The holidays were made for single parenting, I'm convinced. Walk around any mall during this supposedly festive season, and observe the stressed, unhappy couples bickering in line for Santa, and you'll see what I mean.
The Holidays, with a capital H, are a prime cause of divorce. You know what else starts with H? Hell. Hell starts with H. That's proof enough for me.
So, whether or not you have idealized memories of cozy holiday traditions with your former lover, things have changed, and you are on your own this year. Rejoice! This is an opportunity to reinvent the season and build something beautiful.
The Holidays are Long—Share the Time.
Often, parents fight to the death over who "gets" the kids on Christmas morning. Don't fall into this trap—it's not worth it. Be as flexible and open as you can, and remember that the holidays are special because of family time, not because you were militant about opening presents on December 25. My ex wanted Christmas with the kids this year because his entire extended family will be in town and it will be one prolonged cousin-fest. I would never deny them this joy! So what if he winds up with more time over winter break? Guess who is looking for tickets to some hot, balmy destination, solo? This girl. I will open presents with my kids beforehand, and then get the hell out of dodge.
I don't care if you adored your in-laws, or if you required a double dose of Xanax to make it through family events. The point is, in-law time requires your best behavior. It's not relaxing, no matter how great they are, or how delicious your father-in-law’s holiday sangria was. Take a deep breath, and know that those days are over. You don't have to perform. You are now living in a judgment-free zone, free to relax and be yourself.
Gather Your Tribe.
If your ex has the kids during your favorite holiday, weep not. Moms, bring your estrogen collective together for an evening of cocktails and conversation. Dads, no one is stopping you from taking a long, leisurely bike ride or a run on Christmas morning. The world is your oyster now. Are you pining for the days when you attended the annual Nutcracker performance, en famille? So what! Invite a friend to check out a new art exhibit, or take a walk down your town's most beguiling holiday-lit street with someone new.
Need I say more? If you have someone new in your life, you are sitting pretty. Enjoy all the romance of the season. Hello, mistletoe with a new mate. Let him/her jingle your bells. Put your elf on his shelf.
On the other hand, if you've got no new dandy, now may be a good time to explore a few dating apps. You can Bumble your way through the season—challenge yourself to go on three "first dates" before the new year. Invite someone cute out for a Yuletide hot toddy and see what happens. If you click, meet up again for a holiday concert or ice-skating. Be creative, be open-minded, and use all the merry seasonal events to your advantage.
Make like a snowflake, and keep it light and fresh.
Embrace Kid Time.
So, your kids are small, and your co-parent is out of the picture. This is a prime opportunity to create new and joyful traditions. Yes, it is more work for a single parent. But, the good news is now you're in charge, and you call the shots. You don't have a partner to fight with, and the kids can't play you off your ex. You may enjoy a harmonious, guilt-free, relaxed moment, parenting in your own style, without a contemptuous ex judging over your ugly-sweater clad shoulders.
Focus on sharing experiences, not buying more crap. Just say no to gifting materialistic drivel out of some twisted sense of parent guilt. Take your little elves on a hike, with fat slices of gingerbread to keep them motivated. Or start a tradition of seeing the latest blockbuster over the holiday break. Make a pot of spiced rum, and host a kid and parent playdate—spiced rum for you, milk and cookies for the littles. Enjoy yourself, and enjoy your freedom to parent the way you want to.
Things change after divorce. You can either wallow in memories of Christmases Past, or grasp the chance to create something more meaningful and beautiful. Love this joyful, harmonious time with your kids. Enjoy your friends. Take a lover. Whatever it is, build a new life free from the negativity of your past relationship. It is, quite literally, a season of birth. Embrace it, and thrive.