candy canes on table with pine cones and lights

Finding Christmas Traditions as a Single Mom

Christmas was always a very hard time of the year for me when my son was younger and we lived away from my family. As a single mom, winter break was often split which meant doing a lot of the lead up traditions to Christmas Eve wasn’t possible every year. It felt disjointed and awkward to try to build traditions that I could maintain every year. Traditions can become a burden.

Holiday Stress

ornaments in a box

I love winter holidays. Sure, growing up in Hawaii isn’t exactly the place to celebrate winter, but I love the trees, the lights, the movies, the songs, well the list just goes on. I love it all. And when I lived where it snowed, I loved that too! But the magic of Santa was a challenge when my son was younger. We didn’t have a lot of money for presents and the timing of my custody always seemed to leave something lacking when it came to doing the little things like seeing Santa or going on a train for a tree finding expedition.

I wanted him to remember his time with me, enjoy the holidays, and learn to love the magic of the season. But it was hard to juggle it all. School plays, PTA fundraisers, class parties, present shopping, and post office insanity all contributed to not being able to cuddle on the sofa to watch Rudolph with hot chocolate or eggnog.

We’d get invited to gatherings and holiday parties of friends, but those became awkward for me if my son wasn’t with me. Everyone asking where he is was always a reminder that he wasn’t with me. Their innocent questions stung my soul. Over time I started to decline holiday gatherings unless he was with me; it was just easier.

Why Traditions Matter

I’m what one would consider the family historian. I know the family tree, keep the recipes alive, and am very proud of who I am as it pertains to where I’ve come from. For me, these were important things to help my son understand even living 2,100 miles across an ocean away from my close family. Traditions are important because they give us a sense of belonging and comfort in consistency. Even a cranky teen can appreciate knowing that some things are just what we do as a family.

Some traditions are cultural and help us stay connected to our past. It’s also time when family expects to spend time together with love, laughter, and the occassional arguement over something as silly as the tree topper choice. When traditions involve extended family, the younger generation gets to know the older relatives and distant cousins, expanding their inner family circle. Making the same recipe for dinner helps you feel connected when living thousands of miles away.

Finding Our Own Way with Traditions

santa next to a christmas tree

There was one consistent part of my winter with my son, Christmas Eve though Christmas Day. Our traditions had to fit into this 36-hour window, sometimes rushed and hectic. But it had to be done in that time slot. The presents were already wrapped with Santa’s specially wrapped presents hidden out of sight. The tree would have been decorated the day after Thanksgiving or as soon as we could. My mom started sending him Hawaiian Santa ornaments when he was born, a way to connect our mainland home to our roots in Hawaii.

With everything all ready for the morning Santa presents reveal, I’d make a simple dinner. We’d eat as the Christmas movie binge would start. All the classic claymation films from my childhood like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He’d open his presents from me and we’d play as I’d put on A Christmas Story and just soak in the evening. I’d let him plead his case to sleep on the sofa which we did, year after year. We’d put the milk and cookies out for Santa with a few carrots for the reindeer.

Somewhere around 1 AM, I’d try to pry myself from his slumbered cuddle without waking him. I’d tip toe around the house for a few minutes to make sure he didn’t wake just feet from the tree. I’d eat the the cookies and feed the carrots to the dog, keeping just a few bites to toss into the yard in the morning. It was all so easy except when you’re transporting a Santa gift filled with Lego parts through the dark. One stumble becomes a loud tell-all. Yet, year-after-year I managed to not wake him and slip back into an uncomfortable cuddle on the sofa.

Holiday Magic

boy standing over Christmas presents

Now that he is 17, there is no need to wait for Santa. Ironically, as hard and exhausting as they were, I miss the Santa routine. Why? Becuase for all the trouble of the holidays, the biggest tradition I worked hard to create was the feeling that Santa and the Spirit of Christmas was magically. I couldn’t afford a wild and crazy Christmas, yet every year I systematically figured out what was the most special gift: not just Legos but a new box of Star Wars Lego you couldn’t buy anymore.

