This year I am dreading the holiday spend on my own. It is double for me since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, but I do try to avoid going crazy. My kid is 4 and won't know if a few of her gifts are from the dollar store, right? When you get a divorce, it's very easy to quickly fall into the Who's a better parent competition, especially around the holidays. The fact is no one ever wins that competition usually and trying to outdo each other at the holidays is an even more pitiful race to try to win. For me, I have no clue what my ex is getting our kid and while he may out-shop me (my kid is his parents' only grandchild), I know full well that it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, our love is not measured in Disney trips, Christmas presents, and dolls. Our love is measured in the time we give to our kids. The attention, energy, and devotion we share and show for our little ones. No Barbie can say "I love you" quite like the gift of time. Enough said!
However, it's fairly easy to feel insecure and guilty about your role as a parent after divorce. We know our little ones' lives are affected by our marital demises, and it's hard to not watch your ex's life from afar and think perhaps he or she might have it better than you, but those types of thoughts are not worth your mental energy. We cannot give our kids our marriages back, but we can give ourselves and our children a happy life after divorce.
No One Wins
No one wins the battle of Who bought the most truly because who ever DOES buy the most also spends the most! The holidays are hard financially for a divorced mom and dad, so why up the ante by trying to match dollar for dollar or spend outside of your means in order to be "World's Best Mom"? It's ridiculous and while your child may light up as he or she opens each gift, you will be breaking down as you see each credit card bill or perhaps your bank accounts deplete. You can't get that money back after it's gone so spend within your means. If you have an ex who is significantly more comfortable than you are this can be hard to deal with as you watch your ex easily spend money you cannot, but this is life. There is always someone richer than you are.
Again: there is no gift like the gift of time. Your love is not measured in toy trucks and cars.
Animosity in the Spirit of Competition? No Thank You
Competing to give the best gifts breeds animosity and depression from your own financial state — and over your divorce. Engaging in this type of behavior is counterproductive to healing from your divorce, which should be the goal. You divorced to have a better life as a mom and person, not to spin your wheels in negativity.
What If You Don't Win?
What if you try your damndest to out-shop your ex this holiday season and find that guess what, he still beats you? Was it worth spending more than you could afford? Was it worth all the energy wasted?
No. Just quit it!
Your Kid Looks to You For Behavior Modeling and Patterns
Do you want your kid to feel he or she has to keep up with the Joneses? Do you want your kid to gain the spirit of vicious competition? I think not. You think your kids are naïve to your actions, but they pick up more than we would like. This is why they go to school and say the single one bad word we told them not to. Why? They heard it from our mouths and we only said it once! Our kids look to us to understand how to interact with others. Teaching them to compete by buying big gifts is not only teaching them the wrong thing about relationships and life, it's teaching them the wrong meaning of the holidays.
If you want your child to grow up expecting gifts and showing love with money, out-shopping your ex will do the trick!
No matter how much you can afford to spend this year on holiday presents, make a budget and stick to it. Don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing because it will hurt you come January when your funds are significantly low or worse, you've racked up credit card debt. Besides, you tell your kids all the time that "it's the thought that counts" so live up to those words and buy thoughtfully, not lavishly. Your wallet will thank you and years later your children of divorce can say their mother was a classy woman who never tried to compete with their dad in some childish shopping Olympics. And never once — not once! — should you feel bad if you have less money than your ex. Again: our parents are there for us in our hardest and brightest times and that is what builds our love for our parents and our children. Toys will never equal your time. Show your children what really matters this holiday season: them.