Divorced mom life during the holiday season can be a challenge.
Last year, my kids spent their first Thanksgiving with their father since the divorce, and I visited my friends in Tampa. It was a surreal experience to spend THE family holiday waking up to watch cartoons with my friend’s child and not my own. To prepare the turkey and sides with friends and not with my family. There’s a sense of separateness and loneliness even when surrounded by loved ones that I guess only ones coping with grief can understand. Again, how lucky am I to have amazing friends to call family and to enjoy cooking for and with as I would my own. But. It’s not the same. Immature or emotional as it is, I typically avoid family gatherings when the children are with their father to minimize the pangs of pain in my heart when they aren’t around. Maybe with time and inner work, this will change. I wonder if many divorced moms who don’t have their kids on the holidays feel similarly or make do with what they’ve got.
When you divorce, holidays take on a new meaning. Traditions you held on tight lose the weight they carried when you had “the (intact) family”. Not that they’re forgone altogether, but they take on a different vibe. There’s an extra layer of stress for divorced parents around the holidays. Whether or not you have the kids over that particular holiday, you deal with the over planning and scheduling and with helping your kid cope with their feelings about being away from the other parent. There’s the pull to overdo it to mask the awkwardness of creating new traditions and coping with all of the back and forth.
Divorce forces you to re-evaluate your role as a mom when your children aren’t around. You’re always a mom but almost like on inactive duty. You don’t stop thinking or planning ahead for the reunion but you have to act like that life is separate from the one you’re in now. It forces you to be in the present moment and learn the art of detachment. To expand your heart and shrink your ego when you can be happy that your children are having fun with other caregivers. I am grateful for these teachings because, in turn, I have learned to set clearer boundaries when others try to finagle their way into my time with the kids and to set better boundaries with myself on what I consider “me” time vs. mom time. It’s not perfect, the people-pleasing habits rear their ugly heads and I need a readjustment. This holiday season, I hope will be different. I won’t offer suggestions on how to spend your time without the kids because I know you know what to do. For some, it may mean to wallow in the separation. For others, it may mean to spend with other friends and family. Some may enjoy the alone time and use it to the max. We each have our ways as we weave through new chapters of this life.