Yes, there are those who love the holiday season and enjoy going all out to make it as magical as possible. It truly makes them happy and they are passionate about knocking it out of the park each year. I am not one of those people.

I went shopping November 1 and it was like a giant leaf blower had sent any trace of Halloween off the face of the planet and Christmas had marched in to puke all over the place. Starting the insanity November 1 means just under two months of mayhem before an inevitable anti-climax. It’s completely bonkers. Let me be clear—I don’t hate the holiday season. I love connecting with people, the spirit of giving and the excitement on my kids’ faces. There are many, many great things about the holiday season and what it brings out in people.

But then there’s the reality of what this behemoth of expectations means logistically. As a separated parent I am generally in a state of chaos in my non-holiday state. Yes, I only have my kids with me 50 per cent of the time, but I still run an entire household on my own while working and attempting to maintain a social life. I do a lot as it is, and much of it on my own. Stretching myself any further to give Martha Stewart a run for her money in some Pinterest-fueled holiday-gasm ain’t happening.

So here’s what I know:
• I will bring Thrifty’s seven-layer dip to parties. I don’t care if I was supposed to bring something homemade. It’s damn good dip and people like it.

• I am buying wine in bulk and leaving it in my car for easy grabbing on the go as I hustle between multiple events.

• I am using gift bags for presents. Eco-friendlier due to re-use, but more importantly it takes only five seconds to wrap a coating of tissue paper on the gift and toss it in.

• The gifts will be special and thoughtful. That’s where I’m driven to put some time in. But because I struggle to keep surprises, I probably already told you what it is.

• Yes, there is a row of zombies hanging off my mantle, and nothing else. My son made them and they’re adorable. They also take less than five minutes to hang.

• And yes, that is a purple Christmas tree. My kids and I picked it out together.
Here’s the other thing that gets to me about the holidays. My husband and I separated on Boxing Day two years ago, so Christmas is like the anniversary of a really terrible day. And we’re not alone. While some couples wait a bit longer to do the deed, during and immediately after the holidays is a very common time for couples to separate. The first business Monday in January is sometimes called “Divorce Monday” because of the surge of calls divorce lawyers get. Their business generally increases by 30 per cent in January, as couples have called it quits or are eager to do so and start making changes before getting too far into a fresh year together. So while the holidays are joyous for many, they can be a highly emotional time for those whose relationships have run their course.

I’m extremely fortunate that my ex and I can share Christmas and open gifts from Santa together with our kids. Many separated/divorced parents are not able to be with their kids for the holidays. If you have friends in this situation, please reach out and show them you’re thinking of them. And if you’re struggling with weighing whether to end your own marriage as you push through the holidays, please know that you are not alone.

While my domestic abilities will not be lauded at any point during the horridly-long Christmas season, I will focus instead on ensuring my kids have a fantastic time that is as stress-free as possible. We will have fun celebrating with family and friends. So. Much. Fun. We may not be decked out in Christmas sweaters and caroling through the neighbourhood, but we will be enjoying the company of people we love—as we eat seven-layer dip and I drink wine.

Erin Skillen is the co-founder and COO of, an education company that helps parents navigate the toughest job in the world. She’s also a mom and a bucket list slayer.