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: our first single mom Thanksgiving. Instead of looking forward to leaves falling from the trees, baking, and the smell of pumpkin spice, we feel the dread of knowing this is the year they will spend Thanksgiving with their Dad.
Well, that is me this year. A divorced mom with two kids who will create a new Thanksgiving tradition on my own… and the way I feel about that might surprise you!
Look: Thanksgiving is a holiday that skywrites across the sky – FAMILY TIME OBLIGATION FOR ALL! It also means suitcases, crowded airports, travel delays, road trips, or seeing some family you don’t like. 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.
Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays. But it is also a day of thanks and giving. Two words that mean a lot to me and enrich my life every single day. It is a holiday to share and practice gratitude for the abundance in our lives. As a divorced mom, sometimes that is tough to see, but if you look hard enough you will find it. Grateful for our family and friends, for the food we are given, for the air we breathe, and for the freedom this country brings. I believe we take for granted all that we truly have access to – and forget it is right in front of us and within our reach.
Even if your life isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be right now, the good news is that we all have choices about how and where we spend our holidays. (Yes, you do.) I really support and encourage you to look at it as an opportunity: by being proactive and exercising these choices, you have the opportunity 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 opportunity to do. Think about myself and what I want. Here’s how I’ll be celebrating (and how you can, too):
Your point of view and attitude matter!
For years we have been told what the holidays should look like or have said “this is how we have always celebrated Thanksgiving.” We do what others expect of us and do not allow our minds to design how WE want the holidays to look and feel for ourselves. And if we do not act in that way, we will feel disappointment and guilt that we chose a different tradition. If that is your attitude about it, then that is 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 when you are divorced and celebrating your first single mom Thanksgiving. A redesign of what family looks like does not mean you are sentenced to “death” (otherwise known as 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 go down memory lane a lot. And when that happens we skew our vision and glorify the memories of our married life, which exacerbates the pain we feel. In reality, we tend to suddenly remember all the good and NOT the bad. We see the memories we have of our married life as “perfect” and you feel such a huge loss. For some reason our mind decides to wipe away or conveniently forget the not-so-great times or family holidays. We do that out of fear. Fear of admitting life and family may not have been sunshine and roses. All this does is set us up for failure. Why do this to yourself? It is impossible to duplicate when you are divorced or separated. Making yourself feel resentful and creating a longing for a past that didn’t exist will not serve you. Instead, love yourself enough to create a new memory for the holiday and reclaim your power to what the holidays mean to you.
Stop being a people pleaser!
This leads me into 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 this year. Right now. This holiday I am giving 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 to myself: I 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. And I’m finding that it’s forcing me to answer questions I don’t normally ask myself… what do I really want to do this Thanksgiving, who do I want to spend time with, and how will I bring myself joy?
It is so easy to give in to the 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 in to the discomfort and fear of the unknown. Exploring 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 from Levine Family Law Group for flat-rate 30-minute or one-hour guidance on how to legally navigate holiday custody today.