It took planning all year to save the money to make the holiday special. It wasn’t about an expensive toy; it was his eyes widening and saying, “Of course that is Santa because I know we couldn’t get that.” That for me, even today, is the magic of a simple holiday tradition of what Santa will bring in the morning. Truth: I well up just thinking about it because I never wanted him to see the stress I experienced during the holidays. I wanted his tradition to be one of magic and his reaction was the only way I ever knew that I succeeded. Now, that part of the holiday is a memory, but a very special one that brings me joy as I look at the young man who will lay on the floor and play with the dog as we put on our movies and enjoy Christmas Eve.

Happy Holidays to all. If you need a place to talk and vent, the Single Mommy Tribe is a safe place to share and get support. No one should feel alone this holiday season.

single man looking at dating app

Single Mommy Dating Struggles

Being a single mother navigating the world of single men is not an easy task. Dating, in general, is hard enough, but add to the mix your kids, their kids, and all that extra baggage of ex-spouses and you have a firework ready to pop. I’ve been single a long time, way too long to be honest, but for all the years I’ve been alone I haven’t been willing to change my deal breakers and how I choose a potential partner.

Most people don’t wait so long to get back in the saddle and find a boyfriend or girlfriend. At the same time, I know I’m not alone in choosing the road of raising children first and finding love later. If the time has come to be serious about finding a serious relationship, you really do need to be committed to trying. But what really goes into finding a someone ready for a committed relationship seeking a true life partner? Let’s delve into the world of single mommy dating…

Swipe Left or Right?

Unfortunately, dating has become a fast-food menu option – heck even fast food takes longer than the time most people spend on a dating profile. While meeting someone at a bar often starts with a physical attraction, there is also the opportunity to just have a conversation with people sitting near you. You get a flavor of their voice, their humor, even their intelligence, and interests. What football team they are cheering for if cheering at all.

But online dating profiles are strictly based on looks. Swipe right or left is purely a physical attraction. It’s the same for women and men. Like what you see and swipe right. Vice versa if you don’t like what you see. This is before you even get a sense of who they are. We’ve always hated that dating is marred with judgment on superficial traits, after all, isn’t it about being beautiful on the inside? Yet, we keep speeding up the process more and more.

For years, I’ve tried online dating in my search through potential partners. It’s been a painful process to say the least. Even the few times I thought I had a connection with someone and we were set to meet, they somehow found someone else at the last minute that was just quicker to the draw (or bed or whatever). It’s frustrating and demoralizing, to say the least.

Then you have to wonder if people are looking for a romantic partner or a significant other. 

Romantic Partner Vs. Significant Other

man kissing woman's hand

Is there a difference between a romantic partner and a significant other? Some people might not think so while others will certainly say yes. This is part of the relationship value system you just don’t get to understand until you really get to know someone. The difference between the two is simple: romantic partners are fun to hop in the sack with and there is a lot of physical chemistry. A significant other is someone you can imagine raising children with and is much more than a great lay. While there are overlaps between the two: a romantic partner may be a great friend and a significant other is ideally someone you are physically attracted to, but we shouldn’t confuse the two when dating.

It doesn’t matter if you are doing the online dating thing, meeting people through friends, or picking up someone at a bar, look for signs that the person is ready for a serious relationship if that’s what you want and need. If you are a woman who wants a partner, you need to be honest with yourself about what you want and what you can give.

Signs that a man is ready for a committed relationship include:

  • He seeks to be around you
  • He doesn’t disappear for times
  • He talks about the future and makes plans with you
  • You can rely on him
  • He’s unguarded around you
  • You can be unguarded around him (yes, even the ugly cry is okay)
  • He listens and cares about what you say
  • He invites you to meet his family, friends, and do hobbies
  • He shares his passions

This isn’t an end-all list and certainly, there are some things that some men may never be good at. For example, some men need alone time and will take it. Vice versa, a single mother may always be a bit guarded – at least until there is a firm commitment. Everyone needs space and should be able to set healthy boundaries, but the more signs there are of a committed single man, the more confident you can be that he is serious about becoming a significant other and not just chatting before an interlude.  

What Makes a Relationship Work

man and woman walking near Charleston building

While every relationship is different, time is precious and we need to understand what kind of relationship is healthy and meant for long-term thinking. The idea that there is one reason that is a magic secret sauce in a relationship is simply false. There are many things that become overarching themes in relationships that work.

