Co-parenting: the holiday shuffle

      (<a href=Family Thanksgiving photo via ShutterStock) " title="shutterstock_121428916" width="640" height="361"/>

    (Family Thanksgiving photo via ShutterStock)

    The mad dash towards the end of the year is here, and with it, questions about holiday plans.

    It’s a simple question for some, but in my house, it brings up a whole bunch of feelings, including anguish and worry. The end of my marriage meant the beginning of a holiday shuffle. The Dad and I had to figure out a way to make holidays work for our new version of family.

    When The Dad and I first separated, we planned to still spend holidays together. We tried to recreate the family that had been fractured by our split. This worked for awhile, but it was emotionally draining. 

    As the adult, I knew that I should put my feelings aside and allow my daughter her moment with both of us, but I found that it was difficult to be friendly with The Dad. I found that I was taking the focus off the celebration and making the holiday about me. So we started to split holidays. We chose which holidays we wanted our daughter to celebrate with us and made the necessary arrangements.

    This seemed like it should work perfectly. I had to work nights and some holidays for the job I had at the time. Instead of mourning the lost family time, I thought our new approach would allow me to rest and throw myself into my shifts at work. A perfect plan in theory. In practice … not so much.

    Well-meaning family and friends asked if I missed my daughter, offered advice on how to cope and invited me over. On top of that, I felt like I had to make up for the time I was not with my daughter, so I planned to go all out during the time I did have with her.

    My first solo holiday was a disaster. I overdid it (and overspent) and rounded out the day feeling like a total loser mom. Maddy was happy, but she missed her dad. I was exhausted from trying to do too much and realized I had shifted the focus to material things. Holidays became more stressful and more of a hassle. That’s just the way it was, though. Until one day Maddy asked why she couldn’t have a say in how her holiday was spent.

    The Dad and I were floored. We hadn’t consulted Maddy at all. Since we weren’t getting along, we thought we were sparing her the drama that came along with our conflicted feelings. The truth is, she was more interested in seeing her family together.

    Holidays are still stressful, but knowing that this is what my daughter wants, I can relax and settle in for a night of movies and eggnog.

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