When my son’s dad and I initially decided that our relationship was over, we made a promise to each other that our son would always come first. Our breakup wasn’t dramatic, or prompted by some discovered infidelity. We had been together for more than 6 years, and at a certain point we realized that we had simply grown apart.
Since co-parenting was, and in many ways still is, a foreign concept to me, I truly didn’t know what to expect. Would we keep in touch the way friends do?, I wondered. Would we limit our conversations to be about our son only? How would all of it affect our day-to-day life?
With more questions than answers, we spent the first year or so spending most of our time together raising our son, despite the ending of our romantic relationship. We spent birthdays and holidays together, and we also went to the beach, the zoo, and to the museum as a family. There was a palpable sense of mutual respect and honesty. When someone referred to me as a single parent, I would scoff, because I was spending all of these sweet and intimate times with my child and his father. I felt like together, we were creating a new image of what co-parents could be.
When people would inquire about my life as a parent, I would scoff when someone referred to me as a single parent because I was spending the intimate and sweet times with my child and his father. In short, I was grateful to be a new image of what co-parents could be.
Over the last year, however, my relationship with my ex has soured. Since my ex moved out, parenting together has become insufferable; the rose-colored image of us raising our child in peace and harmony together is nothing more than a pile of ash now. Our arguments have become filled with razor sharp daggers, and the sense of mutual love and respect between us has since dissipated. Now, this will be the first Christmas I’ve ever spent away from my baby, away from the family that we had, and I am devastated.
The way our custody agreement has been set up, my ex has my son on the weekends. This year, Christmas just so happens to fall during his time with him. When our friendship was thriving, custody schedules would not apply for special holidays like Christmas or his birthday, but unfortunately we are no longer in a place where that is still the case.
It would be easy for me to be selfish. I could easily demand that my child be with me for the holiday or we could suffer through it together, as his parents. Unfortunately, I know that such a stance could have extreme repercussions on our already fragile co-parenting relationship. No one would win in that scenario, and my baby would be the biggest loser of us all.
Being a single mom is a thankless, difficult job. You are there for most of the tantrums, blamed for most of the mistakes, and looked upon for most of the support. It’s an immensely lonely experience.
Some people might ask: "What's the big deal about Christmas? It's just like any other day of the week, and for goodness sake, you can see your son pretty much any other day of the week." My friends who aren't parents have said as much to me, suggesting that being without my son on Christmas can be a time for me to relax, instead of stressing out over creating a magical holiday for him.
What these people fail to understand is that Christmas is not about gifts or the magical feeling your child still has at a young age, when they wake up to the telltale signs that Santa has stopped by their house, like the half-eaten cookies and the missing letter you left out thanking him for stopping by. Christmas has nothing to do with that at all, at least not for me. It has to do with family and togetherness.
Being a single mom is a thankless, difficult job. You're there for most of your kids' tantrums, blamed for most of the parenting mistakes, and asked to shoulder the burden of providing emotional, physical, and financial support for your child. It’s an immensely lonely experience, and most of the time, I have to stop and just pat myself on the back for managing to pack lunches, do the laundry, and change pee on the sheets for the millionth time that week.
On Christmas, I am not the stressed-out mom running around praying that the daycare doesn’t cash the payment check too early. I am the mom who can sit back and just enjoy being with my baby on a magical day.
So when the holidays roll around, especially a holiday as highly anticipated as Christmas, there is a weightless feeling of being with my child and my family that I look forward to. On that day, I am not the stressed-out mom running around praying that the daycare doesn’t cash the payment check too early. I am the mom who can sit back and just enjoy being with my baby on a magical day. I can see his eyes light up with wonder when he unwraps the toy he’s been dreaming about. I can bake cookies with him and not worry about the mess we are making, because it’s Christmas. On that day, I can just be his mommy and enjoy it. As a single parent, those times don’t come around so often.
This Christmas will not be nearly as special as it’s been these last few years. I won’t bother setting out cookies for Santa or playing my favorite Temptations Christmas album. This will be a Christmas with a little less cheer, but I hope that, in the coming years, my ex and I can get back to a harmonious place where spending sweet times like these together becomes a priority, because neither one of us is willing to miss them.