Did you spot a lot of posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter over the Mother’s Day weekend from mums all around the world?
You may have found many of them fell into one of these 3 themes?:
- Some mums had…lovely days, and were singing the praises of their kids and spouses.
- Some mums…had in-between ‘blah’ days that were no different from another.
- Some mums…had what would be considered a ‘crap’ day with ungrateful needy children or spouses. Maybe even child access issues with ex-spouses and non-empathetic custody restrictions for special days eg. Mother’s Day and other hard things to deal with…
It got me thinking about my own situation…as a single parent…
About, what do I do…when juggling the celebrating of ‘special calendar dates’ with Miss 15.
Birthdays, people’s weddings, certain anniversaries, Easter, her birthday, holidays, Christmases and things like Mother’s Day.
Having learnt a thing or two navigating countless special dates for many-many-many years now I thought I would share with you what has worked for me over the last 14 years when working around these special dates …and hope it may help you 🙂
Navigating special days as a single parent
- Maintaining a friendly easy going friendship/dealings with your child’s other parent
You have heard this a million times in books and articles, but I 2nd it and 3rd it and 4th it. This is often the 1st and largest hurdle to overcome and I encourage you to work damn hard on this, as goodness me, it helps so-so much. I am realistic that it is also easier said than done!
It also helps if for the other parent isn’t ‘a douche bag’, who holds tight to every inch of your calendar and won’t compromise with you for special dates.
Keeping it friendly and easy going makes approaching them for changes in schedule for ‘special dates’ dramatically easier.
My top tips for this would be:
- Let it go…
Yes, relationship breakups hurt like crazy! They suck, there are many layers involved and can be devastatingly life changing for families. People also grieve and move on at completely different time periods.
But, I learnt early on that you can still acknowledge the hurt and grief of the lost relationship, while still letting go of any anger/bitterness/jealousy that might plague the shared caring for your children.
- Keep yourself in check
I bite my tongue more often than I let it run loose on me. I got into the habit of not saying the first thing that comes to my head if there is something that irks me in ‘that moment’ and just take a mental note. Knowing that if it is important, I can talk to him about it at a later time.
So often, when I do this (bite tongue), after something that ‘irked’ me earlier…I find 2 hours later, 1 day later, 1 week later…it no longer seems like such a big deal.
If it is still something to be discussed, then I do it later, have a much clearer head and it is usually easily resolved this way. As you have taken away the ‘in the moment’ emotive response out of it (or at least, dialled it right back).
- Hold ‘Special Dates’ loosely…and to not be too precious about them
Sometimes special dates are REALLY important when you absolutely want your kids there for something and for those dates I really hope that you can…
But for me what helps is that I hold most special dates quite loosely and think…”does it really-really matter if she is not there”? Yes, it would be ideal, yes I would love her to be…but what’s the bigger picture?
If plans are set and they change and twerk around, I take that step back and think…”Was it really important? And if not, so what?”.
We have also come to quite like celebrating some special dates on a different day…hey, it just extends the fun.
- Approach special dates from a ‘different’ angle
I think to myself ‘If I have my Miss 15, great we will do this or that special thing on the day’…but I also have an equally awesome ‘other’ plan looking at it from another angle if I need it.
Who said Mother’s Day had to be breakfast in bed from your kids..?
Why not take yourself away for the night, wake up somewhere fabulous and have a sumptuous room service breakfast in your luxurious hotel bed looking across the harbour. Soaking in a spa bath for an extra hour as you arranged a late checkout!
Or the budget version… jumping back into your own bed at home with a box of chocolates and a movie marathon of your old favs all on your own…while NOT having to clean the kitchen up after the breakfast mess!
Who said Mother’s Day had to have special wee heartfelt gifts from your kids with handmade cards that their other parent had them slaving over for hours on..?
If it’s not going to be…it’s not going to be.
