When my husband and I decided to separate recently, a world of single parenting came along with it. Sounds obvious, right? But I was so focused on the end of my marriage I hadn’t really stopped to consider the whole new world that awaited me.
It wasn’t entirely foreign. I was brought up by a single mum, and I was a single mum once before for a year or so, but that was only to one child. Now there are three.
It’s been tough on the younger children, as they adjust to having two homes and wonder in their four- and six-year-old minds why we don’t all live together any more. We have the same conversations over and over, and I patiently explain that we think this is the best way for us all to move forward and be happy.
But it’s been eight weeks or so, and we’re beginning to find our groove in our new version of normal. Things are calming down.
The first month was a steep learning curve though. There were good days and bad days, of course, and not just for the children. Even when you know separation is what you want, it doesn’t make it easy. But I learned from the wisdom of women who have walked this road before me, and not only have I survived, I’m pleased to report I have found a way to thrive and be truly happy.
So I thought I’d share a few things I learned in that first month, in the hope they might help you, if you’re going through the same thing.
- This is a time to focus on yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary. Yes, you need to help your kids find their way in this new world too, but you can’t do that if you’re crying all the time, or feeling overwhelmed. Do what you need to do to be okay. Whether that’s seeing a counsellor, going for a run, getting a massage, eating a dozen doughnuts, or whatever makes you feel good.
- Stop fighting with your ex. That bit is done. It doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong. What matters now is keeping things calm and pleasant for the kids. Even if they’re still up for it, the best thing to do is smile and walk away to your peaceful home.
- Accept help. Let friends come over and help you move furniture. Let your parents slip you some extra cash to help tide you over until things settle down. Let your bestie have your kids for a sleepover so you can have a night on the couch. Say yes. People want to help, and you need it right now.
- Say yes to social invitations. You might not feel like going out, but your mates want to cheer you up and I promise you, it will do you the world of good. Just say yes, and then go. If you don’t feel like being there after half an hour, give yourself permission to go home. But don’t say no because you can’t imagine getting out of your sweats.
- Make a list of stuff you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time. I’ve got one list for when I’m on my own and one list for when I’m with the kids. That way when I get up in the morning, I don’t get that indecision paralysis and end up sitting on the couch being glum or frittering the days away. We’re out doing cool stuff we want to do.
- Make your house your own. Redecorate. Buy new bed linen – and make it super girly or something that pleases you in a way you couldn’t have done when you were sharing that bed. Put pictures on the walls, and set aside that corner for your morning yoga sessions or whatever it is you’re into.
- Expect things to suck sometimes. There will be sadness. There will be feelings of loss and bewilderment. Even if you’re the one who wanted the separation. But it’s okay to experience those – be patient, ride the wave and wait for it to pass. Because it will.
- Try to avoid the obvious pitfalls of drowning your sorrows (a little bit is cool; a lot doesn’t help anyone), wallowing on the couch watching bad TV, and hiding away at home. And if you’re sharing custody of the kids, don’t leave all the housework for when they’re away. It’s good for kids to see (and help with) housework being done.
PHEW! Okay, that’s what I’ve learned so far. How do you think I’m doing? What else would you add?