Celebrating Christmas, Even When the Kids Aren't There

Do you know a parent who shares custody of her children and won’t have them this Christmas? Call her up and take her out to a movie!

The day is approaching that almost every child has been looking forward to for months — Christmas morning. My children are no different; they have been making their wish lists since their birthdays passed.

I, on the other hand, am having a hard time getting in the celebratory mood.

My children’s father and I are divorced, and we share custody on a weekly basis. It actually works out great — We update each other through emails about the boys. We coordinate a Google calendar to remind each other of special days or extra curricular activities. And each year we take turns for the holidays. I had them for Thanksgiving this year, so they will be with their father for Christmas.

Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Easter, their birthdays … any holiday that involves a celebration … it's hard not having my children with me. I know that everyone is supposed to be joyful this time of year, but many are just going through the motions and pretending. I'm going to say it: I’m struggling with being jolly.

I was hesitant to even write about this, because this little corner of my world is typically a pretty happy version of who I am. I’ve learned, though, that by opening myself up, and being vulnerable can benefit others. I’ve talked to other divorced parents, and they haven’t given me much hope in believing that it will get easier as the years go by.

I refer to my first Christmas without the boys as “Christmas coma.” I laid in bed and cried for eight hours. Maybe someday I’ll go on an adult-only type of vacation, instead … zip lining in Costa Rica, maybe a cruise.

But a friend from college reminded me, “The date isn't as important as the feeling of the day and the memories you make.” And she is absolutely right! This weekend, my partner and I surprised the boys with Santa hats and a tree brimming with gifts underneath. We made the most of our early Christmas celebration, and the boys believed me when I told them that I emailed Santa asking him to come early.

Thankfully, Santa also remembered to write them a note in each of their stockings letting them know "I'll see you again on December 25th!" As I tucked my oldest into bed he whispered in my ear, “This was the best Christmas Day ever!”

This year I’ll be taking the real Christmas Day, moment by moment. I’ve already warned the family that I’ll most likely shed tears, but it will have nothing to do with the dinner. I'm making a promise to myself to allow the emotions to come, that it's all going to be okay, and that my happiness is worth it. This year I’ll raise my glass to celebrate the joy of being a mom, even on days when my children aren't present.

Gretchen Schock December 20, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Thanks for your kind words Dawn. I know that my ex and I are doing our best and always putting the boys needs first. Holidays will always be hard. And anytime you want to take a break from your kids I am happy to swing over and play! :) I'll have them all sitting in lotus meditating, haaahaaa.
Gretchen Schock December 20, 2011 at 04:06 PM
I will certainly try to enjoy the moment, that is my goal. On Christmas day I'm going to go see a movie...maybe a rated R one! haaahaa. Thanks for reading.
Brooke December 23, 2011 at 02:32 PM
The way you open yourself to the world is remarkable, Gretchen. Thank you for that. I'm sure that many have read this and related or gained a greater understanding. Everyone might not comment, but everyone understands the struggle. I hope one day it does get easier for you but I'm sure that your boys will be thinking about you this Christmas day.
Brenda Deane March 29, 2012 at 05:15 AM
I spent years crying, because my ex has a large family, and they had a better Christmas there. We now celebrate new years together, and it's become better!
Gretchen Schock March 29, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Brenda, I love that you have found another holiday to celebrate and make your own. You are giving me some ideas.....


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