The Agony Of Christmas In Broken Homes

Heather Havrilesky offers advice to a stressed-out millennial revisiting a contentious relationship with her mother. She recommends serious self-care and being “prepared to serve the common good”:

Now, why should you be prepared to serve the common good? Because this is the realistic, adaptive, self-protective behavior of a mature adult. Instead of focusing on your own drama, you should focus on helping others. Because, look, part of you still believes that you might be able to right the wrongs of the past. The Jekyll-and-Hyde mother is tricky for this reason; her good days fool you into believing that you might be able to shake her out of her irrational attacking state. Listen to me: Your mother will never change. Going home for the holidays is not about “fixing” her or the past. It’s about tolerating the freaks you grew up with, making them dinner, giving them your unconditional love, and keeping your mouth shut. Realizing this might seem to serve them, but trust me, it serves you the most, by keeping you safer from heartbreak.

So help with the homework. Go out and buy some groceries. Do the dishes. Pour the wine. Listen. Laugh. Do the dishes again. Listen some more. Don’t expect to be in the best mood as you do these things. Do them anyway.

Meanwhile, Berit Brogaard explains what makes Christmas a hard time for divorced parents:

When sane parents separate, many judges, thankfully, divide custody equally. Each parent gets his or her fair share of custody, if at all possible. Even when it’s not possible to share the time with the children equally, judges will usually attempt to divide up the holidays evenly. The kids spend every other holiday with mom and every other holiday with dad. It certainly is in the children’s best interest to get to spend some time with each parent. Most kids, with decent moms and dads, would prefer to spend every holiday with both parents. The precious little ones secretly hope for the impossible: That their divorced or separated parents will get back together. But despite their wishes, they adjust to the situation. They have no other choice.

Nor do the parents. As we face the holidays many single parents face a very lonely time. They may be with dear family members: parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Yet they may nonetheless feel a profound pain in their hearts, even as they watch close relatives savor the pecan pie or scream in delight when they rip open their Christmas presents. Their own children are far away.