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To the Single Mom on Christmas

Photograph by Twenty20

Hey! Hey, you! I see you there, staying up late, searching for the best deals and worrying about how you're going to put presents under the tree. I know you've been squirrelling money away since July, hoping to surprise your kids with more than you were able to give last year. I understand all too well how much easier it would be if you had another income to work with. How much weight would be off your shoulders if you didn't live paycheck to paycheck all year long.

I know that this time of year is hard, if only because you want to do so much more for your kids than you can.

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But I saw you carrying a tree as big as you through the lot all by yourself, never once complaining or asking for help. I saw you bundling the entire family up, going neighborhood to neighborhood to admire the lights as Christmas carols played on your car radio. I know that most nights, when you're not too tired or rundown, you try to sit with them and read at least one Christmas story, sometimes in front of a fire. I've seen you making hot chocolate and breaking out the advent calendar, determined to make happy holiday memories for those little people you love so much.

I know you've been sharing your favorite holiday movies, beaming with pride as your kids laughed at "Elf" or giggled through "A Christmas Story" (Fun fact to impress them with: The same kid who played Ralphie grew up to play one of the head elves, supervising Buddy at the North Pole. Ask your kids if they can spot him!)

This time of year, that missing presence can feel even harder to ignore.

I saw you flipping through your Christmas cookie recipes, trying to plan a time to bake with your favorite little people—trying even harder not to think about how much you don't need those cookies around your house. (It's the holidays, let yourself indulge a little. I promise, you deserve it.)

I know you may be worrying (or even heartbroken) about spending Christmas alone this year (perhaps it's their dad's turn to have them) or about not being able to give them the Christmas they deserve if they will be with you. I know that it's not just the presents that get expensive this time of year. The visits to Santa, the tree, the new ornaments, even the baking supplies; it all adds up. And maybe you have a job where you won't get paid on the days you aren't working, making this a short month with less money coming your way.

I see you trying to do the very best you can anyway.

I know you bolt out of bed some nights, remembering that you forgot to hide the elf. So you jump up and move him while it's on your mind, and then you can't fall back asleep for another two hours. Only in the morning do you realize how unoriginal your new hiding spot was.

And I know that you are the only one wrapping gifts, and that because you're tired and stressed out and a little short on personal time, the corners aren't just right. And you've got a few presents with scraps of paper taped together because you don't have any to waste.

But you know what? Your kids don't seem to care. They don't mind that there are only a few presents under the tree, or even that the tree is second-hand and a little beaten up. They aren't upset you had to skip the Santa visit this year, and they remember all the Christmas stories by heart—because you've read them every year before now. And do you want to know the best part? They think you are beautiful enough to eat all the cookies without fear.

Maybe this is the first year you've been doing it all on your own, or perhaps it's always been like this. Either way, there is an extra pressure there when you are solo parenting around the holidays. You never want your kids to miss out. You never want them to feel as though they don't have everything every other family does. And this time of year, that missing presence can feel even harder to ignore.

It might take (the kids) years to tell you just how much your efforts meant. But they see you.

But I promise, you're doing just fine. Amazing, even. Because every step of the way, you are putting your kids first. You are pushing and striving to make this holiday season better than the last, to stick to the traditions, to create the memories and to show your kids just how much you love them.

You are superwoman. And I'm here to tell you, even if those attempts don't go exactly as originally planned, they know it.

And they see you, too.

They see you bending over backwards to make the holidays special. They see you slapping a smile on your face as you sing, even though the circles under your eyes are dark. They may not be beaming with gratitude just yet; in fact, it might take them years to tell you just how much your efforts meant. But they see you, and the memories you are working so hard to make.

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You are singlehandedly creating Christmas, and your kids are benefitting daily from that fact. They see you, and they'll always remember.

The carols.

The hot chocolate.

The lazy elf.

The love.

All of this will mean so much more to them than anything you could possibly put under the tree. In fact, years from now, they won't remember what gifts they got this Christmas—but they will remember how hard their mom worked to make it special.

You're doing an amazing job. So be kind to yourself this holiday season; you deserve some happy memories, too.

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