I have a huge awareness at the moment that loads of people are struggling with having a positive spirit. I recently lost someone very close to me due to natural causes, but the underlying reason was life pressures and stresses. Young kids of people I know are trying to or have ended their life. Adults are turning to alcohol or other substances to cope. People are laden with mortgages and debt. Many are working each day just to pay these, and wondering how to find meaning in their life. It’s hardly surprising that people start to feel pressure at Christmas. Working Out What’s Important

For solo parents the Christmas holidays only exasperates this pressure. We have holidays to consider; kids getting bored and wanting activities which cost money; our desire to give the kids a nice Christmas and great presents so we can feed our sense of guilt not feel like they are missing out. Intentions to keep things simple and not overspend are at the forefront of my mind, but I can be my own worse enemy. I remind myself that my daughter has everything she needs already and to consider that my life values and actions speak louder than words. Do I want her growing up with the expectation of lots of material things being a big importance?

What would our children prefer – lots of presents and a stressed out mum who has gone way over budget so we can’t afford to do fun activities the rest of the holidays? Or a few thoughtful presents that they will enjoy and happy memories and laughter that will become embedded in their childhood memories? I am taking a long hard think about what we can cope with this year.

Keeping It Simple

Work out a budget that you will spend on the kids, per person for family and the one I always fail at – how much to spend on Christmas food. This always skyrockets for me and feel like I need to do a course on how to shop at Christmas and keep those eyes under control. Pot luck or keeping it really simple. Cold meat and salads or BBQ is us this year and of course a couple of the naughty treats – very crucial! 🙂 If Christmas just isn’t the same without the traditional Christmas meal, start buying bits ‘n’ pieces early so all that is needed at Christmas is the fresh food items. It makes a big difference.

Great Inexpensive Ideas

There are lots of great resources out there with ideas, like http://www.wikihow.com/Celebrate-Christmas-on-a-Budget . They don’t have to cost a lot but can be very trendy, quirky or chic and homemade gifts happen to be “very in” – I love these vintage candle jars and so simple to make http://www.bhg.com/crafts/easy/30-minute-projects/super-quick-gifts-to-make/#page=3

One of my favourite gifts to give is a voucher – make it for your time doing something to help others, making them something special if you are crafty or good at woodwork or something, cooking meals or offering some housework hours, a coffee and cake outing with start date after all the Christmas rush and expense – the beauty of a voucher is you can make it whatever you can cope with, and the value is often priceless! 🙂 Be inventive 🙂

Have A Second Hand Christmas

If you have a big family or extended family, and normally buy for everyone, but end up stressed and credit card maxed out, it’s time to use your voice, speak up and be honest. Discuss together how to tackle Christmas this year. I love this idea suggested by http://www.largerfamilylife.com/2013/09/23/low-cost-christmas-gift-ideas-for-large-families/

I am a keen op shopper and just had a discussion with my daughter the other day about how a lot of second hand shops donate most of their proceeds to causes like kids with cancer, families who need homes etc, so it’s another great reason to buy second hand clothes. It’s also a great way to create more awareness and show your children through actions as you contribute to your local community.

Whatever path you choose to take this Christmas, remember that true happiness isn’t found in money or material things. All of it quickly becomes nothing, without love and friends and family around us. My Grandmas recent email to my daughter on her birthday wraps it up kind of nicely “ …but most of all I hope you had your mum, dad and nana – always remember they are the most precious gifts you will ever have.”

Merry Christmas and safe travels

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Michelle Woolley is a qualified nanny, has worked in hospitality, accounts and advertising, and is now studying Bachelor of Social Work full-time, working part-time as a support worker for people with disabilities. In her teens, she volunteered at kids' camps and listened to real life stories, dried the tears of many young girls struggling with living in a broken family. She didn’t realise that one day she would be drying the tears of her own child while parenting alone. Join her as she writes about her journey.

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