My first year as a divorcee was very challenging.
From starting over in a new country, with nothing but 30kg of my clothes, a jar of peanut butter and a little money to my name, to being financially sabotaged by my ex-husband, the odds were stacked against me.
End of November 2013, was my 2nd salary and it came with a huge deduction from the advance my company had given me to help me get on my feet.
Now the festive season was upon me. Rent still needed to be paid, here in Oman and in South Africa. My family expected extra money for the kids’ new clothes and festive season festivities. Yup! Any parent will tell you that, when children aren’t at school, they seem to eat a lot…as in, they raid the fridge and the cupboards like a swum of locusts.
I was glad to be alone here in Oman, because that meant I could give them what they needed and then make do with what I had.
The fact is, the festive season is very hard for everyone involved in a divorce, regardless of the stage the divorce is in. Most couples usually break-up during the festive season. The first victims of this situation are the children.
In most cases, in a divorce, children live with the mother and the father gets to have them on weekends and school holidays. Now, all of a sudden, kids have to adjust from being with their whole family during the holidays to having only one parent or worse, having to choose which parent to be with.
That is a very hard thing for a child, because they love both their parents. In some cases, the poor kids end up caught in the fight between the parents or being shipped off to grandma as both parents would rather party than stay with them.
Their little hearts sometimes get broken because parents break their promises to pick them up, or to spend time with them. Also, like in my situation, there were just times when I just couldn’t afford to give them what they wanted for Christmas and my kids would be disappointed. When I was alone I also felt very lonely and lost. When I was with family, it was also painful, I was still grieving the death of my marriage and lost dreams. I soon realized that to get over the sadness, I had to develop new rituals for my family and myself. So here are some of my Single Parent Holiday Survival Tips:
1. Plan ahead and have plan B, C and D. Make plans WITH the other parent and ensure that your plans are clearly stipulated. The emphasis here is on communication and not assumption. Most parents just assume that the other one knows what to do and don’t bother to communicate. In some cases, the relationship is so strained, so much that any civil communication just can’t happen. If you and your ex don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, arrangements can also be made with his/her family members, a grandmother, an aunt or uncle etc. Always have make more plans that don’t include the other parent, should they not show up or the plans fall through, for obvious reasons.
2. Establish Communication with the child. Getting your child or children a small cellphone to make communication easy while they are away is a great idea, especially if communication with the other parent is still difficult (this doesn’t mean you relentlessly call the child every 5 minutes, a good morning and good night call is enough). Their own phone also helps the child to feel connected to the parent even if they are away, especially if it’s their first time away from their primary guardian.
3. Make a schedule for the week. Pick a few places and activities and work with your kids to draw up a schedule. Including them in the decision makes them happy and gives them a sense of confidence. One activity per day is a good place to start.
4. Find Free or Budget Activities in your community. Visiting our local flea market and eating some street food is one of my and my kids’ favorite weekend morning activities. Local museums and libraries are also great places to explore. Books make a great escape, not to mention that a library membership is free. Pack a picnic basket and spend a day at the park, the beach or the zoo.
5. Visit a village or farm and spend time with family and relatives. Your kids will enjoy playing with farm animals and helping out in the homestead, milking cows, harvesting food from the garden etc. Just remember to take food and supplies with you, we don’t want your relatives feeling like you’re sponging off on them. Oh and pull your weight around the house.
6. Arrange a cookout and gift swap for Christmas with friends and relatives. Instead of spending all the time with your kids alone or alone yourself, arrange a cookout with other single moms in your area. Cookouts save money and time and offer everyone a chance to have a good time on a budget. Each person can bring a dish and a gift to swop with another person.
7. Plan little projects together. Little DIY projects can fill up a lot of time. Pinterest is a great place to start. Bake together, make some accessories with your child/children using things that are available in your house. My kids and I spend some days planning for the year ahead and making our vision boards, baking and watching movies.
I hope this post will help you with some ideas on how to manage with co-parenting and single parenting. Some of these ideas came from my children, so I’m confident that most kids will like them. The one thing I’ve learnt in my journey, is that children want to be loved and heard. They appreciate your presence as a parent, far more that money being spent on them. I don’t remember most of the things that my parents bought me as a child, but I remember the trips we took together, the trips to the Zululand Show and the Rand Easter Show, the time I spent with my grand-mothers and most of the times we spent together. It’s all in the love, the presence and the joy we shared. I wish you these things this festive season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!