The Struggles of Co-Parenting Through Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a joyous season. They say “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But that is not always the case for those co-parenting through the holidays. You are already getting to only spend 50 percent of the time with your child, and now you only get half of the holidays too. And while my daughter is only four, celebrating her fifth Christmas; she might not remember that she didn’t get to spend it with mommy.

But I will remember.

The Struggles of Co-Parenting Through ChristmasI will remember the sparkle in her eye when she talked with excitement about waking up to presents from Santa on Christmas morning. I will remember the weeks of half-memorized Christmas songs sung with her sweet voice. I will remember her most-requested gifts, and probably every other one on her list. I will remember each Christmas.

Even the ones I wish I could somehow forget.

It may be selfish. Maybe I’m the mom version of the Grinch. Every single year my daughter spends Christmas Day with her dad, and every single year it gets a little harder.

I am happy for her.

Happy that she has a dad who loves her; and wants her on Christmas Day. That she gets to go to her Memaw and Papa and enjoy Christmas with her abundance of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My daughter has a family, and presents, and a Christmas feast.

But she doesn’t have me.

I know, I know. She has two parents. We are co-parenting our daughter. And being her mom does not mean I am entitled to certain days of the year with her (even though  I unjustifiably feel this way sometimes).

It doesn’t mean that just because her dad is a dad, he is less deserving of spending those important days with her too.

My sweet daughter is not a possession, and I am not her owner.

But I do feel an overwhelming sense of wanting to scream “But she’s mine!”

I should be taking her shopping for a Christmas outfit. I should be taking her to see Santa and have her picture taken with him. I should be driving the two of us around looking at all of the Christmas lights. I should be decorating the gingerbread house with her. I should be part of making her Christmas special too.

It’s not about who’s the better parent and making it a competition.

But sometimes it feels that way. A child loses their excitement over things when they repeat them. So if her dad takes her to see Santa first, it’s suddenly “I already saw Santa and told him what I wanted”.

I never want to put my daughter in the middle of her father and me, but I can’t help but occasionally feel robbed when missing out on opportunities with her.

Especially the holidays.

Some parents in the midst of holiday co-parenting might have a more open approach, like visiting Santa together, so both parents can share that joy with their child. In my current situation, we are not quite there yet. But there is hope that someday, we will be.

So for now, I’ll find comfort in our own little traditions.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Tinsel, comes to visit all December long. And my side of the family has matching Christmas jammies we all wear. We watch the Grinch a minimum of five times during the holiday season. On Christmas Eve we bake and decorate cookies to leave out for Santa. All simple things, but getting to do them together makes them special.

Christmas changes when you’re a parent.

All I want is for my daughter to love every moment of her Christmas, even when she’s not spending it with me.


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Carly is a true Iowan, born and raised. She’s a Pinterest fail type of single mom to six year old Stella, who enthusiastically dances to the beat of her own drum. For her day job you’ll find her with a cup of coffee in hand as a secretary at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. After hours, she’s bingeing her true crime podcasts, reading all the books, and having mini JoJo Siwa dance parties with her daughter Stella.