A Dozen Gifts to Give Yourself for 12 Days of Christmas Sanity

  • 01 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 1

    Night Out with Friends
    Caiaimage/Tom Merton

    Remember the old Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas? "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." Let's change it around a bit. For the 12 Days of Christmas, let's look at gifts you can give to yourself during the holidays and all throughout the year.


    On the first day of Christmas, I gave a gift to me: an evening out just for me.


    When was the last time you gave yourself a night out? (If you're wondering where you'd go, that's a sure sign that you need it now...MORE more than ever!) Go grab your calendar and mark off a night out for yourself. I know it's complicated, and you'll have to find child care or swap babysitting duties with a friend, but that's why you're planning it out in advance, so you have time to take care of those details.


    As for what you do, it doesn't really matter. Getting together with friends would be great, but even if you just go window shopping downtown or treat yourself to a decaf latte while you do the grocery shopping, it's worth it. As a single parent, carving out moments of "me time" is an absolute must. In addition to helping you get back in touch with yourself--which is crucial if you want to keep your cool with the kids and make wise on-the-spot decisions day after day-- time away will also allow you to return home with fresh resolve and a greater sense of appreciation.


    It's nothing to feel guilty about, either. Just like the airline stewards tell you when they demonstrate how to use the air masks on board: taking care of yourself first equips you to take care of those around you. So if you're going to give yourself a gift this year, start with some "me time."


    Continue to 2 of 12 below.
  • 02 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 2

    Woman bathing
    Getty Images

    On the second day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Two great big hugs,
    and an evening out just for me.


    Think about what a hug does for you. It warms you up from head to toe and gives you a moment to breathe and relax. What are some things that you could do for yourself that would be the equivalent of a great big hug? How about:


    • A bubble bath
    • A DIY manicure or pedicure
    • Recording your favorite show so you can watch it all alone, with no distractions
    • Treating yourself to your favorite specialty coffee

    Ther...MOREe are dozens of ways to do something nice for yourself now and then, just to acknowledge that the work you're doing--like raising your kids and doing what you can to help others--really does matter. You are worth celebrating!


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  • 03 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 3

    Female Friends Embrace
    Betsie Van Der Meer

    On the third day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    Who are your closest friends? We all need to have people in our lives we can rely on. Some of us have friends who let us vent our frustrations and offer comfort and empathy. Others have friends who help us pick up the pieces and move on when we're down in the dumps and would rather--let's face it--spend the day in bed than face the world one more time. Others have...MORE friends who model for us what it means to be a loving parent, even when that requires tough boundaries our kids aren't so fond of.


    The point is, you need to have more than one "go to" person in your life. You need friends you can lean on, cry to, laugh with, celebrate with, and dream with. Sit down and make a list. Who are your closest friends? And where in your life could you forge closer relationships? Perhaps at work, or through your neighbors, or the families of your kids' closest friends? Cast a broad net and have confidence that there are others right in your sphere of influence who need that "one more friend" just as badly as you do.


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  • 04 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 4

    Father and son with bicycles
    Zing Images Getty

    On the fourth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    Okay, be honest. How helpful are your children? I find that my kids are incredibly helpful, when I ask them to help. Many times, when partially-finished craft projects are left all over the kitchen table, or wet bath towels are thrown on the floor, I'm tempted to do the job myself, because it's faster. That doesn't do anything to teach my kids to...MORE pick up after themselves, though, or to be responsible for the things we own. It's harder to stop myself in my tracks and ask my kids to come take care of whatever it is that's been left out. It takes more time, energy, and patience. But it also helps to prevent it from happening again, and in the long run, that's where holding your kids accountable and expecting them to help out around the house is another way of being kind to yourself--because it puts less of that burden, day after day, on you.


    Remember, too, that even very young children can start to be responsible for their own belongings. They can stack books on a low shelf, or toss their toys into a laundry basket for storage. And when it comes to older kids, teaching responsibility isn't just about making mom or dad's job easier. The ability to put things away, complete basic cleaning chores, and make meals are crucial life skills that our kids need to have before they leave home! Doing it all yourself because it's "easier" that way robs them of those vital life lessons.


