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An Unapologetically Single-Mom Thanksgiving Tradition

Can a single-mom Thanksgiving be an opportunity to reshape the holiday? Wendy Sterling says, "Yes!"

For many of us, Thanksgiving brings up feelings of sadness, loneliness, and dread – especially those of us going through or recovering from a divorce. It's our first single-mom Thanksgiving. Instead of looking forward to leaves falling from trees, baking, and the smell of pumpkin spice, we dread the fact that this year, the kids will spend Thanksgiving with their dad. Well, that's me this year. I'm a divorced mom with two kids who will create a new Thanksgiving tradition on my own ... and the way I feel about it may surprise you.

Those family holiday obligations!

Thanksgiving is a holiday that writes across the sky, "FAMILY TIME OBLIGATION FOR ALL!" It may entail suitcases, crowded airports, travel delays, road trips, or seeing family members you dislike. I just got the shivers. That kind of anxiety is the exact opposite of how many of us want to feel and what Thanksgiving is all about.

Related: 4 Reasons to be Thankful for Your Divorce

Don't get me wrong: Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays. It is a day of thanks and giving. These two words mean a lot to me. They enrich my life every single day. Thanksgiving is a holiday to share and practice gratitude for the abundance in our lives.

As a divorced mom, that is sometimes tough to see. But if you look hard enough, you will find it. I believe we take for granted all that we truly have access to‚ and we forget it's right in front of us, within our reach. Family and friends ... the food we are given ... the air we breathe ... this country's freedom.

Embrace your choices

Even if your life isn't exactly where you want it to be right now, the good news is that you have choices about how and where you spend your holidays. (Yes, you do.) I encourage you to view this as an opportunity.

By being proactive and exercising your freedom of choice, you have a chance to create new and meaningful traditions for yourself and your family. This year, I am unapologetically looking forward to my first Thanksgiving without my kids. I'm going to seize the opportunity to do something I've never had the chance to do. I plan to think about myself and what I want.

Your point of view and attitude matter

For years, we've been told what the holidays should look like. Maybe we've said, "This is how we always celebrate Thanksgiving."  We do what others expect of us instead of allowing our minds to design how we want the holidays to look and feel. And if we do not act in that way, we feel disappointed or guilty that we chose a different tradition. If that's your attitude, that's where you will continue to sit.

I'm here to say that you have the power to shift your attitude and design the holiday around what is best for you , especially if you are divorced and celebrating your first single-mom Thanksgiving.

A redesign of what family looks like does not mean you are sentenced to loneliness. It simply means you have the freedom to do whatever you would like, regardless of what others think.

Your family holiday memories might not be exactly as you remember

When we are divorced, we tend to travel down memory lane a lot. And when that happens, we skew our vision and glorify the memories of our married life. In turn, this exacerbates the pain we feel.

In reality, we tend to suddenly remember all the good and forget the bad. We see the memories we have of our married life as perfect and feel a huge loss. For some reason, our minds wipe away – or conveniently forget – the not-so-great times.

Why? We do this out of fear. Fear of admitting that life and family may not have been all sunshine and roses. This sets us up for failure. Why do this to yourself? Why long for a past that doesn't exist? It will not serve you. Instead, love yourself enough to create a new memory for the holiday, and reclaim your power over what the holidays mean to you.

Stop being a people pleaser

This leads me to what I believe is one of the greatest (yet hardest) things to do over the holidays. Embrace the freedom to design the holiday for yourself and stop worrying about what others think.

Why do we put others ahead of ourselves? Who does that serve? For me, overlooking my own needs ends now. This holiday, I will give myself the gift of doing what I want. And I am not going to feel guilty about it.

For the first time, I have the opportunity to experience something I've never given myself. I get to choose what I want this single-mom Thanksgiving to look like. And that means redesigning the holiday this year. It means creating new traditions along with the new chapter of my life. While it feels foreign and daunting, I am tackling it with grace, gratitude, and fearlessness. It's forcing me to answer questions I don't normally ask myself ... like what do I really want to do this Thanksgiving? Who do I want to spend time with? How will I bring myself joy?

Embrace change

It is so easy to give in to feelings of sadness and loneliness during the holidays, especially when your kids are with your ex. I encourage you to recognize those thoughts and, instead of dreading and fearing change, embrace a new attitude. That is the choice I've made this Thanksgiving: to dive into the discomfort and fear of the unknown. I plan to explore the depths of the abyss and emerge with a new Thanksgiving tradition: giving thanks to me.

Are you struggling to make Thanksgiving plans with your ex? Consult with one of our experts for a flat-rate 30-minute or one-hour guidance session on how to legally navigate holiday custody today.