As a child, I loved opening up the chocolate-filled advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. However I did not love the part about having to take turns with my siblings and thus only getting to gobble down a chocolate every third day. Now as an adult, I am feeling the same frustration show up in the face of having to share my daughters with their dad during the holidays.
In this season, I find the time is starting to slip further away. Not only do I have shared parenting time with my former spouse, but now my children are getting to the age where they are more interested in filling their time with friends instead of family during the coveted days off of school. I find myself struggling with the nuances of this new reality. It reminds me of being newly divorced and having to get through those first years of co-parenting holidays when those special days starting rotating and it meant I would miss actual holidays altogether with my children.
In the first years, my only strategy was to mope. In fact, I fancied myself an expert “moper” when it came to missing holiday or special occasion time with my daughters. When I saw that my poor attitude was impacting the rest of my family and their enjoyment of the holidays, I knew I had to make a shift in strategy. Over the years, I have found the following to be helpful.
Be Intentional. Get clear about how you want to show up during the holidays with and without your children. What are your expectations versus the realities when looking at your emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or financial needs or limitations? What do you need at this time or what do you want? What don’t you want?
Create Your Calendar. Going to a long stretch without your children during winter break? What would bring meaning to the season during times when you may be alone? Working more? Volunteering? Tackling an outstanding project at home? Map out the days to assess whether your expectations, wants, and needs can be met with reason. If not, start prioritizing and mapping it out on your calendar to bring clarity to what the days will look like. Are you allowing for rest? Are you providing time for spontaneity?
Use Support. You will need support and accountability during these days. Who is going to check in on whether or not you accomplished that winter hike you were talking about? Who will be your mope buster?
With these strategies in place, here’s wishing you a holiday season where every day is savored whether you have to share or not.