    So the next time you're tempted to do for your kids something they're perfectly capable of doing themselves, stop and either ask them to complete the job right then, or make a mental note of asking for their cooperation before they can go out to play or watch TV when they get home from school.


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  • 05 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 5

    Businesswoman at table with head resting on hand
    Thomas Barwick Getty

    On the fifth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    When someone asks you to do something, what's your typical response? I usually find that before I even consider whether it works for me, or whether I even want to do it, I'm already trying to figure out in my head how I can do it.


    For example, a parent that I volunteer with for one of my kids' extra-curricular activities asked me...MORE to chaperon a school-sponsored field trip over winter break. I immediately began to think about how I could make it work, even though it's taking place on a day that doesn't fit my schedule, and I'd have to get a babysitter for my younger child if I said yes.


    Fortunately, I realized it before I wrote back to the volunteer coordinator, and declined the invitation. And do you know what? Saying "No" felt great! It's okay not to take on everything.


    So what could you be saying "No" to? Setting boundaries by only saying "Yes" to the things you really want to do, and that work for your schedule, is another way to take care of yourself during the holidays and throughout the year.


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  • 06 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 6

    Women at a single parent support group meeting
    Get to know your options before choosing a single parent support group. Photo © Steve Debenport/Getty Images

    On the sixth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    Do you ever find that when you really need someone to talk to, everyone you might think of calling is either asleep, working, or busy? Or do you sometimes hesitate to complain to your friends about the challenges you face, because you think they just won't "get it?"


    That's what I really appreciate about the...MORE Single Parents Forum here at About.com. There's always someone around, even on holidays, and it's a place where you can be honest about what you're facing, even when it's something you'd think twice about sharing with your family and friends.


    So while you're making this renewed effort to be extra kind to yourself, stop by the forum and share your story.


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  • 07 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 7

    sleeping-single-dad_1220x861.jpg
    Many people have questions about single parents and what it's really like to raise kids alone. Photo © Daly and Newton/Getty Images

    On the seventh day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    On average, how much sleep do you get per night? In all of my work with single moms and dads, I'd have to say that the one constant, across the board--whether you co-parent or not, whether your family is thriving, or whether you're struggling to get by--is that solo moms and dads tend...MORE to cut their own slumber short in order to get everything done. And I'm not talking about getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep instead of the recommended 8. Many single parents are getting by on five hours or less per night, consistently.


    If this sounds like you, I'd encourage you to experiment with getting more sleep. It's a great way to be kind to yourself! And it's true that going to bed earlier is going to mean that some stuff just won't get done, but you have to ask yourself what kind of quality work you're doing at 2 a.m., anyway. Plus, you may find that with more sleep, you'll actually be able to work more quickly and efficiently during your waking hours.


    Try increasing your sleep by half an hour at first, and see if you notice a difference. And if you're feeling really brave, tell your kids what you're doing, too. I know my children can tell when I'm sleep-deprived, because my patience is usually the first thing to go!


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  • 08 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 8

    Boys using digital tablet together in elementary school
    Getty Images

    On the eighth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Eight friends assisting
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    Remember the old saying, "Many hands make light work?" Consider how joining forces with some friends for things like doing chores, cooking in large batches, and providing child care coverage for one another will make your job easier and, frankly, more fun.


    In addition, keep...MORE in mind that your kids will benefit immensely from contact with other adults you trust, so make a point of maintaining those relationships as time goes by.


    In fact, you may find that you appreciate your friends more and more as your kids get older. Not only can they empathize with you when your kids start to question everything you say, but sometimes your kids will finally "get" what you've been saying all along after hearing the same message from "Aunt Tara" or "Uncle Bobby."


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  • 09 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 9

    woman writing in notebook
    Gianni Diliberto Getty Images

    On the ninth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Nine chores completed
    Eight friends assisting
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    I know few people who really enjoy doing chores. I know I certainly don't! But when I think about the load that getting them done takes off my shoulders, I begin to see that crossing items off my "To Do" list really is another way of being...MORE kind to myself.


