Try to get the most out of your time alone
That first holiday without your kids can be depressing. Let’s face it, since becoming moms, most of our holidays have revolved around the kids. So, how are we supposed to cope when we’re staring down the barrel of a holiday spent alone?
The short answer: don’t. I mean, unless you want to spend your holiday alone, and then, by all means, go for it. But if you’re really worried about being alone during the holidays, don’t be. Whether you find friends to hang out with or simply hit your favorite local restaurant by your lonesome, surrounding yourself with people and keeping busy with activities can help fight off holiday depression.
OK, so that was the easy part. Now for the complicated feelings that come with being apart from your children during a time of family celebration. My first big holiday without my kids was Thanksgiving. We’d just moved to Colorado, so we were far away from family and friends. I bought a small turkey breast and prepared to make the best of it. By the end of the day, I’d overcooked the turkey (darned high-altitude cooking!), and my boyfriend’s cat had jumped off the balcony. (Don’t worry, she lived.) I spent a good chunk of my time staving off an anxiety attack while my boyfriend rubbed my back, the cat purring enthusiastically on his lap. I suggest avoiding that kind of drama during your first holiday without the kids, but here are some tips for coping, and maybe even enjoying yourself anyway.
1. Don’t do it alone. Yes, I know I already covered this, but I think it’s important to recognize when depression might become an issue. The struggle is real. Missing your kids can be crippling, and isolating yourself can lead to more trouble coping, so I suggest being where people are. If you can’t be with family and friends, be somewhere festive. And if all else fails, turn on a good movie so at least you’re surrounded by the sounds of people.
2. Plan for some self-care time. One of the perks of having a kid-free holiday is that there are no kids. Literally. You can do all those adult things you’ve been daydreaming about, such as taking a really long, uninterrupted bath by candlelight with a glass of wine . . . and chocolate—and you don’t have to share, so start planning now! Move some of the “you” things that have been relegated to the bottom of the priority list back up to the top. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the holiday instead of dreading it.
3. Create new “me” traditions. The holidays are full of traditions, so this year, why not try something new? If you’re crafty, this is a great time to begin a new project. If you’re living in an area where public celebrations take place, take part! Or do something completely nonholiday related and let that become your new “me” tradition, reserved for those times you find yourself on your own. These will be the traditions you’ll come back to each time your kids are with your ex for the holidays, providing comfort and consistency through the years.
4. Make memories to share. Even if you can’t share the actual holiday together, there’s no reason the holiday season can’t be extended a day or two so you can all do something together. You can also make things while the kids are away so you can enjoy that missed holiday time when they return. For instance, write a story or make a book about the things that make a particular holiday so special. Remember to include family traditions, recipes, and your favorite memories from holidays past. As your kids get older, add their memories to the book, and you’ll have something to share each year.
5. Breathe. This is quite possibly the best advice for any situation. Holidays without the kids can be rough, especially at first. But the time will pass, and they’ll be home before you know it. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, remember to take some deep breaths.
I’ve been divorced for almost six years now, and I still hate it when the kids aren’t home. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to take advantage of those kid-free hours, whether it’s sneaking in a bit of extra work, getting in some retail therapy or a massage, or just kicking back and watching a movie. Splitting your time with the kids is the worst part of divorce, in my opinion, but it’s also an opportunity to take a look at your life and move forward. Holidays are just one of the many things that will change now that you and your ex aren’t together anymore. Embrace the change. Before you know it, you’ll be vacationing on your own!
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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