The buzz is on. Everyone is chatting about their awesome holiday vacations. The presents they’re buying for their spouses. The gift list they have made for their kiddos. The smashing New Year’s Eve reservations they’ve got in store. It sounds so thrilling and wonderful, but to you, it feels pretty god darn awful. This is the part in which your “Fa-la-la-la-la” is completely flat:
The part in which you realize you’re flat broke and there’s no awesome holiday getaway or hot spousal date or worse, an amazing list of gifts you’re dying to buy your kids.
Sure. Those things exist in your head but they’re not reality. Instead, you sit down and look at your budget. You look at how much money you have coming in and how much you can use to contribute towards the holidays, whether that be taking any days off or buying gifts for your children. You don’t feel so “Fa-la-la-la-la,” when you look at the bottom line that money is tight and that you’re going to be lucky if you can take vacation days because guess what? As a single parent, you probably used up quite a bit already.
It’s enough to make you Bah- humbug and honestly, feel inferior and sad that the holidays in your head aren’t living up to the ones you’ll have in reality. Does it suck? Sure, but is it the end of the world? No. No, damnit it’s not. Instead of feeling bad that you can’t make the holidays some huge smash, remember that your kids don’t need huge gifts and getaways to be happy. That being a broke single parent at the holidays is hard, but it’s not awful. Being a homeless single parent on the holidays IS awful. And even still—it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Being an unloving and unresponsive or absent parent makes you a bad parent. Not buying your kid every one of his or her whims and fancy does not qualify you as a bad parent. Having to work Christmas- New Year’s Eve vacation does not make you a bad parent.
Try to find the silver linings when all you want to do is put on your grouchy face and be sad. You are not a failure as a parent or a person; you are good enough as you are!
1- See your victories
Did you just get a new job? Did you finalize a divorce? See your victories from the past year. They are there, but you may have to hunt for them.
2- Know your kids won’t remember the gifts
Your kids won’t remember the gifts. They won’t remember each thing they unwrap. They will, however, remember what the mood was on Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa—or whatever you celebrate.
They will remember, years later, if mom or dad had a breakdown or if there was some divorce drama.
You’re not a bad parent if the gifts don’t measure up to their imaginations.
3- Recognize everyone is fighting a battle
Many people are fighting holiday battles and some of them will be financially related, and others won’t be. You are not alone and it’s normal to feel blue or less than if you’re struggling to buy Johnny’s favorite toy on his list.
Keep in mind though that perhaps a few years ago, your kids might have gotten every gift they wanted, but they probably had two fighting parents.
I’m pretty sure that the latter sucks way more than the former, so buck up little camper!
4- Budget for one amazing gift and cut out the slack or buy many small little items
Budget for one kick-a*s gift for each of your kids, or instead buy many little gifts.
And if you’re reading this article, you may be in the position in which you can’t buy any gifts. I hope that someone in your family or friends will donate. Last year, a friend of mine sent over gifts to my daughter, acting as a “Santa.” It was pretty awesome.
I was able to get gifts, but holidays were tight. That gesture made a big difference.
If you can’t afford to spend a penny on your kids this year, I hope for the generosity of others and that even still, your kids take a great lesson from this:
That all of us have hard times, and we can only do our very best and that the holidays were never intended to be about the gifts of presents, but the gifts of our loved ones’ presence…
Like that little play on words, I just did?
Even still—you are not a bad parent because you are a broke parent at the holidays. You are a parent in a tough position and one day hopefully, you can take those vacation days, go out on a glorious weekend with your kids, and gift them to the moon. Until then, just know that signing in and being a “present” single parent is better than any present your kids will ever receive.
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated, writer, comedienne, and single mother. Laura will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for the New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Redbook, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, Your Tango and numerous other sites. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com.