    And if the feeling of accomplishment isn't enough motivation for you, consider treating yourself to something you enjoy after you finish the chores you most dread.


    For example, I needed to box up a bunch of old winter clothes and take them down to Goodwill before the end of the year. It's one of those chores that really doesn't take very long, but I was dragging my feet about getting it done--until I decided that I'd treat myself to a caramel latte after I dropped them off! The promise of that infrequent favorite indulgence was enough to do the trick!


    How about you? What chores are hanging over your head, zapping your energy and harvesting discouragement? Get them done this week, as a gift of kindness to yourself.


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  • 10 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 10

    Woman leaning against cupboard, arms folded, smiling, portrait
    Tod Pearson Getty

    On the tenth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Ten positive thoughts
    Nine chores completed
    Eight friends assisting
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    Have you ever thought about what's behind attitude? It's your thoughts!


    When you constantly let negative thoughts roll through your mind, focusing on everything that's gone wrong, pointing out everything that you don't have,...MORE and tabulating all that's not fair, you work yourself into a pretty negative attitude.


    Now, I'm not suggesting that the negatives aren't there, or aren't true, or don't count. We know they are there, and they really do matter. What I'm suggesting is that deciding to think positive thoughts, instead, is much kinder to yourself than harping on the negative.


    If you're not so sure, try it and see what happens. Consider keeping a gratitude journal over the next several weeks, to find out whether focusing on the positive things in your life--no matter how small or "insignificant" they may seem--really does make a difference.


    Continue to 11 of 12 below.
  • 11 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 11

    USA, Illinois, Metamora, Close-up of man photographing checque
    Vstock LLC/Creative RF/Getty Images

    On the eleventh day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Eleven dollars saved
    Ten positive thoughts
    Nine chores completed
    Eight friends assisting
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    We're almost to the end of our Twelve Days of Christmas parody, and I'd be remiss if I wrote about being kind to yourself without mentioning the importance of saving money. Giving yourself a little bit...MORE of cushion to fall back on is definitely kind!


    As the new year approaches, take some time to re-evaluate your finances. Do you have an emergency savings account to draw from the next time your brakes need to be replaced? Are you setting aside money for your kids' education, your retirement, or even for a vacation? None of these things will happen without some intense effort.


    Begin by taking Money Management 101, our free online money management course for single parents.


    In addition, tune in each week for our Thrifty Thursday blog post series, which includes practical money-saving advice for every week of the year.


    Taking just a few "baby steps" toward spending less and saving more will not only help you feel more confident about how you handle your money, but it will also help you face the future, and whatever it brings, with less fear and anxiety.


    Continue to 12 of 12 below.
  • 12 of 12

    The 12 Days of Christmas Sanity: Day 12

    Man Listening to music
    Getty Images

    On the twelfth day of Christmas,
    I gave a gift to me:
    Twelve minutes free
    Eleven dollars saved
    Ten positive thoughts
    Nine chores completed
    Eight friends assisting
    Seven hours sleeping
    Six forum comrades
    Five "Thanks, but no thanks,"
    Four helpful kids
    Three best friends,
    Two great big hugs,
    And an evening out just for me.


    When was the last time you ignored everything on your "To Do" list and just allowed yourself sit down and relax? I don't mean sitting down to watch TV, either, because--let's...MORE face it--TV time is often multi-tasking time. In between glances at the television, we're often folding laundry, writing grocery lists, etc.


    No, when was the last time that you did nothing? On the surface, it might seem like a wasteful indulgence, but allowing yourself to just be for a few minutes each day will put you back in touch with you. Who you really are, how you want to parent, and where you want to go in life.


    Especially if you're just getting over a loss or disappointment, spending a few minutes in solitude each day can help you stay grounded. Whether you spend the time sipping a cup of coffee, staring out at the stars in the sky, or just breathing, stealing a few minutes for yourself on a daily basis can completely change how you respond to stress--from last-minute demands for your time, to dealing with petty arguments between your kids, to finding out that your child support check is going to be late again.


    Try it and see. You might find that the payoff in reduced stress is well worth the investment of just twelve minutes a day.