The holiday season is upon us, and it’s going to be a long haul . . .
It was a beautiful day, and my daughter and I walked arm-in-arm at The Grove—a popular outdoor Los Angeles mall. Since she is in college and I am a full-time working mom with one child still at home, our time together is precious—and almost nonexistent lately.
We window-shopped, lunched, tried on shoes.
Then, BOOM! There it was: being pruned, primped, and dressed in sparkles for all the world to see. At the center of the square, looming green and giant, was a Godzilla-sized woodland supermodel—a Christmas tree standing 100 feet tall.
Holiday music blared from every orifice of the surrounding area. My stomach jumped to my heart, and my day went left.
The holidays were upon us . . . and I was a Solo Mom.
My wise-beyond-her-years daughter patted me on my back. We limped to the car, paid too much for parking, got lost in the structure, then made our way home.
Holidays and solo parenting are a sensitive subject.
I tried to remember the last time I was actually “dating” during the holidays: 26 years ago, when I dated my ex-husband. At the time, there were already signs we were a mismatch, but screw it, it was the holidays, and I had a date!
He was gone 10 years later, and I was alone with a baby girl in a Santa hat. I pulled it together for her. She was darling. It was Christmas.
The following year, I’d been knocked up by baby daddy number two. I didn’t date that season, either; I was too busy vomiting, and 12 years later, he was gone as well. So for the past three years, at the most festive time of year, I’ve been merely surviving the festivities. As a Solo Mom, I try to focus on the kids. Thank God for the kids.
The holidays are different for every Solo Mom—factoring in temperament, coping mechanisms, support, and genetic holiday outlook. There’s always the rare, cheerful, gingerbread-making, candy stripe–wearing single mom who LOVES the holidays! But for the most part, many of us Solo Moms hang with Scrooge, dreading the coupled holiday parties, sugar-fueled overwrought kids, and inexplicable yet socially imposed loneliness that accompanies this holly-jolly season.
In short, the two most stressful things for a Solo Mom:
1. The holidays
Combined, the two are a recipe for disaster.
Childhood holiday memories are complicated by the realities of being a grown-up. You battle feelings and desires that were once met by a partner or parent. But now you are the grown-up. You are the parent . . . and you are single.
And because this is supposed to be a time of joy, the fact that you don’t feel it makes you feel worse. Life is not how you’d imagined as a 10-year-old Yuletide dreamer.
But dating is not the way to feel like an adult—parenting is. The shift of focus can take the pressure off craving the scent of Old Spice mixed with the aromas of cinnamon and pine.
So in hopes of giving some guidance in what might be a challenging time, I have compiled the following dating survival guide for this most wonderful time of the year:
Dating dos and don’ts for the holidays
- Do not have your new paramour celebrate the holidays with your children. Unless you are in a committed relationship, now is not the time to bring him into the fold.
- Avoid family gifts, and don’t even think about putting him on your holiday card.
- Avoid your family: you’re dating the guy; therefore, you should not be inviting him to share the holidays with your children and parents like the nuclear family you aren’t.
Ways to meet dates during the holidays
- Shop at toy stores, and look for flustered single dads who need help.
- Attend holiday office parties (and all your friends’ holiday office parties).
- Do not date online. Online dating during the holidays is like last call at the neighborhood dive bar.
Fighting the holiday-dating blues
- Don’t volunteer! Unless you love it, do not feel you have to give more of yourself than you already do. You are a single mom. Get a mani-pedi.
- Avoid malls and Christmas-tree lots.
- Watch Netflix.
- Avoid New Year’s Eve. (See “Watch Netflix.”)
- Avoid friends and relatives with happy nuclear families. Unless they bring you unrelenting joy, stick with your single mom friends. (The existence of this site shows there are many.)
- Remember, “This too shall pass.” The holidays are a mere wink in the span of a life . . . or a year. Things will be back to their chaotic norm in no time.
- Do not watch Love Actually.
- Look at the bright side.
The bright side of not dating during the holidays
- No romantic gift-giving stress. Your money and energy go toward your kids and yourself.
- No stress to see his family or diplomatically deal with the inevitable kiddie meltdown after potential mother-in-law overfeeds the kids with candy.
- Ability to flirt at holiday parties.
- Ease in holiday hookups with other single parents. (See P. Charlotte Lindsay.)
- Complete and unencumbered ability to revel in the joy and magic that is your children (with some fudge and eggnog thrown in).
So when you’re done taking down the tree and packing up that ugly wreath you’re sure was a regift, pour yourself a glass of wine (or three) and kick up your feet. It’s time to relax so you can take on the holiday season again next year.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.