I learned a lot after my divorce, and while hindsight really is 20/20, I’m hoping to pass some of that knowledge along to others. One of the big lessons I learned very quickly was how to share (custody of my son, more specifically). Sharing isn’t easy, but it is a necessity if you hope to have a post-divorce relationship with your ex that doesn’t make you want to pull all of your hair out.
Below is some advice from my experiences over the years coming out of my divorce.
For Every End, a Beginning
First, there is the end. Then there is the transition. Then rebirth. This is the cycle of all major life events. The end of a relationship can be a huge adjustment. What was once a source of comfort and likely the center of your daily life is turned absolutely upside down. You will quite literally go from seeing your family every day, to only seeing them half of the time and that s about best-case scenario. As a parent, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of splitting up with your ex and can even be a reason (if only in your mind) for staying together. How does one deal with this adjustment? How, as loving, adoring, nurturing parents, do we go from spending so much of our time with our children to spending so little?
It Is What It Is: Cliché but True
I’m not one to be blasé about anything but, to an extent, that s what we have to do as parents after a divorce where children are involved put on our big boy and big girl undies and deal with it. Ideally a family stays together. When that s not possible, it may be best to split up. It s not great, it s not good, it s not really even ok. It is what it is. When divorce is inevitable and you re better off splitting up, what can you do to minimize the impact of the divorce and time-sharing on you and your children?
Stay Involved and Don’t Give Up!
Post-divorce it is every parent s responsibility to remain as active in their childrens lives as humanly possible. Just because the child may be staying with the other parent that night doesn t mean you stop being a mom or dad. Time with the other parent isn t a vacation from parenting. Children are not an out-of-sight, out-of-mind marital accessory. They need to know that they are still important to you after you re no longer able to tuck them in every night. Make that bedtime phone call. Attend the parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals, baseball games and other events that you d likely attend had you not split with your ex. A divorce is never an excuse to stop being a parent. No matter what happens between you and your ex, stay involved in your childrens lives.
Different, Yet the Same
Maintaining similar routines, environments and experiences as close to normal as possible is widely regarded as what is best for children after a divorce. It s not practical to simulate being a nuclear family besides, children would easily see through the rouse if you try to trick them. Creating a safe space for them in their new (second) home is very important to helping children adjust after a divorce. Their address may change but your love for them won t and it s important that they understand different doesn t have to be a bad thing.
Onward and Upward
About the worst thing any (especially non-residential) parent can do during a transition from nuclear family to single parent is to sit and wallow in your own misery while your children are away. You ll likely discover a new feeling of loneliness that you hadn t felt in the past. This is completely normal! Especially early on I learned to loathe Monday, Tuesday & Thursday nights.
Summer breaks were especially trying when I would go entire weeks without being able to see my son. They were torturous to me and I was at risk of sinking into a depression if I didn t do something about how I was dealing with my solitude. I was alone in my thoughts far too many hours a day. Something had to give. You must (MUST) deal with those feelings whether it be alone or with personal or professional assistance from the outside. What you do with all of that newly-found freedom and down time and how you respond and deal with those feelings may determine your success or failure as a parent and even your future happiness. The stakes are that high.
I did my best to see my situation as an opportunity rather than let it drag me down. I suddenly had hours of free time per week that I hadn t enjoyed since, well, since my teenage years! Do not squander this opportunity! Grab yourself by those bootstraps and do something positive! Take the time to better yourself by going back to school, start a productive, creative and/or self-fulfilling hobby (like writing) and generally keep yourself busy.