Single Parents at Christmas: Do We Measure Up?

single parents at christmas

Right now I’m struggling with life for single parents at Christmas.

This weekend, 10pm came around and I found myself on the BA website looking at flights. My feet are itchy and I’m feeling the need to take a trip before Christmas. Maybe a European Christmas market. Perhaps Dublin. Oslo?

Just somewhere. Else.

This time last year, we booked flights to New York. Flea and I had an amazing time, wandering through Central Park, Christmas shopping, marvelling at the views from the Top of the Rock.

The year before it was Chicago. That was a great trip. Snow, ice skating, hot chestnuts at the Four Seasons, The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet.

chicago at christmas

When I think about it, we almost always take a trip at this time of year. What I’ve realised is that Christmas often gives me an incredible urge to escape. London, Cologne, Paris… we’re usually away from home between finishing school and the Big Day.

This year might not be so grand – for starters, I spent all our money on some ridiculous candlesticks. And I’m laid low with a bout of labyrinthitis which means I feel mildly drunk every time I stand up, or try to turn my head. But we’ll definitely go somewhere.

Maybe it’s because Christmas? Isn’t for people like me. For families like ours. Single parents at Christmas? We’re sort of invisible.

Christmas is for big families, around huge tables, laden with food. It’s gangs of kids helping to decorate the tree. A husband out hunting for last-minute presents, or helping decorate the outside of the house.

Is it just me who feels like we don’t measure up?

I’m a single parent. As of right now, I’m not in in a serious relationship, so there’s no significant other to buy for. I have one child, and I come from a small family. Quite a lot smaller than it used to be, sadly.

When compared to the Christmases of TV-land, I’m plagued by the feeling that our Christmas is just a little sad, in comparison.

I do love Christmas, really, I do. I love Christmas markets, and movies and Christmas Eve church services and trips to the theatre. My family might be small, but I’m genuinely blessed to have my girl in my life.

I just don’t love having someone else’s Christmas held up as being the one true version of it all. The pinnacle of what Christmas is REALLY all about.

And I don’t think it can be just me.

When I look at Christmas in the media, or the Instagram version of Christmas, I’m painfully aware it’s not my Christmas. Where are the single parents at Christmas?

We’re not there. There aren’t any gay parents either. Or childless couples. Or families where people have stopped talking to each other. No families coping with chronic illnesses, poverty, or just plain loneliness.

I don’t begrudge your happiness if you do have a Proper Christmas (with capital letters), really I don’t.

It would just be nice to know I’m not the only one who sheds a tear at the John Lewis ads in part because I know I’m never going to be able to give my child that version of the holidays. Because of the choice I made for us (that’s what’s known as the Single Parent Double Whammy of Guilt).

Anyone else suffer from Christmas guilt?



6 thoughts on “Single Parents at Christmas: Do We Measure Up?”

  1. YES. You are not the only one and this blog post echoes my feelings on the matter exactly. I have done nothing but shriek and rant at Christmas adverts this last couple of weeks. My teenagers think it’s hilarious but I think they do also get my point (I hope!).

  2. Growing up I had Christmases with my mum, my Dad and my older brother. They were great – full of presents, playing and Christmas music. Grandparents would pop in for an hour doing the rounds. Then, at 16, my parents split up, I got kicked out of home and Christmas was pretty crappy for a while. I would spend it at friends houses where I felt like I was encroaching on someone else’s Christmas, or I spent it with half of my family, making the broken-ness feel so real.

    It’s only really since the children came along that Christmas has been great for me. Before that we had to try and split Christmas between the bits of broken family that were still there – divorced grandparents, divorced parents, step siblingsm half siblings…

    Now, Christmas is just about the kids and although I am now pretty much the family portrayed on the TV there are always massive gaps at our dining table, and in our lives, which are much more noticeable at this time of year.

    I don’t think you don’t measure up – at Christmas or any other time of the year. I look at your and Flea and see a pretty solid family unit. You do so much, care about each other fiercely and are always there for each other. I know that she will always have Christmases that she’ll remember so fondly regardless of how many people are at the dinner table.

  3. I hear you and that’s why we always go to London for Passover, to be with the extended family. Otoh, for most of the other festivals we are here alone and so we make our own ‘family’ and traditions. We usually team up with other small families and celebrate together. Your family tradition seems to be a trip away and then coming home to recover. I’m sure Flea will cherish the memories of every trip. Big families aren’t the only way to do it. Nor are they the correct way. They are just one way.

  4. Oh but just look at what you do give Flea! She will love those memories of that version of Christmas. And I’m not even sure there is a ‘proper’ Christmas, like the ones in the ads. In my experience, whenever there’s a huge amount of family all in the same space, someone is invariably stressed and miserable about it all. We have lost family in recent years too, and it does make things sad on Christmas day. But I think a proper Christmas is one where you feel content with those around you, doing something you all love. So your Christmas is just fine 🙂

  5. I grew up with my single dad and he probably doesn’t know half of the holiday traditions most women know of. But, I never felt like Christmas was lacking. I’m sure your daughter feels the same Sally. And never mind the ads, they’re staged for a reason. I’m sure Flea loves all the fun you do every season because I believe what matters is that we’re with the people we love and care about. I mean I showed my dad this article ( and we spent quite a good few hours laughing away a hazelnut cracking competition. Good times, always!

  6. My life is full boring. I spent most of my time watching cricket on the TV. It is because I am an orphan and I don’t know much about holiday traditions. I am sure Flea loves all the fun you do every season.

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