You’re divorced. It’s a holiday. Now what? Divorced or not, holidays can be stressful. Jessica and T.H. are here to talk you through it and help you figure out the ins and outs of planning for the holidays while divorced.
- Plan ahead. Knowing what you’re doing goes a long way to having a happy holiday.
- Decide what’s important to you. Some give and take can go a long way!
- If you have kids but don’t have them for a holiday, let them know it’s all good, even if you have to put on a happy face.
OUR GUEST – JUST US: T.H. & JESSICA
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.
Jessica: Today’s episode is another Just Us and we are going to be talking about getting through the holidays. It’s something that people are always stressed out about, regardless of even whether or not they’re divorced. But T.H. and I definitely have some experiences and some very specific thoughts to share. Thanks for joining us this time.
T.H.: Hey, everybody. This is definitely a pain point for so many of us going through a divorce. It’s like you build this whole idea in your head of what’s going to go wrong or what’s going to go right. Man plans and God laughs so it doesn’t ever really work out the way you plan, but sometimes it’s better. I feel like we work ourselves up so much and it’s never as bad as we’ve created it to be in our heads sometimes. I feel stressed and I’m going to feel this way and that way, and it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I just build up so much angst, and then that’s what ends up happening, but I just created it myself. It didn’t even have to be there.
Jessica: Yeah. I think for a lot of holidays, people do that. I think generally there are so many holidays that are just overrated. We’ll talk about our first New Year’s Eve story in a second, but I think for me, the situation with holidays, and I guess it’s the same for anyone if you’re divorced and you have children, the times that you have the children, that’s great because then you have the children. I mean, for me, I never had an issue with oh my god it’s my first holiday alone with my kids now their dad isn’t here. Maybe there were certain customs or traditions that we had done previously. How is that going to be without the other parent around? For me, the worst part of holidays is when I don’t have my kids and then I’m just alone. One of my biggest weaknesses, one of my biggest personal weaknesses is I’m really not a person who’s able to ask for help. I’m not able to ask for help. I’m not able to call people and say I’m alone for Thanksgiving. That’s a bad example because I’m never alone for Thanksgiving…but I’m alone for whatever this holiday is. Do you have a seat at the table? I’m just never going to be that person. Those are times where I find it to be really hard, certain Jewish holidays and certain holidays throughout the year. I’m lucky that I get my kids every Thanksgiving and my family takes a vacation. We take a trip together every Thanksgiving. Whatever misery happens over Thanksgiving has nothing to do with my divorce. It’s the infighting and the arguing amongst the 11 of us that are all together. But it is hard. And I just want to say for everybody out there, if it is a holiday and you don’t have your kids around, and it is lonely–
T.H.: Or you don’t have kids at all.
Jessica: –Or if you don’t have kids at all, I feel your pain. I think it can be hard, but I would say the key is to try to plan as far in advance as you can so that you have something already planned that you can do. I usually just invite myself to T.H.’s [laughs].
T.H.: Well, I usually invite you before you invite yourself. But I would say that for anybody who’s the friend, or family member of someone going through a divorce, let them know there’s a place at your table, or that there’s always an invitation for them. Remind them when it comes up because you may have said, you know, you’re always welcome to my house, but guess what? When Thanksgiving comes around and they haven’t heard from you for a while, they might be like, uh no, I don’t think I can go there yet. Remember to call them and say, by the way, I meant what I said. Come over to my home.
Jessica: That’s such good advice. I’m so glad you just said that because I’ve had people who’ve said to me, you know, you’re always welcome. Then when those certain holidays roll around, I’m like I’m not calling them and asking if I can come.
T.H.: Right. And it is a humbling feeling. I do sometimes do that now. But there are certain people I’m comfortable doing that with. You always hope, or I always hope that someone’s just going to ask me, right? But they don’t because they’re busy in their own lives. So I send a message to one or two other people and I say, by the way, I don’t have the kids, I’m alone this holiday. What are you doing? So the guilt first and then the question next, and [pretty genius] likely you will be invited and you’ll bring something good. You know what? You have to do what’s good for you. If you know that being alone is not good for you, people aren’t going to say no. If you know they’re having people at their home, they’re not going to say no to you joining. If they do, then they’re not really your friend, to be honest.
Jessica: That’s true. I would also say one of the humbling things I think when it comes to divorce and particularly with the holidays, it does sort of–I don’t want to say it shows you who your friends are because you can have friends that may not–
T.H.: It does though.
Jessica: Well, yes and no. I don’t think that the people that haven’t invited me to their holiday dinners over the years mean that they’re not my friends. But I think that it really does– let me say it differently. I think that it shows the need for when you are going through a separation or a divorce, the effort that you need to make yourself to maintain contact with your friends and to make the effort to see them, to call them, and to go out with them. Yes, there’s a period of time it’s great if people are reaching out to you to see how you’re doing because you’re getting divorced. But as T.H. just mentioned, and as with anything in life, people are busy with their own lives. They may care about you, and they may love you, but if you are never the one reaching out, then that will be reflected over time in your relationship. You have to make an earnest effort to stay in touch with the people that are your friends so that when push comes to shove, and you need them for a holiday, or a time where you’re feeling lonely, you actually do have people to reach out to.
