Life as a single Mother-Empty nest, Dating, Ex-husband, Best Friends, Full-time Employment, Unemployment, night school...How do these all relate to one another? Come with me:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Stress doesn't have to be

Being a single mother of three for so long, I have seen a lot of Christmas's come and go. Christmas's I thought I would never get through financially, emotionally and with my sanity intact.

Living on a single income is tough all year. Making ends meet, getting bills paid, repairs completed and food in the cupboards can be so stressful. When Thanksgiving passes and we begin to think about the big holiday, when our children come home from school asking for all the things their friends are asking ‘Santa’ for. The stress meter begins to rise. Holiday work and social parties, food, secret Santa presents, it all begins to add up in our minds, the mental calculator buzzing in our ringing ears.

The change in regular schedules can make children and even parents cranky. Involving the ex may ease some of the stress. Or it could potentially make it that much more stressful. Finding time for the children to spend with both families, deciding who will have the kids when, who will pay for and spend Christmas morning with them, arguments over buying too much or too little, it can all lead to a no- fun holiday for all of you.

But what if you are alone? What if the father of your children lives 2000 miles away and doesn’t even call his kids on the holiday? How do you cope? The burden can be a heavy one.

Christmas morning would be too much if Santa doesn’t come, how do you explain that he just can’t afford it? How do you tell coworkers that although you work full-time and make more than a lot of others, you just cannot afford the $10 gift for the exchange? There are family presents to buy- the only chance you get to tell them how much you appreciate all they have done for you in the past year. Decorations, holiday dinners, everything is on sale but sure adds up with every five dollars spent.

I know what it is like when your children need clothes so badly, growing out of everything they own. Socks and underwear with holes or tears they need those too. Everything is on sale now. But that is not what they are asking Santa for.

Young children believe so strongly in the spirit of the holidays. Their tiny eyes glow when they talk about what will come. When they sing carols in their school performances they really want it to make someone happy. We can learn a lot by watching them.

Every year though, after all the stress, after all the financial shuffling, and the late Christmas eve’s spent locked in your room buried under wrapping, scotch tape and boxes and then dragging it all into the main room in the wee hours of Christmas morning. It is all worth it when you see the tiny sleepy-eyed wonder on the faces of your children waking each other or waiting snuggled in bed with mom until the last one stumbled out.

Nothing beats sitting in your comfortable clothes, with a warm cup of coffee in hand watching your children open up the gifts you stressed over for so long. And it doesn’t matter, that they didn’t get everything they asked for. And it doesn’t matter that everything didn’t happen when or how we wanted it to. They run up and hug you and say thank you mom. This is the best Christmas EVER! And, in reflection, they are right.

I lucked out. I have three very grateful, very easily pleased and happy children. I never heard a complaint on Christmas morning, always helpful in the kitchen and cleaning up the house. And on top of that- They are the first to offer help and feel emotion and sadness for those hard on their luck at Christmas.

 No matter your situation this Christmas, no matter your struggles, things have a way of working out. They always work out.

In all of the years we have struggled to make it through the holidays, my children and I have never missed an opportunity to help out with a sub-for Santa program, feeding the homeless, giving our pocket change to the toys for tots or the Salvation Army. We have sent home-made treats through our neighborhood and given where we could.

Last year my daughter made me proud. She paid for a child’s Christmas through the Angel tree with her own money earned at an after school job. She is saddened that she is not working this year and cannot do it again.

Christmas time- (or any holiday you celebrate this time of the year) is a time for giving. Sometimes giving doesn’t cost you a dime. If you live near a struggling family, or someone who lives alone, do what you can. Sometimes all it takes is stopping in to say hello, and offering up the gift of conversation. Invite them for dinner, Shovel their walk, or bring them some warm tea or cocoa. Meet all your girlfriends for a lunch without a gift exchange, they may be just as grateful for one less present to stress over.

Holidays don’t have to cost you much, many years we strung cranberries and popcorn on the tree, made salt-dough ornaments and baked treats for Santa and friends. Spending time together is the most important.

Pack some sandwiches, blankets and holiday CD’s into the car and drive through neighborhoods with lots of light displays. An inexpensive Ice Skating rink or sledding hill makes for lots of laughs follow it up with hot cocoa and a fire if you have a fireplace. Many old holiday classic movies are on this time of year and many carry a wonderful theme of giving. Build a snowman together, decorate sugar cookies together, even letting the children help to decorate the house and yard helps them feel a part of the process. Give them small tasks in the dinner preparation, not only will they learn cooking essentials and basics but take some of the load off of you.

Snow angels are free, and very stress-relieving. Nearly every school puts on free Christmas concerts and programs, after watching your little ones in their own why not go together to see a high school play?

I truly believe that sharing one’s self this time of year is the most thoughtful gift you can give, and also may be the one that is never forgotten. Your children are watching you- what will they learn.
Wishing anyone who reads this a very happy holiday and that you get all that you wish for.

Stay warm--- and in your heart too


  1. Wonderful pics! And great tips for having a happy and affordable holiday. Merry Xmas!!

  2. DH- Thank you but I cannot take credit for any of those photos.
    You too have a great, wonderful and safe holiday


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