The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

by Dana Flaherty

The holidays are here again, and I must admit they always arrive quicker than I had hoped. These used to be the best of times. I couldn’t wait to listen to my favorite Christmas songs, but now I am full of dread and the guilt that comes along with it.

I’m a single working mother of two wonderful toddlers, and about 10 months out of the year you will probably only hear me say I’m a working mother of two.  But there are those two months during the holidays that the single word comes and smacks me in the face harder than I can take some days.

I am the mother of two adorable children who still believe in Santa Claus. I can buy them whatever their little hearts desire (within reason), and wrap up their treasures in seasonal ribbons and bows, all by myself and without missing a rent payment. And quite possibly most important, I am a believer in Christ, who as we all know, is the reason for the season.

Despite all of my blessings, there are those two or three overwhelming days that no matter how much I cling to the Lord and pray for his peace and love, I can’t help but cry out and ask, “Why me?!” Being a single parent of two small children isn’t the life I would have written for myself. This can’t be my story.

I know that I will wake up on Christmas morning and watch my babies open up their gifts alone. There will be no partner to share coffee with as we sit knee to knee on the sofa smiling and watching our children enjoy the gifts we handpicked for them.

I will be thankful, as I always am, for being able to afford the things that I wanted to give them, as I know many parents cannot do the same. But there will be that moment as I’m picking up the wrappings strewn on the floor from the morning that I will feel completely alone and a little more than sorry for myself.

As I try to create my own tradition of preparing green and red Christmas pancakes for the babies, I know that the memories that I’m trying to make for them will be tainted by my singleness and the suffocating loneliness I know I will remember feeling so well.

This isn’t my first solo Christmas rodeo, so I can tell you that before 9:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, my mother or best friend will call, doing their due diligence of checking on me and telling me how much they love me. Nonetheless, I’ll feel completely unlovable and unworthy of the nuclear family I so desire. I’ll send light and love back and thank them for caring. I know in my heart and mind that they love me, that God loves me, and that I’m not truly alone, but it is this moment, this day, when I feel more isolated than ever.

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My favorite Christmas song changes through the phases of my life. Right now, nothing holds a candle to the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon.” It jolts me back into the spirit of the holidays and makes me tear up in hope—hope that I will not always walk this journey alone and that I will one day have the family I have always dreamed of. The lyrics are simple but powerful, especially when they chant:

This night
We pray
Our lives
Will show

This dream
He had
Each child
Still knows

On this night
On this night
On this very Christmas night

And it actually makes me think about the life that I’m showing to the world.  And I’m proud.  I take my sorrow in stride and I’m a hopeful woman who knows God will give me the desires of her heart.  I actively wait in faith and put all of my trust in Him.

I will maintain my composure during the lonely Christmas mornings because there are two precious children watching.  I will still get up and make my green and red pancakes. I will take Christmas tree selfies with my kids because there is no one to take one of us.  And I will be kissing the foreheads of my beautiful babies as they come up to me so happy to show me what Santa got them.  I’ll play my Christmas Canon and I’ll let every single holiday squeeze as much character out of me possible.

I pray to be graceful through this process and to bring all of my worries and fears to him.  To not slap a status up on Facebook about how tough I have it.  Or to resent my friends who have it easier with husbands.  Instead, I will try to step into the full feeling of God’s love daily, sometimes hourly.  This single mother life is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, but it’s my story and I take comfort in knowing I’m telling it to the world the best I can.

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