Is Going Home for the Holidays Worth It?

Is Going Home for The Holidays Worth It?

The holidays can be a unique and challenging situation for solo parents everywhere. Not only do you have to interact with old relationships from your past, you may also have to deal with new situations, new family dynamics, or even just a continued grief from the fact that the holidays aren’t what they used to be. Sometimes, just stepping into our own family of origin can heighten our sense of failure or inadequacy. Maybe just being around healthy relationships remind us in this vulnerable season of what we don’t have anymore. 

Needless to say, going home for the holidays can definitely have an impact on our sense of self-worth. So, as we go into the holiday season, we find ourselves asking if it’s even worth spending time with family—especially if it just leaves us with a bunch of anxiety and negative feelings. 

Of course, we want to do the right thing for our kids and bring them into our family celebrations. So how do we cope with those dynamics while maintaining a positive outlook for both our kids and our own wellbeing? Today, we’re going to share some tips on how to approach this holiday season with strength.

Facing Family During The Holidays

Solo Parent Elizabeth has a lot of pain she’s working through when it comes to her family (and her parents in particular). Being around her family in this season of her life means honoring the newfound things she’s learned about herself over the past few years. “I’ve learned that my dad often made me the mom and how I can still get sucked into that anytime I’m around them. I almost (to an extent) parent my dad. It’s pretty exhausting for me to be around my parents in particular because I’m trying to fight off all of the things that I get drug back into over and over.” 

“When it comes to my siblings, nieces and nephews, they more accept me as I am so it’s a release and a place to show up and have fun and laugh and be silly. It’s a little bit of a tug and pull of being around the people I love most and the tug of being pulled back into the nasty parts that I’m trying to heal from and let go of.” 

Solo Parent Amber grew up in Minnesota and she’s been living away from home for quite a few years. “I don’t always go back for the holidays. So for me, the holidays are actually more complicated because my ex and I have made the arrangement that we spend the holidays together with our children. So, he actually comes to the house that we share with our unique custody situation. It’s balancing those old patterns with him that will creep in and all of the feelings related to that.” Because Amber didn’t go home to Minnesota often, her kids don’t have strong relationships with her family. She definitely feels a loss there and wishes she would’ve been able to maintain those relationships better. 
“The first time the kids and I did go back to Minnesota was shortly after my divorce. I remember realizing how uncomfortable I was going back as ‘newly divorced Amber.’ I had played the role in my family as golden child (achiever, performer, did everything right, etc.). I was the emblem of our family success.” For Amber, returning home after her divorce felt really uncomfortable and brought up so much hardship. “I remember thinking that maybe that’s why I hadn’t gone back in so many years.”

Robert didn’t have a big family, but he still dreaded all of the questions. Whether it be about his ex, his dating life, if he’d ever get married again, how court proceedings were going, and more . . . he really struggled having to field those over and over again. “With all the questions, I feel like I can’t even enjoy the holidays. All that coupled with seeing happy and successful relationships that are just in the euphoria of Christmas or Thanksgiving made me cringe. I knew at the end of whatever we were doing, I would get in my car with my girls and drive home. They would go up and play with their new toys and I would just sit alone.” After that, Robert would question why he put himself in those situations in the first place. Especially because he would come home feeling like his self-worth took the biggest hit. And on top of all that, if you share custody with your ex, it’s having to navigate the hardship of sharing holidays with them as well.  

Self-Worth and The Holidays

As solo parents, navigating loneliness is something we have to deal with quite often. But around the holidays, that seems to escalate even more. Maybe your kids are with your ex for Christmas and you’re spending it without them for the very first time. Maybe you’re the only solo parent in your family of origin and you feel the loneliness set in from not having someone special sitting next to you at dinner. Or maybe you don’t feel the emotional safety and security with your family like you used to. Solo parenting around the holidays can be a painful experience. But you’re not alone. 

It’s incredible how something like home or family can make us really unstable with our sense of worth, because we start questioning those things. We start feeling bad about ourselves. That can be really hard when your family doesn’t feel like a safe harbor to come home to anymore. And for others, even if you feel like it’s a safe harbor to go home to family, you still might get asked a bunch of questions or deal with comparison.  

5 Tactics to Help You Enjoy The Holidays

Let’s discuss some tactics to having a more enjoyable holiday season this year:

  1. Be comfortable with where you are.

This is a hard one. Especially if you’re still grieving your season. So, if you’re going to be spending the holidays with family, you have to start by giving grace to yourself. Then you can go in with enough confidence to be able to sit in those uncomfortable situations. And most of all? Trust the process because we know discomfort is refining. That doesn’t mean you have to swallow your feelings. Allow yourself to be where you’re at and feel what you feel—it doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there. Make space for what’s true for you. Acknowledge those hard feelings because you’re worth it.

  1. Be present. 

This may be the last thing you want to do. But in order to be present, you have to go in prepared. Talk to your family before you come and let them know what topics are off limits. If you don’t want to be peppered with questions about your divorce, make sure to tell them that you won’t be answering those kind of questions. Creating boundaries beforehand will allow you to be fully present. You may even be able to enjoy the day, fully present and engaged with your kids. And most importantly, trust that God is using even these hard situations to refine you in this season.

  1. Check out.

This is opposite of our previous point, but sometimes you need to give yourself a break. Know that it’s okay to have some “release valves” especially when you’re in uncomfortable situations. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to take a walk. Ask a few “safe people” if it’s okay to call them to vent. It’s important for you to know that even if you don’t call, they’re still there if you need them. 

  1. Set minimal expectations for yourself and others.

While you need to set boundaries for yourself ahead of time, you also need to acknowledge that the situation is going to be uncomfortable. It’s not ideal that you’re walking into a family event without your significant other. Go into your family celebrations with minimal expectations of the way Christmas or Thanksgiving used to be. 

  1. Pay attention to what you want or need.

We talk about this one a lot, but it’s very important in making sure you’re taking care of yourself and even your worth. Don’t be afraid to speak up to your safe people about what you need or want for the holidays. It’s okay to have wants and needs—and it’s equally okay to share that with people who can help. 

Going home for the holidays can have a drastic impact on your self-worth if you aren’t prepared. And sometimes, even if you are. Knowing what that pain feels like (and how it might be intensified during the holidays) is part of acknowledging where you are in this solo season. Your family members may not know what that’s like. But here at Solo Parent, we do. Plug into a Solo Parent group. We know how isolating the holidays can be and that’s exactly why these groups exist. Join a group and find community with others who know what this season is like and can help you through it. 

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