Ease the holiday load, single moms, by doing a few simple things ahead of time
October is here, and the leaves are turning their glorious colors. The scent of pumpkin-spiced lattes fills the air while giddy children count down the days until they can don their overpriced costume characters and eat their weight in bite-sized treats! Yes, October can be an absolutely wonderful time of the year, but it can also be a time when single moms are scared out of their gourds. That’s because October marks the beginning of the three-month marathon of the holiday season that doles out a big heaping pile of crap for us all to tredge through!
Yes, just as we’ve gotten into the groove of getting our kids back to school and managing all their after-school activities and homework, so begins the one-two-three punch of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Ouch! It’s the trifecta of terror, which encompasses some, or all, of the following holiday hurdles: booking travel plans, organizing road trips, busting our budgets, entertaining kids who are home on long school breaks, hosting and going to parties, cooking endless meals upon endless meals, hot-glue-gunning seasonal crafts, decorating the house and then redecorating it for the following holiday season, and buying and returning an endless stream of Halloween costumes because our kids can’t commit to one freakin’ outfit! It’s as if our to-do list took a long drag on a crack pipe and is spinning out of control!
Like many other single moms, I find October and the subsequent holiday months to be the absolute worst time of the year. Most outsiders would guess it’s because we don’t have a significant other with whom to share it. Or perhaps because of joint custody, we aren’t allowed to see our kids on certain memorable days. And although both reasons are valid, for me, it’s because the holidays are like climbing a sand dune of endless errands and chores. And just as I think I have it all under control, I’m hit with a surprise task that has me sliding right back down to the bottom. It’s all too much to deal with on top of my normal load that’s already too much to deal with! Every year I say I’m going to get better organized and start earlier. And in the past few years, I have managed to ease the load by doing a few simple things. Let me share them with you, my mommie amigas.
Take full advantage of this month’s Columbus Day. It’s a gem of a holiday that’s chock-full of sales without any obligatory barbecues to distract you from taking advantage of them. Stock up on hostess and teacher gifts and as many Christmas items as you can for your family, friends, and coworkers. I always keep several wrapped generic items in my closet for emergency gifts. On that note . . .
Take advantage of the after-season sales when items cost a fraction of what they did a few months earlier. Get a new holiday decoration, and tuck it in the decoration box to get a head start on the following year. Buy a box of Christmas cards and tuck them in there, too. I always forget what I stash away, so it’s like starting every holiday season with the glorious gift to myself of having one less errand to run.
Don’t even think of buying a Halloween costume until as close to Halloween as possible. When it comes to locking in on one choice, kids have bigger commitment issues than John Mayer. I personally bought and returned three outfits one year. I warn you that it’s a challenge to find that shopping sweet spot when there’s still a good selection of costumes to choose from but they don’t cost a fortune to ship in time for Halloween.
Taste-test your holiday dishes beforehand. With all the parties and events, this is a busy time for your stove as well. If you’re in charge of cooking, or even if you’re bringing a side dish to a party, it’s important to test it out beforehand. Not being familiar with a recipe and feeling confident in how it tastes can spell disaster. OK, maybe not disaster, but it could warrant a mad, panicked rush to the market for new ingredients or to get a substitute dish, which is definitely an adjacent disaster. While we’re on the subject of parties . . .
Plan your holiday outfit way ahead of time. I take forever searching for a perfect outfit that looks presentable and isn’t covered in pudding stains, so I always keep one tucked away in the back of my closet.
Book your airline tickets now! Most important, if you’re flying anywhere over Thanksgiving or Christmas and you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, stop reading right this second and book them now! Airplane tickets for the holiday season sell out faster than an Adele concert, and we all know how fast those tickets go. (I’m still dealing with my heartbreak.)
Download the Waze app. If you’re driving instead of flying, consider downloading the Waze app to avoid as much traffic as you possibly can. Nothing can kill the holiday buzz faster than being trapped with your kids on a car ride so long, the batteries die on their devices!
I sincerely hope that this October you’re able to get organized and conquer many tasks ahead of time to avoid the stress of the holiday season. And remember to enjoy the little moments, such as seeing their smiles as they hold their overflowing bucket of candy and their surprise hugs when they give you their adorable handmade gifts. And don’t forget to indulge in one of those pumpkin-spiced lattes while you’re at it. They are super yummy and can make any holiday much less ho-ho-horrible!
Joanne Kimes, ESME’s Parenting Resource Guide, is the writer and creator of the best-selling Sucks book series (some titles include Breastfeeding Sucks, Potty Training Sucks, and Teenagers Suck) and coauthor of The Stay-At-Home Martyr. She has contributed to numerous blogs and magazine articles, and has appeared on NBC’s Today show, Life & Style, and KTLA news.
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