Mum with children on Christmas

How to Survive the Holidays as a Single Mom

From managing kids' expectations to making time for you, here is how to navigate the holidays as a single mom.

December is a holiday bonanza month. Your kids are likely glassy-eyed with excitement and expectations and we single moms sometimes wonder if we will survive.

Kids usually have big hopes around the holidays. Christmas lists can be a mile long. They may be expecting to indulge in every type of cookie known to man. And, your kids may even have visions of mommy and daddy celebrating together.

You love your babies and, of course, you want their holidays to be a magical experience. But you’re tired. You manage all this holiday stuff on your own which can be extremely overwhelming.

But don’t worry. Here are 8 ways for you to survive, and enjoy, the holidays this year.


Portrait smiling mother and daughters hugging in living room


1. Set clear expectations 

One way to reduce the pressure is to set clear boundaries and expectations up front. Make decisions on gift-giving and receiving, behaviour, food and plans for the Christmas holidays so your kids and relatives know what to expect from you. You will probably hear a few moans and groans in the beginning, but you’ll save major holiday-ruining disappointment in the long run.

Make sure your kids have a clear understanding around the idea of mommy and daddy being together. If they will not see their father over the holidays, begin that discussion early on. Never bash the other parent in front of your children, and encourage them to openly discuss their feelings about this now and at any time. Hold them, love them, and support them. It makes a difference.

2. Set a budget 

Impulse buying is the death of the family budget and the holidays are a death trap of impulse buys. Determine how much money you can afford to spend and lock that amount down. Be sure to include work gift exchanges, teachers’ gifts, the hairdresser and all those little gifts that sneak up on you and your budget.

3. Scale back the ambiance 

Food and decorations can be both a money and time suck. Plan carefully for special meals, holiday parties and decorating. You can also make easy presents on a budget with these great Christmas craft ideas.

4. Plan the family time 

Family time is really what the holidays are about, but it’s very easy to run yourself ragged doing everything but spending time with your family. It takes some forethought to decide how you are going to spend those holiday minutes in order to create wonderful memories. Sit down with your kids and decide what activities you all want to do and don’t want to do. Post the plan and stick to it.

5. Keep the kids occupied 

Winter holidays means new childcare arrangements for younger kids and lots of downtime for older kids. Breaks should be a good mix of free time, extra sleep and structure. Reading, making flashcards, room cleaning, meal preparation or whatever else benefits the greater good need to go on the kid to-do list.

6. Take care of you 

The holidays can be stressful, exhausting, overwhelming and lonely. It’s so important to step back and give yourself some love. Schedule some time to put your feet up, read a trashy novel or watch a silly film, have a glass of wine and enjoy some quiet time of your own. Take the time to rejuvenate. Remember, if mom ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

7. If you’ll be alone on Christmas Day 

I remember my first Christmas Day alone. I was so sad and I felt so defeated with the kids not at home. I spent the day dwelling on the life that was gone. As delightful as that Day of Pity was…I made a very active decision to never again allow my holidays to be sad. Armed with a big list of “how I want to spend my day”, I now look forward to my time with myself.

8. Say no 

It may seem counter-intuitive to enter the season of love by planning to say “No”, but in these holiday-laden weeks, you will be asked to give up your time in all kinds of ways…attending parties, donating baked goods, giving to charities, donating clothing, caroling, etc. If all that fits into your schedule, awesome. If it doesn’t, your only option to survive the holidays as a single mom is to say “No”. Give no explanation and no apology. When you have a plan for your holidays, you know exactly where you can add activities and when you can’t.

9. Make memories as a single mom

Create some new traditions and repeat old ones. Every year my kids choose their favourite fingers foods for Christmas dinner. It’s a meal they really look forward to and it’s not much work for me. Each Christmas also brings a new family game and we spend our time together eating and playing. It’s a laid back, fun time that my kids talk about all year long.


While it would be lovely to sit back and coast to the end of the year, sadly that is not going to happen. Instead, we are going to rush head first into six weeks jam-packed with holidays that require much of our time, money and sanity.

With some forethought, prioritization and planning, you can be a single mom who survives the holidays and has a great time with her kids just chilling out and making great memories.

Happy Holidays!


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