T.H.: And also, different friends serve different purposes. When I said that I send out that message, that’s to maybe two other people other than Jessica. I would not feel comfortable sending that out to the masses. And also, if I’m alone and I’m feeling a little uneasy, I don’t really want to be in a place, this is just for me, with someone who doesn’t feel like family. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want to get lost at their party. You kind of have to figure out what your need level is. Do you need to be around people who feel like family? Or do you just need to be around a lot of noise? Do you need to be distracted? Or do you want to be part of a conversation? Do you want any focus on yourself? I would think through some of those things, and then decide who you want to reach out to, to spend time with them. And I wouldn’t take it personally if people don’t ask you because they probably think I’ve asked them a ton of times and they never come. Well, guess what? I’ve been with my kids all those times and now I’m not. Now I need a place to go. Be brave. People aren’t going to say no to you.
Jessica: I also want to say, for me, as anyone listening, if you’ve been following us for a little while, I’m super amicable with both of my exes. My first several holidays alone weren’t ever really alone. My parents didn’t live close by, they were back and forth between Jersey and Florida, and so if my parents weren’t around for the holiday, I would spend it with my ex and his family and my kids. Part of it was because it just gave me the excuse to be with my kids on a holiday that maybe I wouldn’t have been. I think that I’ve always felt strongly for myself and for my situation that it has benefited my kids to see us be able to all still be together during happy times, and occasions, and holidays. But my point is to what T.H. just said, be brave. Listen, if you have an amicable relationship with your ex, whether you have the kids for the holidays, or whether they have the kids for the holidays, or if you don’t have kids at all, if you are still friendly with them, I don’t think there’s anything wrong by saying what are you doing for the holiday because they may actually be in the same boat as you. And if you get along well enough, that may be a nice way to spend the holiday. I spent my last set of Jewish holidays with my first ex-husband Daren and my kids and his parents and his sister and her mother-in-law. And I was really happy–
T.H.: And his girlfriend.
Jessica: That’s right, and his girlfriend and his kids from another woman. I was so happy to be there and just be included as part of the group. For some of the holidays that I’ve–
T.H.: Well, you knew it was going to be a welcoming group. That’s all I just want you to be aware of. If you have an ex or someone else, just make sure that you’re going to be comfortable if you’re going to be there. That’s all.
Jessica: Yes, you should. Yes, yes. But I’m just saying I wasn’t too proud to call him and say, can I come? And I also am not too out of touch–my second husband Leo, his whole family lives in Canada, and it’s not always easy for holidays and stuff like that for him. I still invite him to every holiday, and I’ll continue to do that. He usually says no, but I want him to know that he still has a place to go because I know what it’s like to feel lonely on the holidays and other times too, and I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way. I just want you to know that you’re not alone. We’ve all been there.
T.H.: When I’m with my kids for the holiday, it doesn’t matter to me because my ex wasn’t really at many holidays for the last several years of our marriage, so I was used to being a lone soldier with my three kids and going to Florida to my parents. We’d always find a place to go. But my first Thanksgiving without the kids was the same year that I separated. Oh, no, it wasn’t. It has to be the second year, a year afterward, and I was dating somebody who I just really wasn’t interested in. He invited me to go with his family. So this is another note to myself. I didn’t like him enough to go with him and his family. I preferred to be alone.
Jessica: That’s a sign.
T.H.: It was hard. But I set up my movie plan, I also had a book on the side, and I had a full bottle of wine. I just was not thinking about it being a bit–and it’s so hard, Thanksgiving and I’m sure Christmas, those big family holidays, to be alone. It really sucks. The truth is I could have gone to my brother-in-law’s. I had a few other options, none were local, but they weren’t of interest to me is all I’m saying. So I picked to be alone because I knew that I didn’t want to be in any other environment. I didn’t want people asking me questions. I was just going to fill the day. And my movie lineup, by the way, was totally tearful. I just felt like this is a perfect reason for a pity party.
Jessica: You’re going to mope and cry all day long.
T.H.: I’m thankful that I have a day where no one’s bothering me and I can line up Beaches, and Terms of Endearment, and Lucky, all in a row.
Jessica: Turn on the waterworks.
T.H.: The long and short of it is it’s all hard, but it won’t be so hard if you do what you think is good for you. You can’t go wrong. Now there are podcasts and all this other stuff and live events and music or whatever. You could attend a concert that night. You could do anything. You could be at a Black Friday shopping
Jessica: Right, totally. Also really, from the very first day that Daren and I split up, I remember always saying to people the upside of divorce that nobody talks about is that depending on your custody, mine’s 50/50, half the time you don’t have to have your kids, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it because that’s just what the custody arrangement is. You have half the time off. Look, yes, holidays can be lonely, but for a lot of people out there, and even as T.H. was just saying, make the most of it. Just because it is a holiday, if you don’t want to have to celebrate it in a certain way, maybe you never even liked the holiday traditions you were doing, take advantage of being on your own. Go get a massage the night before, get your nails done, or go shopping.
