Well it is never going to be easy is it? Though actually I remember doing Christmas just after I got divorced and hoping that it would always be that straightforward.
I split from my ex five weeks before Christmas about twelve years ago. Out of the blue, it just happened. The reasons don’t matter now but I found myself thinking “what on earth am I going to do in a month when all they want is their dad?”. Statistics suggest that nearly 50% of marriages now end in divorce but that doesn’t make it any easier when it is yours.
Thankfully I guess circumstances dictated that the three smalls be with me as my ex had moved into a bedsit. There was no space for a table let alone three extra beds so there were no arguments, no arrangements really. It just happened so they accepted that on Christmas Day that year they couldn’t be with him but he had them on Boxing Day at his parents.
Recent research by Simpson Millar solicitors suggests that 14% of parents decide by asking the children who they go to (see infographic below). I have to say I don’t agree with that approach, it puts children in an impossible position of not wanting to upset the other party, but if it works for those families then good for them.
My ex and I made a pact, it is the only thing I remember about our actual split, that we would never use the children as pawns. They were not chattels to be used in winning a fight and that if arrangements were made that involved them, those arrangements were not changed. Christmas would alternate each year and we would make sure nothing ever got in the way of that. After all they were still little when we split (Ellie was only 3) so we wanted to make sure the magic of Christmas wasn’t over shadowed by arguments between us, or uncertainty of what was happening.
Twelve years later that still stands, though I am out of the loop now and the teens make all the arrangements with their dad direct.
We simply alternated our Christmases, with handover being 22nd or 23rd so that not only Christmas day was spent with the parent but so was Christmas Eve so Father Christmas knew where to send the presents. And then the return was on 27th or 28th depending on what else was going on.
I wont lie, the first Christmas I didn’t have them I was dreading from about August onwards so Mr B booked a week away so we could spend Christmas in Prague for us to take my mind of the fact that the children weren’t with me. So Christmas Day would just be any other day, it just happened to be December 25th and that’s when our new tradition started.
If the children were at their dad’s it wasn’t Christmas for us until they came home. We didn’t do presents on December 25th, or have turkey. We had sausage and mash and spent all day in our pjs watching TV. It was Christmas when the children came home and we could open presents. It was my coping mechanism and the children loved it of course because they got two turkey dinners and double the presents. Somehow in my head I wanted the children to know that for me Christmas wasn’t Christmas without them so we would delay it to make sure they didn’t miss out.
Now they are older they no longer go to their dad’s but prefer to spend time at home with us, my parents, Mr B’s parents, and their friends. Something that reinforces that our decision on how to do Christmas as divorced parents worked for us, there are so few of them where the magic is really real that it is important to keep it as conflict-free as possible and focus on the fact it was all about the small people.
Next year though I think we might introduce them all to the sausage and mash Christmas and give the turkey a reprieve. Knowing my lot they would probably love it!
This is a collaborative post