Before I became the kept woman I am today, I was a single parent. For almost 11 years, it was just me and my peanut, Laine. How sweet is she in this picture? I am so fortunate to have had a support system that included my parents and stepparents, siblings, friends, and even Laine’s teachers at times! I am blessed, I know, because not all single parents can boast this same privilege.
It’s Christmas time now, and the holiday season is blowing in with wintry gusts and shorter days. There is more traffic and less time, bigger wishlists and skinnier wallets. It’s true for lots of us, but even more so for many single moms and dads out there.
I let my mind wander to a time not so long ago when I was planning Christmas solo and thinking about all the many things my friends and family did to help me along during this season. I realize that without them, I’m not so sure my holiday memories would be quite as sweet as they are. So to all of you who helped me along the way, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I try to pay it forward every chance I get!
Here are 12 ways you can shine some love down onto your friends, family and neighbors in the coming weeks. Some of these ideas are also great for parents who are struggling financially, or for those with jobs that require extended travel, or pretty much anyone you want to bless this season!
12. Ask them how you can help them prepare for Christmas. Wrapping? Shopping? Picking up or dropping off kids? Whatever it might be, let them know you are available and ready to assist, and when they ask, follow through!
11. Offer to help decorate the Christmas tree, or put up lights outside. Time consuming projects are stressful to single parents, especially moms. I remember coming home from work in December to find shimmering lights illuminating my house. My mom had sneaked over to decorate the exterior of my home while I was working. My daughter, just 7 at the time, was so excited to see her house in lights – a task I would have never found the time for on my own.
10. Offer to take family photos for them. The holiday season screams ‘family photos,’ and professional sessions can be pricey. If you are not blessed with a knack for photography, perhaps there is another talent you have that you can offer. If you are a baker, you could help bake Christmas goodies. If you are crafty, you could help little hands make gifts for grandmas and grandpas.
9. Provide a free night of babysitting so a mom or dad can shop in peace. If possible, offer it up in their home, not yours, so parents can simply leave and come back without worrying about extra car trips. I remember making many little shopping trips to malls and toy stores and battling the traffic after work, trying to get home in time for supper and bath time. The nights when I had a babysitter were so pleasant, not needing to rush or worry. Christmas shopping can be enjoyable when we are able to take in the smells and sights of the season, and when traffic cooperation isn’t life or death. Single parents want to enjoy the season as well.
8. Adopt a worthy parent and be their voluntary Secret Santa. Leave little notes of encouragement and tiny treasures just to brighten their day. At various times I have received little gifts and cards at the holidays just when I needed them. Sometimes I would receive a poinsettia, or come home to discover a festive wreath hanging on my door. Those small tokens reminded me that I was loved.
7. Provide desserts, or a part of a holiday meal, such as a turkey. It’s such a simple and thoughtful way to relieve a bit of holiday pressure from a parent with a burdened wallet.
6. Invite their kids for a sleepover. Pick them up and drop them off again. Single parents get very few silent nights, and 8 hours of pure, uninterrupted sleep may be the best gift they receive all year! Conversely, if that parent needs to hit the town and let off some steam, you are providing an outlet for that to transpire as well!
5. Make a craft with the kids they can give to their parent as a Christmas gift. Single parents might receive nothing from their kids, which is ok… Most parents would agree they aren’t looking for gifts to open on Christmas morning. But kids love to give their parents presents, and it actually makes them sad to have nothing for mom or dad to open on Christmas morning.
4. Send over hand-me-downs, especially winter mittens and coats. If a parent doesn’t have to worry about the financial burden of these pricier items (that easily get lost and worn out), it frees up a bit more cash that can be used toward gifts for the kiddos.
3. Clean the snow off their car and driveway. There is no better treat on a wintry morning than to find out your snow has been cleaned. It’s pretty much heaven on earth.
2. If you can, anonymously offer up some financial support. Leave some cash in an envelope in the mailbox or mail them some gift cards. Not everyone has the extra cash to make this gesture. But I remember getting in my car early on a cold morning and finding $50 on my dashboard, or opening an envelope with gift cards in it to buy groceries. This incredible gesture, often given by my dad, made my day, and my week, and honestly changed my life.
1. Show up. Come to the door (with wine and cookies if possible) and be a friend. All the money in the world cannot buy a good friend. Listen and love on that single parent in your life. It’s a job like no other, and like no one can understand until you’ve been in the club.
How do you offer up encouragement to those in your life? Add your ideas to the comments below and share with a friend! Thanks for stopping by.