A Single-Mom Christmas:
4 Ways to Make 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year' Manageable
By Rebecca Fisher
Every day I wondered if I would have enough money for gas or groceries. Every month I worried I might not be able to pay the utilities, car payment or the credit card that helped us get by when there just wasn’t enough money to go around. And every year, around the middle of November, the slow churn of anxiety began over the obligatory Christmas gifts. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give my daughter everything she hoped for, which wasn’t much when she was younger, but our holiday culture demands every last penny be spent on gifts, and when our pennies run out, there’s the plastic card that makes it all possible.
Like most parents, I cherished Christmas mornings, when my daughter would spring from her bed, waking me with the sky still dark, and behold the wonder of Santa Claus. I wanted it to be perfect, which seemed impossible on my bare budget.
To combat the anxiety and guilt over the impossible, I focused on what I could control. The following are ideas and suggestions made to me by other mothers that helped make Christmas our favorite holiday of the year without the anxiety, guilt and insurmountable debt.
1. Keep Christmas. The best antidote to the consumerism Christmas we’re all bombarded with is Christmas itself. Every year my family celebrates the greatest gift of all, Jesus - a gift of selfless sacrifice full of love and hope. We read, sing and watch His story together. The only literal gifts involved come from the magi, who offer all they have in thanksgiving and praise. When filled by that story, an iPod seems pretty petty.
But, alas, we are human, and part of our Christmas culture is the gifts. So unless I was going to cut that out entirely, I had to get creative. And I did, by sharing.
2. Share the list. I am blessed to have a large family and wonderful friends who love my daughter and help me raise her up. They are my village and they often ask what my daughter wants for Christmas. This is when I pull out the list and tell them exactly what she wants. Her grandparents often ask to buy the more expensive items. Of course, I agree. I have no interest in taking all of the credit. Most of it goes to Santa anyway.
3. Communicate with the other parent. While some ex-spouses are still busy trying to throw a wrench into every wheel of your life, some are more cooperative. With the latter, discuss what gifts your child wants, who will buy them and how they will be presented to your child. Why buy two of the same thing? Your child doesn’t need it and no one can really afford it. Work together. It will make for a much merrier Christmas.
4. Be honest. The older my daughter gets the more honest and realistic I can be with her when it comes to money. While we don’t need to burden them with all of our financial woes, it’s important to teach them the limits of money. We came up with a budget and she would prioritize. Did she want one large gift or multiple small ones? She gets to decide what she really, really wants and I get to give it to her, though she still thanks Santa…out loud, sitting right next to me with a big smile.
The older my daughter gets, the more she focuses on giving gifts rather than receiving them. I watch her experience the joy of giving and making someone’s day a little brighter. It’s a beautiful thing. Christmas became an opportunity to show her what’s really important about the day and to focus more on it myself.
Rebecca Fisher graduated with a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Education, and teaches high school English. Her own experiences living in a mortuary in Northern California and raising her daughter on her own serve as the inspiration for the many macabre and eccentric encounters in her novel. She lives in California with her husband and two daughters.
All the Wrong Places is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and the Rebecca’s website (www.RebeccaFisherBooks.com) in both paperback and e-book format.