My daughter’s father and I aren’t together and we haven’t been since before she was two. It’s taken years of negotiation, compromise, and fighting to get to where we are today, but we’ve made it. However, despite the fact that a general ease of sharing her has set it, it doesn’t make it any easier for either of us, especially during the holidays. It’s hard during the holidays because you want so desperately for that child to be a part of each families events. But by being there, they are missing out on their other families festivities, so it becomes a balancing act. This balancing act is only achieved through a good plan. Trust me when I say this is crucial. Once established, stick to it, because if it’s altered it can then offset the rest of the plan and the rest of your year when it comes to the holiday season.
- Be Fair – It takes two to tango, and it took two to create this little life you’re both apart of. So it’s only fair that your child gets to spend time with both of you during the holidays. Neither party is more important than the other in the eyes of your child, nor should you make them feel that that is the case. Take a second to remind yourself of that fact each year. It’s hard, especially when a relationship has failed, to not have hard feelings towards each other in some way. What’s best for the child or children is to see the two of you being civil and making it easy on said child/children, and not yourselves.
- Family Traditions – Be accommodating to family traditions if at all possible. Every family likely has a holiday tradition that spans decades or even generations. If one of you have that, while the other doesn’t, take a step back and see it for what it is. A tradition your child gets to participate in and make memories doing each year. It by no means takes away from the time your child spends with you, it’s just one more great thing that gets added to your life. Now if both families have strong traditions that also happen to fall in the same time frame this is where it gets tricky, but there is a solution. Trade off. While the years your child isn’t with you may leave you feeling down, know that they are getting to experience something wonderful no matter what. Again, they are the number one priority here. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, neither will they and they will grow up thinking that schedule is normal and never really mention it.
- Religious Traditions – These can be the traditions that people really take to heart as religion plays a huge part in many peoples lives. If you and your former partner are of the same religion and still attend the same congregation, this could be as simple as your child switching who they sit with each year. However, if religions differ, or the events themselves take place at the same time but different places then again, trade off. Allowing your child to experience the best of both worlds is something no parent should feel bad about. Think of the good it does for your child instead of dwelling on your feelings. Being a parent is all about sacrifice, right?
- The Big Picture – As the saying goes “keep your eye on the prize” when it comes to planning this schedule for your child. They are the number one reason for everything and making sure they have a great holiday season should be at the top of both parents list. Don’t make them feel bad for not being with you the whole time, or make them feel bad for being with their other parent. They deserve to be loved and experience the holidays with BOTH of you, even if it isn’t the picture perfect “single family” setting you possibly dreamed of as a child. Kids are amazingly resilient to things like this and with the number of separated/blended families rising over the years, actually pretty normal in this day and age. So don’t let stigma get you down either. You do what’s best for your kiddo. At the end of the day, they’ll see that cooperation and teamwork your putting in with their other parent and grow to love and appreciate you both more as they get older for creating that environment for them.
The holidays are right around the corner and I know that here at our house we’re already getting excited about it. Remember the holidays are a time of joy and to take full advantage of that. While your child may not be with you for all of it, keep in mind they are likely having a great time no matter what, and you should too. Sometimes the biggest acts of love are the ones that hurt us a little bit, but your happy child is so worth that at the end of the day.