When a romantic relationship ends and children are involved, often one of the most contentious decisions to be made is how two parents will split holidays with the kids. Every single parent remembers their first holiday without their kids. Whether it is Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or a birthday, it can be incredibly tough.
My ex-husband and I have kept our relationship amicable, and our first holiday after we separated, was July 4th. We actually spent part of the day together as a family, watching our town’s parade and enjoying a family barbecue.
The first holiday I had without my kids was Christmas Day. We had celebrated Christmas together on Christmas Eve—waking up early and opening gifts, having a lovely Christmas dinner together and then attending Christmas Eve church services before the kids went to their Dad’s for the night and following day. It felt like Christmas to us all. It was a beautiful, fun, and full day. I had always thought that we could celebrate a holiday on any day—the day itself didn’t really matter, so I wasn’t fully prepared for the tears that came when I woke up on my own on Christmas morning, instead of being woken by anxious kids, ready to unwrap packages. I had planned ahead to keep myself busy on Christmas day, which was a blessing, as it forced me to get up, get ready and try to enjoy the day. I volunteered at the local nursing home, had lunch with my sister and niece, and then enjoyed a holiday party with a friend. While it wasn’t the same as being with my children, I had a wonderful day and was fueled by the memories of my celebration with the kids the previous day.
With a year of holidays as a single mom behind me, what I can say with confidence is that the key to keeping your spirits high on any holiday is to embrace old and new traditions with your kids, plan a “makeup” holiday if you don’t have your kids for the real holiday, and keep yourself busy and enjoying something if you find yourself alone.
One of the very best ways to enjoy a holiday alone? Travel. Yes, you read that right. Most of us have a travel bucket list and, at least for me, some of the destinations on that list aren’t feasible with kids due to the expense, time kids would need away from school, or scheduling. A holiday alone can present a perfect opportunity to travel—either solo or with a friend or family member.
With only yourself to pay for, travel just got a whole lot cheaper. Flight costs for one are much more manageable than when you are booking for the whole family. You can get away with smaller hotel rooms (which can also save money) and will only have the cost of meals for yourself. If you are able to share hotel, gas, or rental car fees with a friend, even better.
My ex had the kids for Thanksgiving this year and I had the opportunity to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, over the holiday—marking an amazing adventure off my bucket list. I received an invitation from Martinhal Chiado to stay at their ultra family-friendly resort and explore Lisbon to facilitate an article for Macaroni Kid Family Travel. Martinhal proved to be perfect not only for families—which you can read about in our March 2018 issue—but also for a couple. I traveled to Portugal over Thanksgiving with the man I’ve been dating for about a year now. Martinhal Chiado is right in the heart of Lisbon and has both family suites and apartments. The apartment we stayed in was the perfect launch pad for our Lisbon adventure. I am saving the details of my Lisbon trip for the feature article in March, but will say it was the perfect way to spend a holiday without my children.
The kids and I had celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving at my mom’s home the weekend before the actual Thanksgiving holiday, so we still had the joy of being stuffed full with my mom’s delicious cooking and sharing our blessings and grateful hearts with one another. When Thanksgiving rolled around for real, I was in Lisbon and didn’t feel the sting of a holiday without my kids as much as I would have if I had been home. Being out of the country for a holiday that only Americans celebrate was very interesting indeed, and made it easier in some ways. There wasn’t the constant reminder that it was Thanksgiving, although my boyfriend and I still found our own way of celebrating—finding the most delightful bistro called Canto da Vila for a Thanksgiving dinner sans turkey. It was a breath of fresh air not being assaulted the following morning with Black Friday shopping happening everywhere—in fact, we found that the Portuguese are not nearly as obsessed with the commercial trappings of the holidays as we are in the States. There were some holiday decorations up, but not everywhere you went. It made the few times we did see decorations all the more noticeable and awe-inspiring.
Traveling was truly a wonderful way to spend a holiday without the kids. And, as always seems to happen when I have some time away, I returned feeling refreshed and ready to jump into the Christmas season and embrace the great memories our family can build together.
Single Mom, Will Travel (SMWT) is written by Kayt DeMerchant, a divorced mom of three kids. Kayt loves to travel—with and without her kids—and enjoys hearing column ideas, tips, and single parent travel stories from others. You can reach Kayt via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to watch for the SMWT column quarterly in Macaroni Kid Family Travel.
The author was the guest of Martinhal Chiado to facilitate a future article for Macaroni Kid Family Travel. All opinions are her own.