in advance, though, given how quickly accommodation gets booked up around Christmas time, and you would need to discuss this with your ex too.
Attend Christmas Events In Your Area
No matter where you live, there are usually many Christmas markets and Christmas-themed events that you could attend without having to spend a fortune travelling too far.
Whether you’re on your own or with your kids, check out what’s going on happening in your area for Christmas. From gift markets to Christmas light trails, carolling concerts, Santa photos and Christmas parades, there’s bound to be heaps to do.
Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
We all know Christmas is a time to love and give, but it’s important not to spread yourself too thin.
Christmas is also a time to relax and enjoy doing what brings you joy. So don’t be afraid to say “no” sometimes, without the need to explain yourself or apologise.
Make Plans with Your Friends & Family
There’s no better time to be with family and close friends than Christmas time. Discuss it with your kids, and plan early to be with the people that you love the most. It doesn’t have to be on Christmas Day itself – people are so busy these days, and with blended families becoming more common, many are often super busy too.
Make plans for your kids to hang out with their friends during the holidays. Plan some family days out too – they don’t even have to cost anything. Going to the beach, for a nature walk, or visiting loved ones – having plans can keep you busy doing things you want to do.
Keep an eye out for someone who may also be in your situation or is alone, and invite them too. Bringing joy to others costs nothing and can make all the difference to someone else.
Capture The Day
Don’t forget to take photos and capture special moments during Christmas. Photos and videos can last forever and are great ways to share your experiences with loved ones who may live far away or can’t be with you.
There’s nothing better than seeing a child’s reaction to opening a present or getting a photo of the whole family in front of the tree to remember forever.
Christmas is a time when we should count our blessings too. Be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
Keeping a gratitude journal can help you track all the wonderful things you have in your life and notice the small things that might normally slip by unnoticed.
Reach out for support.
Christmas can be a challenging time, especially if you have court-ordered custody arrangements that require your child to spend alternating years with you. This can leave you feeling lonely and isolated every other year. If you find yourself without family support during this time, please reach out to Single Mama Way before the Christmas break. They can provide you with some useful tools and strategies to help you cope.
Don’t Forget to Treat Yourself!
With so much to arrange and trying to please the children, family and friends, sometimes it’s easy to forget to look after yourself.
Put a little thought into what will make you happy this Christmas season. You have been through a lot, too and deserve some “me time” and perhaps a Christmas gift from you to you.
Even if it’s just 5 minutes alone to toast the magical Christmas experience, you’ve just pulled off.