Emphasize family and keep it simple
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I appreciate the emphasis on giving thanks but also love that it’s an excuse to eat all day long and there’s no pressure to buy gifts. After my divorce it took a few years to start hosting Thanksgiving again, but I jumped back in and learned a few lessons.
1. Keep it simple and delegate. Whether it’s just you and the kids or a large gathering with friends and family, aim for simplicity. That means if it’s just you and the kids, enlist your kids and don’t go overboard; if it’s a large gathering, ask your guests to bring something. Get friends and family involved in the setup and food preparation by giving them a job. This not only reduces your workload but also bonds everyone in a common goal. Working together is meaningful and productive. There are plenty of jobs for even the smallest of kids. It’s a family holiday that emphasizes gratitude, so no big deal if you don’t bake three different kinds of pie or if your pie is from a store. Your guests aren’t royalty and don’t need to be treated as such. Just smile, open your home, and have a lovely dinner together.
2. Fancy isn’t better. Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, not culinary gymnastics. Don’t worry about brining your turkey or baking your pie in a paper bag. Avoid elaborate recipes that send you all over town looking for the right spice. Overly complicated recipes have the potential to add stress. One year I decided to make a soufflé and spent the whole meal worrying about whether it would rise properly—it didn’t.
3. You decide. This is your Thanksgiving—don’t let outside pressures to make a huge spread or certain side dishes ruin your fun. I love making cranberry sauce from scratch because it’s quick and delicious, and my kids enjoy watching the cranberries pop open. I hate making and eating stuffing, so we have a Thanksgiving without stuffing. I also like brownies more than pie, so that’s what I serve. This is your Thanksgiving, and you can craft the meal any way you wish.
4. Maintain a tradition. Family traditions connect families across the generations. If this is your first Thanksgiving as a single mom, maintain a family tradition that the kids have experienced or heard about. This will show your children that the whole world hasn’t changed and that your family is tied to the past in meaningful ways. My family always had baking competitions with elaborate scoring systems and marketing campaigns. My kids grew up hearing these stories, so the Thanksgiving after I got divorced, I made sure to keep this tradition alive to give my kids a sense of continuity.
5. Establish a new tradition. Starting a new tradition signals that you are moving forward and creating meaning for many years to come. After my divorce, I started a tradition in which each child at Thanksgiving talks about a charity he or she has selected to give a small Christmas donation. This forced my kids to be outer-directed during a time when they were feeling a little sorry for themselves. The best gift you can give your children is a feeling of family connection to the past and the future. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to forge these bonds.
I hope you are inspired by these tips, and we would love to hear any additional suggestions you have for hosting Thanksgiving Solo Mom style.
Dr. Marika Lindholm founded ESME.com to ignite a social movement of Solo Moms. A trained sociologist, Marika taught courses on inequality, diversity, and gender at Northwestern University for over a decade. After a divorce left her parenting two children on her own, she realized Solo Moms lacked much-needed resources, support, and connection. She built her social platform, Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, out of this combination of academic and personal experience. Marika is also the coeditor of We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor, a frank, funny, and unflinchingly honest anthology—written by 75 Solo Mom writers, including Amy Poehler, Anne Lamott, and Elizabeth Alexander—that celebrates Solo Moms: their tenacity, courage, and fierce love for their children. Marika can be reached at email@example.com.
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