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Monday, February 22, 2016

holidays in the broken home

The week before Valentine's Day, I wrote a post about how I planned to celebrate Valentine's by focusing on my love for my children. I was excited to be in a place emotionally where I felt comfortable even acknowledging the holiday at all (something I had not done for the last 3 years). I don't want to negate anything that I said in that post- I really did enjoy the day, had fun with my daughters, and for the most part joined in the general revelry of hearts and everything pink- but I also want to offer a bit of a reality check for those of you who may be in a similar, single-parenting situation, or are hoping to better understand and support someone who is. So here goes: holidays as a single/co-parent really and truly stink most of the time. Let me tell you why.

1. Holidays remind us of what the idyllic family is supposed to be

The holiday propaganda stuff that appears in stores, media, and festivities everywhere tend to subconsciously promote the idyllic family: two parents, happily in love, and children who have strong relationships with their parents and siblings. It's assumed that we want to be with our family during the holidays, and that we will be most happy (and most appropriately celebrating the holiday) if we do. We all have people to whom we should give a card or a gift, and from whom we can and should expect to get something as well, right? And of course when we gather with extended family, it is easy to find ourselves the only broken family among people who knew (and probably loved) your ex. Reminders of how we thought our children would grow up celebrating the holidays are everywhere.

2. Visitation schedules are usually more complicated

Co-parents who share physical custody usually have a separate custody schedule for the holidays. So on top of the general craziness of transporting and transitioning our children back and forth between two homes, we are now doing so on a different schedule than what we or our kids are used to, which causes stress, and likely some confusion, for everyone- especially the kids. Which then rubs off on us, because we don't want our kids to be stressed, especially at the holidays. 

3. We miss our kids more when they're gone

Because of the different custody schedules for holidays, most of us have to spend part of the holidays away from our children (courts seem to generally agree that, no matter how limited the normal visitation time is, parents have a right to be with their children around the holidays to some extent). When we become parents, holidays take on a whole new exciting meaning. Holidays that we used to think were just ho-hum suddenly become opportunities to spend time together, do something fun, and see our kids' eyes light up with wonder. It stinks to have to send them off (to someone that we usually don't like very much) and miss out on some of that magic.

4. Holidays are emotionally charged

We are almost always more emotional around the holidays, whether married, single, divorced, or anything else. Being a single/co-parent is already emotionally difficult enough without the added holiday element! So every little blip on the emotional radar becomes bigger, more stressful, more anxiety and/or depression- inducing.

I really want to try to communicate a balanced view of what it means to be a single / co- parent. I hope this post will help someone feel they are not alone, or better understand a loved one who might be struggling through the holidays. 


  1. Thank you for your honesty, Elizabeth. I am so sorry you are in this situation. :(
    With love, Diane Stoltzfus

    1. Thank you. I'm lucky to have supportive friends and family in my life, but I know others don't and find it very difficult to explain everything they are going through to people who don't understand because they have no experience with the situation. I hope putting these things "out there" will help others.