Holidays Without the Kids: It Doesn't Have to Hurt

Dear Single Mom,

I want you to know that you are not alone. The holidays seem to amplify the fact that your family is no longer together, I know. And really, that’s all we want, is for our family to be together. But this lifetime has called in something different, and here we are, divorced and alternating holidays with our exes. No one is to blame. We’ve moved past that.

Here we are being real. And sometimes real is painful. Sometimes real means it doesn’t look like a postcard. Sometimes real means we listen to our friends as they plan their holiday activities with their kids and we gracefully bow out because our kids will be at their dad’s house this time. And we have to somehow make life feel okay without our kids with us.

Maybe we could have tried harder or done more?

No, sister. Don’t go there.

The hurt may feel like it will kill you. After all, we love our kids more than we thought was possible, our hearts bursting. But I promise, this pain won’t kill you. I’m proof it won’t kill you.

I’m also proof this time alone is actually good for you.

What? What was that? Yes, even though I still feel the twinge of pain knowing my kids won’t be with me this holiday I still recognize this time is a gift. (And hey Glennon Doyle and Gywneth Patrol, I’m loving the way you guys are co-parenting, but my ex isn’t quiet there yet, and please don’t say it’s because I call him my ex, ‘cause that’s not why. Still, #squadgoals)

My first Thanksgiving without my babies, they were so little. I thought I was going to die without being with them, teaching them how to bake pumpkin pie (which means following the directions on the Libby’s can) and dressing them in cute dresses, and sharing stories around the table then divvying up leftovers. All those wholesome holiday memories that typically get romanticized in my head and the real-life is way harder, but anyway, they would be made without me.

And then I realized. Here I have all this time. All this time TO MYSELF. It’s like a dream come true. So instead of accepting gracious family and friends’ requests to join them at their feasts where I would fake how well I’m coping with my pain during my first holiday without my babies, I treated myself to a trip to Italy.

As much as we long to be with our kids, this time without them can be so healing for us if we choose it to be. Don’t we need to finally figure out what we like when our kids aren’t around? When their dad isn’t around? Don’t we need to finally know what our passions are? What makes us want to dance? Yes, this is the time we have been given to figure it out. Regardless of the holiday, we have time, and it is sacred.

This is the time when we get to know who we are when we aren’t checking off a box. We don’t fit in a box. We are strong women raising beautiful babies and we have awakened to a way of life that is calling for something more from us. It’s time to be real.

So cry if you need to cry. Feel the hurt. Take a hot bath. Look at your body in the mirror and notice what it is to behold its beauty. Don’t look for what’s wrong this time, look for all that is glorious about you. Eat good food. Drink good wine. Relish in the fact that you are here. And you are a mother. The greatest gift ever bestowed on this earth is yours. And now you have the time to be more of who you are, which makes you a better mother. Your heart hurting now just shows you how much love you have to give. But now, give it to yourself.

Be thankful for you.

I’m thankful for you.

I think this world needs more women who are sure of themselves. More women who know they don’t need to say sorry. More women who know the love they feel in their hearts is a gift, not something to apologize for. More women who miss their babies when they aren’t around, but take the time to honor who they are and use the time wisely, to nurture themselves without guilt. Without guilt.

Feel good about this time. Take care of yourself. You’ll be a better mommy when your babies come running back into your arms in a few days. Let them see the light in your eyes sparkle a little brighter. Let them see all of you.

I wrote this for me and you. Because being a mother is the most heart-fulfilling, painful thing I will ever do. And I needed the reminder. And maybe you do too.

May your holiday be filled with gratitude for all that you’ve done, and all you will be.

Stay true,