T.H.: We’re not cooks, obviously, based on our suggestions of what we do. But if you want to cook, then cook all night long–
Jessica: Or order in!
T.H.: Blast the music in the house.
Jessica: Get the food you want.
T.H.: Or make it, whatever you want.
Jessica: But in terms of actually trying to make plans far enough in advance, T.H. and I knew that our first year on New Year’s Eve we were going to be alone. We didn’t know whether or not there was a possibility that one of us could be dating someone, but we decided very early on that regardless, we were going to be together. We were not going to leave each other alone on New Year’s Eve. We booked a reservation, and it was so long ago, at a place called the Pink Elephant, which I had never been to before. I don’t remember whether or not you had, but it sounded like it might be fun. We totally got dressed up, and we went out, and we knew that we would be disappointed–
T.H.: No one even spoke English in there [laughs].
Jessica: It was so not our crowd, but we didn’t even care. We just wanted to be dressed up and be out and feel like we were out for New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is always so anti-climactic. I feel like it’s so over-dramatized. It’s never as fun, in my opinion, as you think it’s going to be. We just wanted to be able to say we went out on New Year’s Eve, that we had a plan, and that we went out, and we weren’t just sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves.
T.H.: And then the next day I was so hung-over that I just felt sorry for myself. The whole next day I’m on the couch! But also, remember just like with anything else, society makes such a bigger deal out of things than they need to be like divorce, like everything else, like a wife should be this, and a husband should be that. You be what you want to be. You do what you want to do. Book a trip if you have the money, save the money so you can go on a trip, and get out of dodge if you don’t want to be local during the holiday. Or take a drive somewhere. I love when it’s gorgeous out just to go take a drive. So on Thanksgiving, whatever, it’s a lot of traffic, so maybe take a drive on a less traveled road. But there are just so many options of things to do. Go to a museum. The movies are out, and people are going back to the movies. Do a doubleheader. There are so many options of things to do on holidays.
Jessica: I also want to say pick your battles. I said this in a video on our Instagram for Halloween. Generally, if you are in a situation where you have kids, you have worked out to some degree in your custody arrangement how you’re dividing up the holidays. It could be something like maybe you’re Jewish and your spouse wasn’t so every year they’re going to get Christmas because they actually celebrate Christmas. Or, as I said, my family goes away every year for Thanksgiving so I get my kids every year for Thanksgiving. But be honest with yourself about holidays that actually matter to you and holidays that don’t matter to you. Pick your battles and don’t go balls to the wall over something that isn’t as important to you when you have bigger fish to fry down the road. Some of the Jewish holidays are important to me. Passover is generally very important because it’s an opportunity to go to Florida and be with my parents so I’m going to push harder for Passover than I am maybe for Yom Kippur. Or I was saying in the Halloween video, I’m not a huge dress-up costume person. The idea of Halloween with my kids, it was always cute to see them dressed up, and I was happy to participate in that, but Daren loves trick or treating, and he loves getting dressed up. He lives for that shit. So you know what? Go. Be the parent to dress up with them and go take them trick or treating. They can come back to mine afterward and help hand out candy. Be honest with yourself about the holidays that mean something to you, and think about who you can be with if that’s what you want to do. And think about whether or not it’s worth having a fight over a holiday if it really isn’t that important to you.
T.H.: One other thing that I really want to bring up is if you do have kids, and you don’t have your kids for a certain holiday, don’t make them feel like you’re going to have a problem. Don’t let them worry about you. Be like, guys, I’ve got a whole plan. I’ve got two pounds of popcorn, and I got three movies lined up, I’m so fine. Because they are going to have the angst that mommy’s alone and we shouldn’t be here. It’s not fair. Or dad is on his own, and it’s not okay. And so that is really a hard thing to do if you do have children. You have to have a tough upper lip and just have that conversation. Then you can go cry after. Or you can cry before. Or you could scream all day long when you don’t have them, but make that conversation. I’m so fine. Love you, have the best time. I am so fine. If you want to, you can call me, but don’t worry about me.
Jessica: Or tell them you’re going somewhere and that you’re spending it with someone else. I mean, I just love that point overall, don’t let your kids feel bad for you. Don’t make it any worse for them. Everybody’s going through different things. That is such a great point. Thank you for saying that. It’s so true. Don’t make your kids be upset about where you are and who you’re going to be with. Totally.
T.H.: Happy holidays!
T.H.: I like to shop till I drop. But don’t spend too much money because we’re talking about finance also.
Jessica: Yeah, that’s coming up soon. That’s right, exactly. But enjoy your holidays. Reach out to us. You can always ask us anything for tips and other ways that we got through things. We’re always happy to talk. You can find us obviously here, on Instagram, on the website. So feel free to reach out and share. And we’ll see you next time.