My experience is a bit different from most single parents that I know because I don't share Shabbats or holidays....my ex assumed, from the time that he left, that I'd be responsible for all Shabbats and holidays and that's just the way that it's played out all these years (almost 9).
I did share some of my experiences and advice with Devora and she created a blogpost about it. She put her own spin on my suggestions and I hope that some of what I've learned can be helpful to other single parents.
Here's what I wrote (in my own words):
Laurie Rappeport lives in Safed. She has five kids who range in age from 17 - 27. She's been doing the holidays on her own since her separation (and subsequent divorce) 9 years ago. Laurie finds that Safed is a welcoming community for single parents but holiday time is still a challenge. Through trial and error Laurie has developed some strategies that create a good holiday atmosphere in her home (so her kids tell her).
· KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. When I first separated I tried to do everything that we'd done when my kids' father was in the house, including shul. It quickly became apparent that my expectation that the kids would head off to synagogue by themselves was causing a lot of anger. Once I dropped the issue and concentrated on making the holiday a simple, pleasurable one in which everyone could celebrate as s/he wanted, the tension level immediately dropped and we began to enjoy the holidays much more.
· Develop new family traditions. We usually do one holiday barbeque for each chag (when you can transfer fire from an already-lit candle to start the bonfire) and we all enjoy that. We also have created new culinary traditions, such as chili the first night of Succot. Three of my five kids are vegetarian/vegan so, whereas we once only at meat meals for the holidays, about half of our meals are now vegetarian and everyone enjoys the change. I feel as though the new traditions help my kids (and I) bond as our own nuclear family.
A friend has developed the tradition of taking her kids on a hike every chag before the mid-day meal. They head down to a spring below the Old Cemetery of Safed and each child gives a dvar Torah that connects to the holiday. It's true, they don't get to shul, but they connect to the holiday and to each other which seems to me to be much more important.
· Connect with other families with whom your kids are comfortable and share meals. We have one specific family that includes several kids who are close in age to my kids and the families are very friendly. I try to make sure that we do at least one chag meal together. Even though I'm now comfortable and confident as a single mother , I also appreciate the opportunity for my kids to spend time with a traditional family unit (because I hope that, when they grow older, that's what they'll build for themselves)
· Invite guests. This suggestion actually causes a lot of strife in my family because my kids, who are all in their teens or 20s at this point, don't like to have guests, at least not many as I'd prefer, and not as frequently. But it makes me feel that I'm a part of the community, and that I'm also a giver, even though I'm a single mother. That's important to me and, I believe, ultimately an important lesson for my kids.
Other suggestions will be appreciated.