I love getting divorced during the holidays. This is why.

If you're newly divorced, the holiday season can be tough.  Ten years later, I think Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.  (Photo: Getty Images & Illustration, Maayan Pearl)

If you’re newly divorced, the holiday season can be tough. Ten years later, I think Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. (Photo: Getty Images & Illustration, Mayaan Pearl)

I used to hate the holidays. As a newly divorced mother of three, it felt more like work and anxiety than fun and party. The wounds of my divorce were raw and I struggled with an exaggerated case of maternal pity. Poor meI thought, I have to do all the shopping, pack and surprise myself. There was also mother guilt: I wanted to drown my children in gifts and fun to make amends for never spending Christmas with their mother and father at the same time again. My attempt to cover the pain stuff brought so much self-inflicted pressure. Envy consumed me. Self-pity took over. Gratitude did not exist.

The early years after divorce are also tough for fathers. Andy Heller, author of Take the high road: Divorce with compassion for yourself and your family, had a 6 and 8 year old when he got divorced eight years ago. “Logistically, everything is more challenging when split into two households,” says Heller. “[Parents are] dealing with detention time, so a big factor is simply creating a logistical situation that allows for holiday celebrations.”

As a newly divorced mom, I wanted to drown my kids in gifts and fun to make up for never spending the holidays with their mom and dad again.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

As a newly divorced mom, I wanted to drown my kids in gifts and fun to make up for never spending the holidays with their mom and dad again. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Like me, Heller struggled with the new dynamic, but he was “determined to create an unforgettable holiday experience for [his] kids.” Over time, both Heller and I have learned to embrace and love the holidays as divorced parents. Love divorce during the holidays. Here are some of the reasons why:

Balance

As a divorced guardian, I have the best of both worlds: part-time single woman and part-time mother of three. When the kids are with Dad, I get to sleep late, watch Netflix, fold the laundry, or dance around my kitchen in my underwear. Balance is built into my life and that’s a blessing I don’t take for granted once those bells start ringing. Heller shares the sentiment, noting, “there’s plenty of time to take care of business needs, shop, travel, or otherwise be a little selfish.” [when you’re divorced]An added benefit of this built-in balance? The gift of presence. Heller says he is “more available and clocked in when [his] kids are with him and that might be the most valuable holiday gift of all.

Serenity

Do you want to know what I remember about the holidays as a married woman? To fight. Lots of fighting. I had a seizure because he didn’t help wrap the presents. He would be outraged at the amount of money I spent on a Barbie dream house. He wanted to spend the day at his parent’s house and I couldn’t find it in my heart to compromise on my holiday dinner plans. There is something beautiful and liberating about making all the holiday decisions alone now. Heller calls it “the ability to control the energy of the household,” and in my humble, separate opinion, true words have never been spoken: I haven’t had a holiday fight in 11 blissful years and that, my friends, equates to peace and joy.

Tradition

When I got divorced, some traditions died out altogether. Others changed to new and improved versions. Heller actively sought new traditions after the divorce. Tuning into his creative juices,” he stabbed [his] and offered to come in and create a “Hanukkah experience.” Heller read the Hanukkah story to his children’s classes and “then explained the dreidel game, divided the class into groups and gave them dreidels and pennies to play.” Heller says creating new traditions, “helped the kids to feel more comfortable alone with dad.”

This version of me knows what the holidays are really all about.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

This version of me knows what the holidays are really all about. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Love

My younger, married self hadn’t mastered the art of self-love. There was a hole in my heart that I tried to fill with all the wrong things. I desperately needed the approval of others, I believed that material things equaled happiness, and I ate and drank unhealthy amounts to feel fulfilled. I lost sight of the spiritual side of the holidays. I lacked gratitude and humility and never thought about other people. Somewhere along the bumpy path of redefining my family and myself, I filled that gap with self-acceptance, love, compassion, and a spiritual connection that now keeps me grounded. I learned to love myself unconditionally. I forgave myself a lot of mistakes and started holding myself accountable. This version of me knows what the holidays are really all about.

Ten years have passed since my Grinch days. This year I wake up alone on Christmas morning. The house will be quiet. I will sleep in, have a quiet coffee and start my day with a prayer of gratitude as I wait for pictures of my kids (from my ex) to come out – a new tradition. Next year, the kids will wake up at my house and bring with them another set of traditions. Today I can be in the moment and accept everything. Nowadays I like everything.

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