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.
thank you for sharing…I totally agree!t. burton
I enjoyed reading this. Number four spoke to me. The thing I struggle with is trust when I'm honest with my 14 year old son. I got really hurt by being so once and now I don't. The thing is that his dad is able and willing to buy the more expensive things. Like over the top expensive (a 55 inch tv last year – what 14 year old needs that?!). So when I tell him about limited finances, it gets thrown in my face. Anyhow…didn't mean to unload all that. It's just a struggle.
@won, I can understand that. My daughters dad never once bought her diapers, ever! Also, to this day, he has yet to buy her some NEW clothes. Mind you he puts her in hand me downs while his wife and step kids all get to go shopping for new clothes quite often. I was a sucker a couple of years ago at the AG office and I let him talk me into not making him pay me any child support, because he "Promised" me that he would help out any time I needed it. I have yet to get any kind of help from him. He will say that he will help, then when it comes down to paying, I end up having to pay. ie, he promised her she could do cheer this year, I signed her up but I had to bargain with his wife in order to get them to pay half. Now they have promised that they will pay for her dance next semester, we will see. I gave up on holding my breath or expecting anything from him. He sees her on his time and she adores him.
Thanks for sharing this honest post with us. It is nice that your ex-spouse is willing to help this time of year with helping to buy some gifts. I like the idea of being honest with your children about the costs of things. It sounds like you are raising a very special daughter!
@won, I like to think that as parents, it's our job to raise functional, independent children. Buying them whatever they want or outrageous/inappropriate gifts is only setting them up to fail in life. You have given your son a glimpse into reality. The reality most of us live, where money is limited and we have to set priorities. Keep telling him! He will appreciate it one day. @MommyKatie…I'm sorry to hear that you have a dishonest ex who would prefer to move on with the "new" family rather than taking care of the one he started first. Unfortunately it's more commone than not. Any chance you can have that support order reversed? I am comforted by the fact that it's all temporary. One day I won't have to worry about negotiating and the unfair circumstances. If I do my part to raise my daughter with strong values, I can hold my head high. The others will have to answer for their behaviors. This too shall pass, even if not for five more years! 🙂 Hang in there and thank you, thank you for sharing my article!
Just a little FYI to all of you spammers, I moderate my comments and all of the spam you have been trying to connect to my site through comments on this post are being deleted 🙂
I would add that buying a big gift or gifts at Christmas sets a precedence. Evey year becomes a time of expecting more.Keep it simple always. You can make a new normal for your family.