I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of you who read my blog and for the lovely comments and likes I’ve had over this last year. I wish you all well over this festive break and I hope you find some joy and enjoyment in each day.
My motivation to write ‘Without Issue’ is simply to share my experience and what I have learned over these last (almost) two decades of living with childlessness. If it helps someone out there in some way, no matter how small, then that is a huge gift for me.
Getting through the Christmas break as a childless-not-by-choice person and navigating the often-enormous symbolic burden of a new year is not for the faint hearted! There are so many great voices out there that offer advice and support for this time of year (for example Jody Day’s Gateway Women’s blog So please know you are not alone.
I thought it might be helpful to break down my thoughts on my last twenty years of navigating the festive season and present them as a kind of little capsule wardrobe of strategies. So here are seven of my festive tips:
1 Call out the tired old adage for what it is
That old well-worn adage of ‘Christmas is for the Children and those with children’ is just that – an adage. So call it out for what it is: a social construct – albeit a powerful one – that I believe has gathered pace along with the commercialization of Christmas. I simply don’t buy into it. If I want Christmas to be for me too, it dang-well should be. If I’m not feeling strong I dismiss the adverts and articles that include of glowy-faced children and call these images out for what they so often are: a way to sell more at Christmas. Instead I search out images that reflect my life and interests – nature and wildlife for example.
2 Find a creative way to include yourself in the magic
This might sound like a contradiction to tip No 1 but here goes anyway… don’t feel you have to exclude yourself from children or from the excitement they have at this time of year. I’ll give you an example. One year I felt fed up avoiding the whole children and Christmas thing. I wanted to find a way to include myself. So I made up little bags of toys and knick-knacks for the children I knew in the street. On my way to work for an early Christmas day shift, I left the bags hanging on the door handle of each child’s house with a note saying, ‘From Santa’s elves’. For weeks the children and their parents talked about who left the bags. I never owned up…till now! Being one of ‘Santa’s elves’ for that morning gave me (and still gives me) a feeling of seasonal warmth, made me feel less angry at my situation and perhaps it was a way of giving my ‘Christmas grief’ the boot – for that Christmas morning at least.
3 Create your own traditions
A tradition is just some practice that someone, somewhere started sometime! You’re absolutely free to start your own. As I mentioned in my previous post, throughout the year I buy small items that I associate with lovely memories and they become our tree decorations. We have a Boxing Day routine involving dear friends that (within reason) we don’t change for anything. I find it quite liberating to celebrate my childfree status – to know that my Christmas and New Year can be a moveable feast (often quite literally!)
4 Have a breakout plan
If your festive break includes celebrations with children and/or babies, cut yourself some slack and find a way to slip away for a breakout. You don’t have to stoically slog through a whole day of child/baby orientated ‘oo-ing and ahh-ing’. I always take my walking shoes to a get-together as ‘walking off that last mince pie’ gives me a practical reason to escape. But I make no excuses – this is about me taking care of myself and that trumps excusing myself for my festive breaking-out actions!
5 Never apologise…
…for having a Christmas or festive break that is yours and yours alone. If everyone else is having the Christmas they dream of then you have every right to have yours. If that means going away, being alone, not accepting invitations then that is your prerogative. Others might feel disappointed that you won’t be there but you are not doing the disappointing; you are simply claiming Christmas/Chanukah/the festive break for you. You are not being ‘cold’ or unfriendly or selfish. You are asserting your needs and desires as a person who finds this time of year emotionally challenging and that’s absolutely okay.
6 Embrace your freedom
Those Christmas images of the idyllic family by the Christmas tree – well, all too often the reality is completely different. Luxuriate in your lie-in, your disposable income, your time to yourself and with your friends and family. If you want to, you can walk away from the chaos, the wrapping paper hurricanes, the ‘toys out pram’ moments and return to quiet solitude and a good book – something many parents crave.
7 Joy to you
When writing your Christmas list remember to include you. Be generous to yourself as well as to others. It could be a no- or low-cost treat such as planning a new walk, meeting up with someone you haven’t seen for a while, using your free time over the break to sit for ages, speaking on the phone with people far away. Or it could be an item or holiday you’ve promised yourself for ages. Whatever it is, take the time to plan something joyful for yourself. You could even wrap it up beautifully and put it in a stocking to open on Christmas morning!
I wish you all many lovely things over the festive break. It can be an incredibly challenging time but if you choose to look for joy, you can find it.
Go gently, my friends.