December 1 – which happens to be tomorrow – is, I think, a good time to sit down and take a hard look at how to make Christmas easy. Because anyone who has read my blogs from this time last year, or has read my book, How NOT To Get Divorced After Christmas, knows that I believe the Festive Season to be the most stressful time of year – particularly if you’re a woman.
For those people who are going through a divorce – or who have been through one recently – Christmas can be especially fraught. Because it is traditionally a family time, not being part of a cosy family unit can accentuate feelings of grief and loss.
I suspect, however, there are some who, in a strange way, welcome the distraction of Christmas. It provides the opportunity to bury unhappiness beneath a flurry of hyper-activity – planning elaborate meals, putting up over-the-top decorations, drawing up extravagant guest lists and organising a succession of parties.
If you have children and your ex won’t be around on Christmas Day, there is the temptation to buy up the entire John Lewis toy department in an attempt to ease your guilt and ensure the kids have a great Christmas.
If this is you, my advice is to take a deep breath, set aside an hour or so on your own and take stock of the situation. Confront the reality that Christmas is a stressful time even for united families and accept that, for you, it risks being a nightmare unless you plan it carefully.
By all means go through the motions of “celebrating” Christmas by putting up a twinkling tree and decking the halls, but don’t attempt to emulate past, happier Christmases (though hang on to the hope they may come again).
I suggest you plan the simplest Christmas possible in terms of menus, presents and logistical arrangements. There is absolutely no need, in today’s cordon bleu ready-meal culture, to run yourself ragged by trying to concoct the perfect Christmas fare from scratch: make life easy by buying in the finest already-prepared produce M&S or Waitrose have to offer.
Don’t feel obliged to invite into your home people you don’t really want or those who will make you feel uncomfortable because of your marital situation. If your aged mother is likely to give you a hard time because her beloved (soon-to-be ex) son-in-law won’t be there to fawn over her, be ruthless and don’t ask her to spend Christmas with you.
It is far more important for you to spend your time and energy on making sure the kids are OK, such as drawing up a workable schedule for them to spend time with their other parent, and on arranging some “me” time for you – whether that’s spending an evening with a close friend or going for a long, solitary walk.
By acknowledging this isn’t going to be your best Christmas and planning accordingly, you will not only save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress, you may find it’s more enjoyable than you expected.