5 Ways to Cope with the Romance of Christmas as a Single Parent

Categories Dating, Expert advicePosted on

Whichever way we look at it Christmas is hugely romanticised.

It’s a time for idyllic family get-togethers, a date for the office party, and pitying looks and questions about how “tough” it must be to be a single parent.

Festive films always seem to end with a happily ever after, and even Christmas-eve drinks come with the expectation of a seasonal fling. It can be a very difficult time to be parenting solo.

Here are some tips to help you get through as merrily as you can:

1. Make this Christmas indulgent for you!

One of the joys of being a single parent can be that you make your own traditions, routines and rules for how things go at your house. We know this, but sometimes the image of happy Christmas families and lovers under the mistletoe means we treat this time of year differently. Whether it’s just you and the children, you and friends and family (or fellow frolos), or even if it’s you on your own, you get to have pleasure, treats and joy for Christmas. 

Your new treats and traditions don’t have to look like anything, they don’t have to replicate Christmases past at all. Maybe you book yourself into a hotel, maybe it’s a night with your best friends, beer and football. Pick something to do and really make it special for yourself. 

Self-pleasure is also thoroughly recommended to beat any single bells off (I know it’s a stretch). Masturbation has so many mental health benefits which can help lift your mood. Toys aren’t just for children, so if you need a helping hand go and pick yourself out a new present. 

2. It’s OK to resent all the happy couples/families- but it’s easier to make friends with it.

It’s easy to get into a cycle of negative thinking this time of year, as we have mentioned the romance others are enjoying is being firmly rubbed in your face. Give yourself grace if it’s all just very hard, that’s OK, and you should celebrate yourself for allowing difficult feelings to surface. If you need to sit and feel, or even have a good cry, please do so, and do so without guilt. It can all seem terribly unfair, and even when you know with your whole heart that being single is better than the alternative, it is normal and healthy to feel mixed about that.

Christmas can be hugely tiggering if we have fond festive memories of exes. Allow those feelings to come and go without judgement. You are allowed to grieve past traditions, happy memories, or even whole relationships.

Having said that, heave-out the humbug, as in the Dicken’s classic carol, a mindset shift can be all it takes to help things feel a little more joyous. If you can manage to start to see other people’s love stories as inspiring and hopeful it will make this time of year feel more optimistic. I promise.

3. Take the time to get really clear on what you want for your family going forward- love as a concept rather than a reality.

This can be a very reflective time of year, especially if it’s happening early on in your journey as a solo parent. Even more so if it’s a year your children are away. It is a good time to get out that journal and make a clear note of what love, sex, romance and relationships mean to you. Think about these things as concepts first, rather than reflecting on your current reality, which may be far from where you would like to be. 

I like to recommend that people start building a list of stories they have received about love and then find examples that challenge those. For example, maybe you have been bombarded with media celebrating marriage as the apex of achievement of all things romance. In this instance look for examples of people in healthy dynamics in which marriage doesn’t appeal, couples who happily live apart, etc. Next get very honest with yourself and clear on what you personally want and believe is right for you and your family going forward. You may surprise yourself.

4. Do not get drunk and text your ex/send nudes to that stranger online…but if you do, don’t beat yourself up!

There’s that point in the afternoon on Christmas day where lots of us have had a few drinks and it can suddenly feel like a good time to reach out to all those people that on other days we know not to. I get it, you just want to wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’, just touching base…except we both know it’s not about that at all. 

This may be an ex, or current casual fling, who you know is toxic and you should have deleted a while ago? It may be a long list of very loosely interested parties from a dating app or who have slid into your DMs? Maybe it’s the person you know has a crush on you but who you friend-zoned around March last year and suddenly they have sprung to mind?  Something about the lonely hours post-lunch can make it feel like an excellent idea to indulge some of these contacts. I assure you, it is not, and I have personal experience waking-up on boxing day and cringing at the sext-exchange with someone I really do not want to lead on. Where you can, spare yourself. 

However, as I mentioned, it can be lonely, we might crave validation and attention, and sometimes the combination of too much wine and Quality Street can lead us to send things we may not normally. If you do wake up with more than a hangover to regret the next day, do not waste any time beating yourself up about it. You and several million other people are in the same boat. Build or burn any bridges you need, forgive yourself, and move on. 

5. Do limit the amount of grief you are willing to accept.

Spending time with your more judgemental family members, colleagues and friends who have had more than a few, and around loved-up couples can elicit those notorious “It must be hard to be single?” questions. Add to this all the media, movies, cultural stories we associate with love and Christmas, and you have yourself a perfect storm for feeling less than deep, crisp and even. Put up boundaries where you need to, relish in a curt retort to anyone keen to lament your singledom, don’t consume things you know will make you feel sad. You are well within your rights to challenge expectations, leave early, not engage, and give it as much sass-back as you need to feel ok. 

Lastly…

You can opt out altogether if you want. Christmas has been celebrated throughout history variously as a feast in a time of austerity. You do not have to partake at all and certainly you must protect yourself from any pressure to feel less-than because you are not in a relationship. If you feel that you are missing out on some of the seasonal frivolity because of family commitments, you can always pick up something in the new year for winter walks, ice skating or a whiskey by a pub fireside.

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By Julia Kotziamani

Julia Kotziamani is Frolo’s resident Dating Expert.