To the Single Mom This Christmas

I was recently scrolling Instagram, and one of my friends had posted a cute picture of her and her two kids in front of a Christmas tree. The post’s caption said “It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s who’s gathered around it.” I have been thinking about that caption a lot over the past few days, and I am struggling to believe the first part, that what’s under the tree doesn’t really matter. 

Christmas time is a really hard time for my family… well, it hasn’t always been this way. This will be the third Christmas that my daughter will celebrate without her dad. He didn’t pass away or anything, he just left. All those memories and traditions we had started as a family… they’re just not the same. And “what’s under the tree”? Well there’s a lot less of it now. I’m a teacher who has to work a second part time job just to be able to afford to live on my own. So, extra money for grandiose presents? Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of that. I feel so guilty that I can’t get my daughter everything on her Christmas list. I realize that it’s not the true “reason for the season,” but when you’re not a very religious family, Christmas does tend to revolve around holiday family traditions and presents. And for the past few years, Christmas just hasn’t been the same… it feels broken, and I don’t know how to fix it.

So here’s to the single mom who feels like Christmas is broken, but plasters a smile on her face in front of her kid while they make a gingerbread house together.

Here’s to the single mom that can’t ever attend the winter party at school because she has to work, and who has so much going on that she completely forgets to get her kid’s teacher a present this year.

Here’s to the single mom who got a puppy this year so the evident absence in the family holiday pictures wouldn’t be so obvious.

Here’s to the single mom who doesn’t have a huge, beautiful, real Christmas tree in her living room, but rather a 2 foot, fake, prelit tree that sits on the side table.

Here’s to the single mom who is dreading having to put together the Barbie Dream House by herself on Christmas Eve because putting the toys together used to be the dad’s thing.

Here’s to the single mom who has to share custody of her child and won’t even be spending Christmas with her kid this year.

Here’s to the single mom who used to have her own home with Christmas lights hung on the roof and in the trees, who now has an apartment that doesn’t have any holiday decorations outside.

Here’s to the single mom who can barely afford half of the item’s on her kid’s list and already feels like she’ll be letting her kid down on Christmas morning.  

Here’s to the single mom who won’t have a single present to open under the tree because there’s no one to buy her anything. 

And most importantly, here’s to the single mom who despite everything, is going to try her best to give her kid a magical Christmas. 

So this year, I am going to try to give myself a little more grace, and realize that not everything has to be Pintrest-level perfect. That’s not the type of mom I am, and that’s not the type of family I have now. This year I am really going to try to focus on creating special, new, holiday traditions with my daughter… ones that really focus on those that are “gathered around” the Christmas tree.

One of my dear friends has invited us to go to church with her family on Christmas Eve, while my parents have invited us over for dinner that night, and I know that my daughter and I are very lucky that people want us to be a part of their holiday too. Will Christmas morning be like it used to be when her dad was around? Will it be as magical as what we see in the movies? No, but a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate from Aldi’s while snuggling on the couch and watching Elf after she opens one or two really awesome gifts… well, that doesn’t sound so bad either. When my daughter is older, I hope she will realize that I did my best for there to be things under the tree, but more importantly, that I stuck around to be BY that tree with her every Christmas holiday.

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