Hey there, Twinkle Star!
It’s happening and every second counts. The holiday shopping season is hijacking our calendars, minds, and to-do lists at the speed of light. December is an expensive month for everyone. And for the single mom, it’s a race. What will come first? The end of the month or the end of the budget? And here’s a question, what are affordable gift ideas for single moms?
Thinking back to when my girls were seven and four years old, one holiday shopping season stands out as a huge lesson for me. First of all, it snuck up on me like the objects in the side mirror of a car going 180 miles an hour. (Isn’t Christmas always closer than it appears?) One minute I was making Halloween costumes, and two hops and a skip later, holiday decorations and music were everywhere.
The stress of not having a lot of money to spend on gifts was preventing me from feeling “the Christmas spirit.” Regardless, I knew that I had to get past this. As I’ve learned, cherished memories are created from hugs and kisses and laughter. Not anxiety.
And yet every day that brought me closer to the 25th, I could feel the heaviness in my chest getting … well, heavier. And heavier. Looking back, it was awesome. #sarcasm
It wasn’t until December 24th – THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS – that I finally snapped out of it. What did I do? I did what any single mom on a tight budget would do. I hauled my ass to the dollar store and bought my girls 12 gifts each.
Total spend: $24+tax.
(Back then everything in the dollar store really was a dollar.)
That night after my girls went to bed, I wrapped everything up, and voila! Our little fake Christmas tree was drowning in an avalanche of festive packages.
The next morning, two little beaming faces ran into my bedroom.
“Mommy! Mommy! Santa came! SANTA CAME!!!”
From candy-scented bubble baths to arts and crafts, knock-off Barbie dolls with a collection of outfits for every day of the week, and books for bedtime reading… there was so much joy in their little faces as they opened their gifts. All made in China, of course, but they didn’t care. They were seven and four!
As I write this, there’s a pool of tears sitting at the bottom of my eyelids. Why? Because damn I miss my girls when they were young and still mine!
That’s ONE reason why I’m sitting stooped over my keyboard, marinating in a sauce of melancholy. The other reason is because I would love to be able to go back in time and bop younger me upside the head!
I was so consumed by guilt for not having any money to buy them fancy new bicycles or whatever, that let’s face it, I missed out on the opportunity to create joy during those weeks leading up to a day that should be magical for kids. Not just the day but the days LEADING UP TO THE DAY.
When I could have been spending time with my girls, baking cookies for Santa, I instead chose to worry.
When I could have been spending time with my girls, helping them make cards for our family members, I instead chose to… you guessed it. Worry.
Repeat after me: Mona, you were a dumb ass!
Okay. So, I can’t go back and have a sit-down chat with younger me. But I can remind you, single mom reading this right now, that the holiday season is NOT about buying big, fancy gifts.
It’s about sharing magical moments. It’s about traditions. It’s about doing your best to create the memories that you and your children will carry forever. And you can do that by spending time with your kids and doing special “little” things while listening to holiday music.
Take it from me. Worrying does nothing except steal your time.
Mona Andrei is an award-winning humor blogger, columnist, and author. In her most recent book, SUPERWOMAN: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood, she shares her challenges and triumphs as a single mother as well as those of other single mothers. She is also the host of the Single Moms with Moxie podcast.
When Mona isn’t writing or interviewing single mothers, she exercises her right as a hip hop enthusiast. She is a member of a competitive hip hop team and likes to think that she’ll stay young and cool forever. She may be delusional.
I remember Dollar Store Christmas shopping. I was pregnant and only had to buy one and spent $15. I was so proud and my son loved it. I still tell that story!