Successful Single-Parenting During the Holidays

Like my grandmother says, it's best to "do what you can where you are with what you have.‚"

There are some things particularly painful for women: childbirth, mammograms and single parenting during the holidays. All three can cause physical exhaustion and make you feel like you want to hide in a closet. If you are a single mother, you know that’s not an option. So, instead, try the following to make most of Christmas for you and your children.

Make stuff

I was once friends with a young woman who was an artist. When we met for lunch one day, I chuckled when I saw her shirt which read, “Go into your studio and make stuff.‚” During the holidays, there’s no better time to go into the basement, the kitchen, the garage or the living room alone or with your kids and “make stuff.”

When my grandmother was a single mother in the 1950s, she didn’t have a lot of money to support my mother and aunt. But she didn’t let that stop her from making the holidays special. Instead, she used her talents to make gifts for her daughters. She glued, sewed and knitted her way into the joy of Christmas.

The “let’s make stuff‚” bug stuck because my mother caught it and then passed it on to me. Ever since I was old enough to write my own name, I’ve been making things, sometimes with just a few dollars. Without a doubt the gifts, I have made have been the gifts which I have enjoyed giving the most.

More than 10 years ago my family started a tradition of making ornaments for one another. I’ve been the happy recipient of many wonderful and delightful ornaments for my tree—and each of them is packed with love and memories because they come from those dearest to me. Of all the Christmas gifts I have received, I count these as the most valuable.

So don’t let a lack of money stop you from celebrating the season with your kids. You can make things with them and it will create a special time of bonding, or you can make things for them, both of which will remind you that you don’t need a lot of money to make Christmas meaningful.

Make memories

During the holidays, it may become easy to focus on your limited time, limited resources and limited help. However, like my grandmother says, it’s best to “do what you can where you are with what you have.‚” And one of the things you can do is make happy memories.

Ask your kids what kind of things they’d like to do during the holidays. Then ask yourself the same question. Finally, make a list of all your ideas and get started on doing things that your kids will remember into their adult years.

One of my single girlfriends, who is a single mother, always reaches out to the less fortunate during the holidays, and when she does, she always includes her son, Andy. When Sheryl and Andy visited an elderly friend, they walked around the woman’s house while they prayed for her. On visits like these, Andy has offered ideas on how he can help, too. To Sheryl’s joy, Andy is making Christmas memories with his mom that he’ll never forget and he’s developing into a very compassionate young man.

Another single mother friend of mine travels with her children to a town several hours from their own in Colorado every holiday season where they cut down their own 14-foot Christmas tree. When they get home, they make ornaments to decorate their beautiful pine.

Suggestions like these may seem like simple things, but when you make happy memories your children will remember them for years to come.

Get help

When I was in my mid-20s, I often visited my girlfriend, Sarah, during the holiday season. We baked cookies, shopped and made presents for Sarah’s son. The time with Sarah was comforting for me because I was away from my family during the weeks before Christmas. And it was comforting for her, because, as a single mom, it provided someone to help her with the demands of Christmas preparations.

You can take some of the challenge out of being a single parent during the holidays by pairing up with another single mom and making Christmas for your children together. It will lighten the burden for both of you and make up for some of what a spouse would do for you.

Watch your credit

As your kids get older, and the pressure to buy them what is “cool‚” gets stronger, it can be tempting to overuse credit. But too much credit is not the answer—especially when you’ll have to pay for it later. Keep in mind that if you spend too much now, your kids will also pay for it later by possibly forfeiting something they really need during the New Year. Before the holiday season starts, determine how much money you will spend on gifts and keep within your budget.

As I was growing up, my parents had a minimum of 20 dollars that they spent on each of us—and that amount didn’t change from 1967 until I left the house in 1987. And you know what? I don’t regret it one bit. The result has been that I have grown into a non-materialistic adult who thinks that people are more important than things. You can give your kids this same gift by focusing on the gifts of family and Christ during the holidays.

Don’t bad mouth your ex-spouse

My grandparents divorced when my mother and aunt were young. Because he was their stepfather, he sometimes sent a gifts, but most of the time he didn’t. Even so, my grandmother focused on the joys of Christmas by never mentioning negative things to her children about their father. After all, it wouldn’t have done anything to help them. In fact, it could make them more insecure.

If your ex-spouse is not supportive during the holidays, and you cannot change that, don’t focus on it. Instead, focus on what can be changed, which is gift-giving, memory-making and love.

Celebrate Jesus!

Above all, keep Jesus at the center of season. Think of ways to share the true meaning of Christmas with your kids because a relationship with Jesus will not only make a difference during the holidays but during every day of your children’s lives.

Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (

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