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Beth Montgomery: Sharing the holidays with two households

Christmas Eve 2013: I was driving from my parent’s house where we exchanged presents and stuffed ourselves with good “Mom-Mom” food. I was heading to drop my kids off at their father’s house where they would wake up to Santa’s splendor.

When we separated in 2012, we had agreed on alternating Christmas mornings. This was his year to have them. For the first time since having the kids, I was going to wake up alone on Christmas morning.

As we drove closer to his house, the pit in my stomach grew. When we said our goodbye’s and they disappeared into his home, the back of my throat clenched. While I drove back to my empty home, the tears flowed. I collapsed on my couch and succumbed to that deep loneliness.

Oh, it suuuuuucked. I knew it would suck.

Since I already knew that it would I thought of ways to make it less sucky.

My kids were asking the dreaded question: “Mommy, why can’t we all be together again?” Even though it broke my heart, I was determined that they focus on the healing process instead of the past. I focused their attention on the doubled amount of love, two cozy homes, and how they’re getting more presents (yes… I went there). I also reinforced their bond, that they’re never alone in this process. They have each other and that’s super special.

When I focused on their healing, it had a healing effect on me. They were in a loving, safe home and they had each other when they weren’t with me.

To combat that first morning of not hearing “Santa came” at o’dark thirty, I got myself up and over to a women’s shelter to make breakfast for the residents. If I couldn’t hear my kids say that then I wanted to hear other kids say it.

What I heard and experienced was something so much more beautiful. I overheard a mom telling her little crying child that even though this year is different, we’re together and it’s going to get better. I saw the pain in her eyes but also the hope she instilled in her little human.

That moment still makes me tear up.

These women and children showed me something that shifted my entire perspective on sharing holidays. Sure, traditions aren’t the same and life can get sucky, but being thankful (even with the smallest of things) can have a huge impact.

Since then, the actual holiday DAY is just that… another day. As time continues to press forward, we approach these meaningful holidays with intentionality. We’ve created our own traditions and celebrate in our own way on the day that works best for our schedules. Releasing the grip on the need for those meaningful moments to happen on that specific day was the key to making the most out of those holidays.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get a twinge of sadness when I am not able to spend a meaningful holiday event with my kids when the rest of the world does. But things have gotten easier. Time has a way of healing and showing different routes to happiness.

If you’re a single parent who shares custody, you know there are times when you’re spending a holiday alone. Those moments following the drop-off can be indescribable. An empty home on that meaningful holiday may seem daunting and depressing. There is something unnerving about the heavy silence that replaces laughter (or fighting). The house is still, you’re left with your thoughts, and a pint of ice cream.

Maybe you’re facing an impending separation or first holiday alone and you’re thinking this is how depressing it will be. The normal routines and traditions will be disrupted. You’re forced to spend time away from those little people who mean the world to you… on a holiday.

At least, that’s how it was for me.

Hang tight. I promise: it can get better.

This year, my kids are with their father and “bonus” mom for Christmas morning. While there’s still a tinge of sadness, I’m grateful that today we can create memories with our own traditions.
And you can, too.

Get in touch if you’re in the same boat. I’m on the socials but can also be found on where I’ve been on a “Dear Diary” kick.

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