Christmas without the kids: when marriage breaks down – by Ian Doel

Christmas without the kids – when marriage breaks down

Christmas can be a tricky time of year for many reasons. Pressure to buy the right thing, be generous without over spending and to be able to spend time with our loved ones. When marriage breaks down, Christmas can be tough without the kids.

The people I want to be around on Christmas Day are my children but now, that only happens every other year. I have managed to deal with that but it’s taken several years and some very painful experiences.

My wife and myself separated in the June 2008, when our children were 4 and 6. Our separation had been tricky and I had decided that I should leave the home for the sake of the family. The atmosphere was an argumentative one and it was difficult for all parties. Once I moved out I would go back and look after the kids during the week while my ex worked and I had the kids as often as possible. However this was proving tricky as I had started to sofa surf at friends and had no where to call home. Every weekend I would pick up the children and we would spend the weekend together at my mum’s or wherever we could find. If I didn’t see them om any particular day I made sure we would still speak on the phone. We had always been close and I didn’t want to lose that connection.


As time past and Christmas loomed large it presented a problem. My ex’s and I’s relationship had deteriorated to a low where we struggled to communicate, conversations would often descend into arguments. We managed to come to the conclusion that we would spend Christmas morning together at the family home and my ex and the kids would go to her side of the family later in the day.

I arrived excitedly waiting to see the children at 8am on Christmas day. I knew it would be tricky but we figured that if I could be there early we could try to make it semi normal. The plan was to give the children their presents, spend time with them and enjoy their company before they left.

When I arrived at the house I went to open the door but noticed it was locked from the inside, with the key left in the lock so I couldn’t get in. I was gutted. This had started to happen on a regular basis but I couldn’t believe it was happening on Christmas day. After about half an hour the door was opened and we managed to enjoy Christmas together, open some presents and just enjoy seeing each other. Unfortunately this didn’t last long as my ex announced that they were going out at 1030 and I would need to leave by 10am so the kids could get ready.I was heartbroken as we had planned for me to be there until midday. But rather than argue on Christmas Day, I reluctantly left.

It is hard to put how I felt into words. I remember driving to the coast, which was about an hour away, and just walking. I had no idea where I was going, what to do or how to handle the day. I ended up sat in a busy pub, surrounded by families and strangers and I was just broken. The feeling of disappointment, loss and injustice was unbearable. I left the pub and just walked. Walking with nowhere to go. I eventually spoke to my family, they knew what was going on for me and although many offers had been made to spend time with them, I just wanted to be alone. I felt empty and dead. I didn’t want to be anywhere or around anyone. I knew I was in a difficult place and was overwhelmed with the feeling of not wanting to ruin Christmas for anyone else by being around them.

Slightly reluctantly I ended up turning up at my mum and dads, having lunch and leaving again as soon as I could. I returned to the beach and continued my walkathon to nowhere. It was just a feeling of being away from the world, not causing anyone pain and dealing with some really difficult thoughts and feelings regarding my worth to my children and myself. Suicide was never a far away thought and one that I battled with for about 6 months. I never went through with it as I knew that my children needed me. As their dad I knew that it was important for them that I was around and able to contribute towards their future.

The festive period as a whole was a fairly rough experience that 1st year and although it took time to get my feelings in check I was always able to bring it back to the bigger picture. I can’t remember my second Christmas after my breakup and without the children. I was living with friends in their spare room and divorce was in full swing. By then it had been a tricky year and it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. I had had enough fighting by then and was just trying to make it through every day. The following year I had the children and funny enough, it was one of the toughest. Actually having the kids and feeling really pressured to create the perfect day was exhausting. It was perfect for no other reason than we where all together.

Christmas is a time for family traditions and being around loved ones, but if things don’t work out that way you can still make new traditions and have a great time. It may not be Christmas Day that you see your children but you can make the most of the time you have and make memories that you and the children will remember.

I was recently told by a single parent when discussing Christmas, “I hate having to share them“. All parents hate being away from their children, but please remember that you created that child with someone else. You have a responsibility to all those parties and have the ability to make it a happy and easier time for all. Our children are just that, children, so being able to be a parent and take the pressure and all that comes along with such times is your responsibility.

Being a Dad, a mum, a parent at Christmas can be a tricky and lonely time but it is only one day. It won’t ever define your relationship with your children, there will be other days that will be remembered just a fondly.

If you are alone this Christmas and your children are else where, try to be grateful that they are surrounded by loved ones and they will have a nice day.

Look after yourself, parenting is 24/7 and 365, there will be other days.

Written by Ian Doel

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