Hey, you can only wear so many toilet roll holders dazzled with macaroni and glitter strung onto plaited wool necklaces at once anyway 😉
Sometimes I time it to buy myself something I have been saving up for, or looking forward to getting to coincide with these dates.
Mother’s day, Birthdays and many other special dates could be the chance to go out for a fab dinner with a big bunch of other Mum friends and enjoy that time together celebrating ‘motherhood’ the good the bad and the ugly.
This year Mother’s Day had a different angle for me…I woke up with 9 Teenagers in my house, and 8 of them were not mine! I spent a grand total of 45 mins with Miss 15…as she had a prior commitment of rehearsals all day and then her extended family (that she is very close to) had arrived in town for 1 night only.
Would I deny her the chance to spend time with the people she loved and missed so much…all just because it was Mother’s Day? No.
I could sense her hesitation in going initially, as feeling that obligation of ‘but…it’s Mother’s Day, it should be about you…’.
But after assurances from me that I knew how important it was to her to have that special time with them and that I was completely happy to do something else for the evening myself (and that my ‘Mum heart’ was ok). She went off grateful in the knowledge that ‘When it’s something highly important to me, Mum will make it work and not make me feel obligated or torn between parents’ like so often kids can do.
I was delighted she had her huge much anticipated sleepover the night before, and awesome full day rehearsal, a rushed dinner out with me and then got to spend very precious time with people she cares about greatly.
You might not agree…but I urge you to not hold special dates like Mother’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries like that too closely and keep the bigger picture in mind of what’s good for you ‘really’ and what’s good for them.
Last Christmas, a couple of people were shocked that I flew off in the opposite direction from Miss 15 on Christmas Eve and headed South… Why did I? She had a huge family Christmas planned with her extended family and it was important for her to spend as much time as possible with them. I had been incredibly fortunate that she had been with me for multiple out of town Christmases with me in years past.
So instead of trying to schedule times and shuttle her around everyone on Christmas Eve and Day, it was the right decision to let her have all of that time with them and for me to do my own thing.
We just did Christmas together a couple of days later after she flew into Christchurch…it was fun and extended the Christmas celebrations even further.
Did it matter that it wasn’t ‘traditional’ – no, not at all.
But didn’t I miss her? Too right I did! But that’s OK, missing your kids is totally fine…limiting your kids because you miss them is not fine.
- Don’t make your kid ‘choose’ for the wrong reasons
Sometimes there is genuine reason to let a kid choose where they want to go and what to do around special dates. But this always needs to be treated with great care and ensure you keep your own agenda out of it.
As Miss 15 gets older, she is naturally making more of the choices of who she spends different dates with…but for the right reasons. Not as a pawn in a game of ‘who wins this popularity round?’
I have always been really mindful about not putting Miss 15 in the middle and not having to choose. I would always rather miss out myself on having her there, than her ever feeling like she was letting someone down or resentful from having to be somewhere just because she was ‘meant’ to be with me on that day.
- Enjoy your non-kid time
Some parents will be horrified to hear this… I love Miss 15 to the moon and back…and back again…BUT I also love my non-kid time and embrace it!
I soak it up, enjoy it and make the most of it…whether its sleeeeeeping or heading out with friends or just simply whatever I want. If she is going to be away on a special date…no worries…I remind myself of all the other times I was just longing for a break or a breather from the parenting treadmill.
I know it doesn’t make me a bad parent (despite what people might say); if anything having non-kid time makes me a better parent to her.
My parenting friendship with Miss 15’s Dad takes work, effort and compromise, just like any good relationship does. Generally I have really easy going dealings with him making our years of caring for her and navigating special calendar dates so much easier. He’s also a good guy and is fortunately not a douche bag. Neither he nor I are perfect at parenting, but we seem to be able to mostly see the bigger picture.
This is what works for me and the ways I have learnt I can help myself in navigating special calendar dates…while also minding my ‘Mum heart’.
What works for you?
How do you navigate ‘Special Calendar Dates’ as a Single Parent?
What tips would you give others Single Parents?