Having been through it, there may be no harder transition in life than moving from a married parent to a single parent. One of the hardest parts is healing from a divorce and your own pain and dealing with your children too.
Even if you are the one making the decision to end the marriage – like I did – the massive loss of the fairy tale family life is one that can be hard to absorb. A few years later I wish I had done some things differently. But I also think I would change nothing.
As a human being with a heart, a mind and emotions on my sleeve at all times, I can look back and say I did the best I could. But I also stuck to a strong mindset about the reality of the situation. I thought I would share some of the things I did to heal and parent at the same time.
I let myself cry when my kids did. I think as parents, we feel like we have to always have this facade of strength around our children. There is a mindset that showing vulnerability in front of them can lead them to think they are not in a stable environment. I could not disagree more! When my kids asked why… how… and when, I told them the truth in their young child language. When tears fell from their eyes at the uncertainty of the change, I let my tears fall too. I did not hold them in. I wanted my kids to know that I felt pain over the situation too and that it is OK to hurt and to be sad. And then I hugged them tight and told them that, together, we would get through it. As one family working together.
I talked to anyone that would listen. For the first 4 or 5 months, I did not tell anyone except close family that I kicked my ex out. I don’t know why but what I found is that by holding it in, I was not healing. I was absorbing the pain and the sadness and not allowing myself to move on. I had this armor on and no one was going to break through it and see that – thought the decision was absolutely right for me and the kids – it was still tough. Once I started talking to my clients, my friends and others I knew, I felt the light coming back in. I felt the weight life and I saw that my issues were not unique but were appreciated. Being truly honest when you talk is important. This is not ex bashing… it is you healing!
I let myself move on. Sometimes when we are going through a tough time, we allow ourselves to wallow in the self indulgent ‘attention’ of it all. I made it a point to tell anyone who would listen that I was a single mom. Why? I don’t know. But when I just let go and let myself take the last of the self-pity, almost, and throw it away, I was able to truly be a real mom and woman again.
Let the children be children. As my ex immediately introduced my kids to a new woman, as he made the empty promises so many make in an attempt to appease children, as he still came to me asking for me back despite his new life, my kids approached it as kids would. They talked about his girlfriend as if she were family. There wre comparisons between me and her. There were conversation about how much fun they had with her. On the flip side, and now that time has passed, there are now questions about why she always has to be around and talk of never going to their dad’s again.
All of this sends me into a roller coaster of emotions that I don’t even know how to control. From jealousy to private internal victories, I have to be the mom. I have to take what they say and let them be kids despite my personal feelings. So I answer as best I can without bashing or snide comments. I know eventually they will figure it all out. But for now, they are just kids and I have to understand that.
Parenting in itself is hard. Divorce, alone standing, is hard. Putting them together can either make or break us. if we remember that we are the parents and the pain of our circumstances is temporary, but the children are permanent, we can all make it through OK!
What tips do you have for this hard time? I would love to hear!