Monday, May 9, 2016

Solo parenting on a holiday

  With my big girl at the end of the day. (Matilda, knowing that I really wanted a picture of the three of us, refused to be in the photo.)

I can finally say, after nearly two years into residency, I have figured out how to enjoy a holiday even when I'm (temporarily) solo parenting. Mother's Day 2016 = success!

Let's get a few basics out of the way: 1) it's not easy. 2) other solo parents have to deal with more difficult situations. 3) I'm lucky, no matter which way you look at it, but my troubles are real to me, even if they're #firstworldproblems.

I've spent a lot of holidays over the past couple years without Hans, and I know I'll be spending many many more without him as well. It's a fact of his job and we choose to live far away from family. So I've been experimenting with, shall we say, coping strategies.

Coping strategy #1, the easiest: ignore it. Just pretend that the third Thursday in November is just like any other Thursday and, "come on girls, let's go to the park." Except...the park is filled with happy, extended families getting some exercise in before they tuck in to the big meal. And I feel like the biggest loser.

Coping strategy #2, avoid social media. Oh believe me, I've logged on to facebook on Christmas morning and seen lots of photos of kids dressed in cute Christmas pjs, digging into their stockings while adult family members coddle a cup of coffee and oversize cinnamon bun. Cue the tears. Avoiding social media seems like a no-brainer. But facebook is one of my communities. It's a major way I connect with friends and family around the world and I belong to groups that provide support and humor on a daily basis. Call me addicted, but I need my social media.

Coping strategy #3, pretend that Hans isn't working. Continue going through all the motions of the holiday - the decorations, the festivity, the food - and my other half will be around for about 10% of it. At the end of the day(s) I'm exhausted and don't feel festive but just annoyed that I did a lot of holiday work and no one was around to appreciate it.

Three strategies, three backfires. Yesterday, however, I did it right. Woohoo!

*****Coping strategy #4, make it my own. *******
Typical Mother's Day stuff that I've done, by myself with kids, that have felt hollow and lonely: church, brunch, mimosas. This year I planned in advance, talked with Hans about what I wanted, and connected with my local community. I had such a great day. Freja was thrilled that it was mother's day. The girls love holidays and special events and were excited that it wasn't just a regular day, but it was "mamma's special day." Hans and I put out a special breakfast for the girls the night before so I didn't have to jump out of bed to make them breakfast; I put out some art supplies for Freja because she wanted to decorate before I got out of bed; Freja let me go first when we played games together; Matilda kept hugging and kissing me and saying "Happy mother's day." They were as sweet as ever, even though Matilda did push my buttons from time to time. (She is only 3, after all.)

Morning dance party (Taylor Swift, Adele, Meghan Trainer, Shut up and Dance, Frozen - of course) while I drank coffee and read a book on the back deck.

A week beforehand I checked the calendar and realized I'd be alone all day, so I checked in with some friends. Sure enough, there were a couple others whose husbands were working all day so we made plans. A friend came over with her boy for pool time and lunch. It was fun and relaxing. Later in the day another friend found a "free meal for moms" deal at a Mexican restaurant so we met up with the kiddos and had a fun meal where someone else cooked and did the dishes. Please and thank you! And Hans, knowing that I do love mother's day, even though it can be viewed as a Hallmark holiday, came home with flowers, chocolates, and a bottle of champagne.

Three goofballs eating hamburger buns with forks.

 I was surrounded by so much love from that I truly felt lucky and happy and didn't want to be anywhere else. A spa day would have been nice (duh), but on mother's day I was so happy to be with my girls and be a mom.
It's Monday morning and we're back in the usual routine - kids at school, I'm doing laundry, and Hans is fishing before work. Now that I finally have figured out how to do holidays right, I can enjoy them for what they are: a break in the monotony to take a minute to appreciate what we have, relax, and have fun for a day. No responsibilities, just living. 

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