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Navigating the festive season as a single parent

brown wooden heart shaped decor

As the festive season approaches, I can’t help but spare a thought for single parents, especially single mothers, who will be going out of their way, and making lots of sacrifices to give their children the best they can. Being a single mother comes with its own unique set of challenges, and navigating the world of single parenting can be especially tough when societal attitudes are tainted by misogyny.

While single fathers are often hailed as heroes, single mothers face scrutiny and even disdain. Society’s lens seems to magnify our struggles and paint us as undesirable, while single dads are seen as valiant and praiseworthy. It’s a narrative that needs to be dismantled. One striking aspect of the double standard is the way blame and shame are disproportionately heaped upon single mothers. Society seems quick to judge and condemn us, with little regard for the complexity of our circumstances. Single fathers, on the other hand, escape this harsh scrutiny. This gendered discrepancy reflects broader societal attitudes towards women and mothers.

‘T’is the season to foster a more inclusive and empathetic society. I know my story and I am convinced that I am in a far better position than I would have been otherwise, and my daughter is well taken care of. Yet sometimes the narratives I come across, especially on social media, can make even me question myself and my decisions. Not for long though because like I said, I know my truth and though I will always hold myself accountable for any missteps or apparent “bad choices”, I refuse to persistently beat myself up because a fraction of society deems me unworthy. However, there are many others who no doubt will be significantly affected by the constant judgment and unfair expectations. It can easily and quite quickly take a toll on your emotional and psychological well-being.

At Christmas time, these feelings can be heightened as many of us will feel the need to overcompensate for various reasons:

Guilt – Single parents may feel guilty about their parenting situation and want to make up for their perceived shortcomings by providing an exceptional festive experience for their children.

Pressure to create magical memories – There is often a societal expectation that the festive season should be a magical time for children, and single parents may feel pressure to create a perfect holiday experience for their kids.

Compensation for missing parent – Single parents may feel the need to overcompensate for the absence of the other parent during this season, in an attempt to minimise the impact of their absence on their children.

Desire to maintain traditions – Single parents may want to maintain traditions and provide a sense of stability for their children during a time of family celebrations and gatherings.

Financial stress – Single parents may also face financial challenges, which can add to the pressure to overcompensate during the holiday season. They may feel the need to provide gifts and experiences that are beyond their financial means to meet societal expectations and provide a memorable Christmas holiday for their children because we all know when they go back to school, they talk.

Every single parent, regardless of gender, is navigating a unique journey, filled with love and sacrifices. Thankfully, I never introduced my daughter to Santa. She discovered for herself at the age of 3 that he wasn’t real and it took all the convincing and bribing in the world to get her not to disclose this discovery to her friends at nursery. Because she doesn’t believe in Santa, we don’t do lists. Not the naughty or nice lists, and she has never given me a list of wants. Using that to my advantage, we have decided to keep it simple this year. We will indulge ourselves a little but we will be using the period for rest and recovery and will focus more on doing things together instead of focusing too much on what is underneath the tree, or what is on the table. I don’t think I’m even putting up a tree this year!

This Christmas, let’s celebrate the strength it takes to be a single parent and extend compassion to those who may be facing undue scrutiny. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and the love and dedication poured into creating meaningful moments for our children, amidst challenges, make each story remarkable. If you are a single parent reading this, please know that you are enough. May this season be a time for us all to celebrate the spirit of family life regardless of what it looks like for you, acknowledging the strength, resilience, and love that binds us together.

blue and brown welcome to the beach signage

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