Holiday times can be what I call "stressful" for single parents. It's not just the practicalities and additional financial pressures. Like with most challenges of single parenting, the biggest stresses are the emotional ones. So, if you're prone to gazing in to strangers windows and wishing you were snuggled up with your partner watching the kids open their presents in front of a log fire (we can all dream, right?), then this advice may help you make it through the festive season without too many emotional meltdowns.
1. Prepare for the tears. All those happy nativity scenes in shop windows, all those small children acting out the happy couple in school plays, everything reminding you of a relationship turned sour. It's bound to set the tear ducts off. Just remember though, Mary was technically a single mum and Joseph still married her so there is hope for us all yet. Or did he? Come to think of it you never hear about the wedding part. Crap, if Mary couldn't find a man I'm not too sure there is any hope for me, or you. So yeah, the tears - get ready for them. Doing this parenting gig alone day in day out is tough; doing it on Christmas day is a bitch.
2. Start saving for next year. Seriously, if you haven't sorted this year by now then you're doomed. Start putting away a few pennies each week and scouring the car boot sales and hopefully you'll be all sorted come December, 2017. If this tip is coming 12 months too late and you're looking at a half empty stocking, then the one piece of advice I have is shrink it in the wash. (Excuse me a minute while I just turn up the temperature on my washing machine).
3. Plan a new family tradition. According to all the parenting websites this is tip number one. Family traditions - no matter how untraditional your family - are guaranteed to create a fuzzy, festive, family feeling. I haven't worked out what our tradition is yet. I was contemplating getting drunk and forgetting to put the Turkey on, but I'm open to suggestions.
4. Book in some me time. How about a night out? Or an afternoon at the spa? Christmas is all about miracles after all (OK, I might be mixing up my religious celebrations slightly but you know what I mean). Don't ask me how; I'm still trying to work out what 'me time' even means. If no-one is biting your hand off to help out then why not share this post with your friends until they finally get the 'please would you babysit', hint. Seem somewhat unlikely? Oh well, maybe you could treat yourself to a box of chocs instead and drown your sorrows in some wine.
5. Remember the grass isn't really greener. Pouring over peoples photos on social media is all too tempting (I do it with people I don't even know!), especially with all the pretty festive shots at this time of year. But remember, 98% of photos on are BS (it's a fact, honest). That family photo you're so jealous about, the little one might be all sweet smiles now, but two seconds ago they were ripping down the tinsel and trying to kill the cat. That happy mummy was screaming at the smiley daddy for not doing the dishes. In fact the only quality family time they've had all holidays is when they took this shot, and, if they were lucky, during the two hours the kids slept all holiday. Sometimes, just sometimes, doing it alone means you treasure the moment even more. If not, then just think, at least you get all the Christmas wine to yourself.
6. Have a blast. Wear the silly hat. Sing carols at the top of your voice. Help the kids rip open the presents. Do it all. You may know you're trying to fill a gap, but chances are your little one has no idea. Even if s/he does, having one over the top, fun-loving parent is better than an unhappy couple any day of the week, even if that day happens to be Christmas.
7. Pat yourself on the back. Whether you're new to single parenting, or an old hand, you've probably had a few wobbles in 2016. Now it's time to congratulate yourself. You're so close to 2017, you can practically smell it. It seems like against all odds, you might just make it through another year after all. That, my friends, is more of a miracle than any virgin birth.
Happy Christmas folks!