Finding Thankfulness in a Thanksgiving Apart

Holidays with my daughter are divvied up every year. While Christmas is shared, Thanksgiving Day (and weekend) are scheduled with each parent exclusively every other year. This year, my daughter is with her dad over Thanksgiving, which means it’s my “off year”…and we’ll be apart.

I’m very used to our parenting plan, as is my daughter, but it doesn’t change the fact that Thanksgiving Day feels empty without her.

Thanksgiving is all about having the whole family around, baking pies, making messes…maybe messing up a recipe or two. When my daughter spends Thanksgiving with her dad, my mind naturally wonders how she’s spending her day. Is she making turkey drawings with her hand, eating her weight in bread rolls or dressing up like a pilgrim?

I think about her favorite traditions, too, like how she would arrange the name place cards on the table and her favorite side (uh, bread rolls).

It’s bittersweet without her there.

So how do you, as a mom, find thankfulness in a day in which you are surrounded by family, but your child is somewhere else?

It’s tough. But it’s possible.

I do a few helpful things:

  1. Tell myself that time passes quickly and I will see her soon.
  2. Tuck away some stories that I can share with her later. It helps me feel more connected.
  3. Be thankful for my family…and that my daughter has a lot of family members who love her and want to spend time with her.

Thanksgiving is about family, after all.

When your child isn’t with you over Thanksgiving, you can take joy in the family members that you are with that day and the opportunity to spend more quality time with them.

You may be able to engage in more conversations, and deeper conversations, than you would otherwise—perhaps with a little more wine, too! Or maybe you do grown up-things like going to see a rom-com after the meal is through and the dishes are done. There are ways to ease the emptiness.

My husband and I have actually started our own Thanksgiving tradition on our “off years.” We go to Kansas City for family Thanksgiving and then stay one night on the Plaza that weekend for a fun little getaway. We plan to do the same this year, actually!

While my daughter being elsewhere on Thanksgiving feels strange, I keep my helpful tips in mind. I also remember all the memorable holidays that my daughter and I have shared together and all those that are yet to come!

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