Communication: Being able to communicate your wants, fears, feelings, desires, and needs are important and you also need to be able to hear and understand your partner’s. Successful married couples have strong communication skills.

Playfulness: A great relationship can make you feel like a child again because there is so much play happening. Being able to joke and be relaxed enough to be silly is a critical factor in many long-term relationships. When the play stops, it can mean something is wrong.

Interdependence: This means both individuals have their own identity but are able to work as a team and support each other in their lives whether married or not. Interdependence gives adults the best of independence and dependence on another human being.

Acknowledgment: Being able to say please and thank you for the little things (and big things) is imperative to not feeling as if you are being taken for granted. It’s nice to be appreciated and hear it when dinner is put on the table or the lawn is mowed. Give thanks and ideally, you get thanks in return as well.

Honesty: There is little doubt that men and women need to be honest with each other to have a strong marriage or relationship. But some serious relationships are just more honest than others. Being able to blurt out the truth and be totally accepted for it, no matter what is said is a big aspect of a healthy relationship.

You may attract a man where all of this isn’t readily apparent but with some work, you may find that you have found the boyfriend of your dreams. Toxic relationships won’t ever mature into a relationship with these components.

The Work of a Relationship

Relationships take work but they should also be a fun type of work if you are being rewarded with positive results. A single parent will have to arrange a babysitter, deal with an ex who may have an issue with the person you are dating, kids’ feelings of mom becoming romantically involved with someone, and the list goes on….

For someone like me, the work starts with getting out of my normal mom jeans, t-shirt, and baseball hat. It means taking the time to look my best which is time I generally don’t have. So the work starts in preparing for a date. Then there is the emotional work of being open while getting to know someone. That is followed by all the energy after a date wondering if you said every dumb thing you could have possibly said and if they think you are an absolute idiot. Talk about energy consumption.

But that work should be rewarded with butterflies of excitement when he calls and starts chatting away about anything and everything. That work should be rewarded with being told you look pretty. It should be rewarded with your kids liking him and being happy that mommy is a bit happier too.

Yet there are deal-breakers we need to all be aware of as they matter to us whether we admit it or not. 

Deal Breakers

A deal-breaker is something that you can’t get past and accept. You might be okay with someone having a glass of wine with dinner at night but not willing to date someone who has two vodkas every night when they come home. Each person has a different list of deal-breakers and it will do you well to know what they are. I’m Catholic and my ex is Jewish. While this wasn’t a big deal while dating, it became a big deal for him when we got married and especially in raising our son. Where we had once agreed to do our own thing, he resented the Catholic traditions I brought into his Jewish home.

Deal breakers can include things like:

  • Religious or political incompatibility
  • Smoking, alcohol, or drug habits
  • Child raising values and practices
  • Lifestyle choices 
  • Sexual incompatibility

On the flip side, for me, I know a new deal-breaker is athleticism. My ex-husband was not athletic at all and really disliked sports. While this isn’t a big deal to some degree, I love sports and being an athlete is something I identify with. I’d love my partner to share my love and passion for sports and be able to play them simply because it gives us more to do together, be playfully competitive with, and supportive in. It wasn’t a deal-breaker in my first marriage but it is one moving forward.

Think about what your deal breakers are and where you draw the line in the sand. The deal breakers should be fundamentals that you just can’t compromise on; if you try to, you’ll probably become resentful of the person which isn’t really fair since it’s your deal-breaker you compromised on.

Moving Forward

neon sign, "go up and never stop"

I’ve tried the online dating thing; I have several close friends happily married because of online dating platforms and I am happy for them. But the more I’m on dating sites, the less I feel it is for me. It doesn’t matter if it is a free or paid platform; they just don’t have great options for me. At the same time, friends remind me that I literally live on a rock and choices may be limited.

But I think it’s time for me to venture into hobbies where I can meet those with similar interests. That means joining a tennis league and maybe doing some improv classes. These are old passions that time hasn’t given me the joy of recently. But that’s the work I’ll need to do: get out, do things I love, and meet others who love the same types of things. Maybe then I’ll get out of the swipe right, swipe left rat race of a single mother scanning for unmarried single men.

Are you a single mom and want a place you can trust other single moms for support, laughter, venting, and ugly cries? We have the place for you in our Private Facebook Group.