Whether you’re legally separated or divorced, the first holiday spent without your kids can be very stressful. The traditions you looked forward to (or even dreaded) will take on a new look.
The first holiday I spent without my boys (they were 7 and 3 at the time) was Thanksgiving 2002. With how their mid-week overnight, holiday and weekend rotations worked out, they were with their dad for 5 overnights.
It didn’t really hit me until the weekend before, and I felt numb.
Sure I had plans to go to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner, but what was I going to do with the rest of my time? None of my friends or family were divorced so I didn’t know who I could turn to for advice. I wasn’t completely used to this flying solo thing, especially being the primary caregiver to my two young boys.
The next week, during lunch, I found myself chatting about Thanksgiving with some coworkers. When asked what my plans were for the holiday – without even thinking – I confidently said that I wouldn’t have the boys but had a full schedule of things planned, and left it at that. They all said, "That's great!" and the conversation moved on to the next persons plans.
The truth was I had nothing planned. But I innately knew this first holiday flying solo that I wanted to stay busy. And I wanted to feel good in the process.
I went back to my desk and made a list of everything I’d been wishing I had the time to do, but couldn't seem to fit in with mine and the boys busy schedules.
Like many mom’s, things like purging and organizing dressers and closets were on my list. I also wanted to repaint my bedroom. Every time I stepped away from my list, I’d come up with a few more things. I jotted everything down.
Soon I had a very lengthy “Jodi-Do” list including, grocery shopping and meal preparation for the next week, hemming pants, washing bedding and the windows, scrubbing down bathrooms, shampooing carpets, dropping off donations to the local thrift store….basically giving the house my full attention.
I prioritized my list into the following categories: “Must Do’s,” “Would Love to Accomplish,” and “If Time Allows.” Next I pulled out my day planner and began laying out my schedule for each day, working around Thanksgiving dinner plans at my parent’s house. I typed up my task list and printed it out.
It felt really good to have a game plan. Like, REALLY GOOD! And I was eager to get started.
Another bonus to all this planning was when I went to the family gathering, I was honestly able to talk about other things I was doing instead of dwelling on my kids not being there with me. I also presented an “I’m doing just fine” demeanor (because I really was), which quelled unwelcome questions and thoughtless comments from the busy-body relatives.
At the end of the 5-day’s I felt so accomplished! I was able to get almost everything knocked off my “Jodi Do” list. Gone were those nagging stressful thoughts in the back of my head of things I needed to do. And when my kids came back home I had more mental space available to focus on them.
I felt lighter and happier that I gave myself the gift of getting shit done verses crying in my wine and pumpkin pie that my kids weren’t with me.