Divorce will change your life in ways that are fairly predictable (but that you may not be prepared for) and in ways that seem to come out of nowhere. One of the biggest changes you will experience as a divorced parent is solo parenting, which can be quite an adjustment. When you were married, you tag-teamed the whole parenting thing, but post-divorce, you will very likely do serious time as a solo parent (with intermittent breaks). It can take some getting used to, but fortunately, there are some tried-and-true tips that can help you out along the way.
One: Check Your Perfection at the Door
Parenting is about as rewarding as it gets – and also has a lot of other things going for it – but one thing that parenting is not is perfect. Life is messy, and parenthood is more so. On top of this, divorce often spells chaos (at least temporarily). As you begin your single parenting journey, it is important to gain perspective on the matter and to realize that perfection is not only impossible but is also not even desirable. Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but children often take it the hardest and may be the most prone to internalizing their pain. Take this opportunity to put your perfectionistic tendencies aside and to focus on your children. If your kids need you, the housekeeping (and everything else) can wait. You will find your rhythm as time goes on, and in the meantime, fostering a new family dynamic that cements your new normal is a great place to start.
Two: Talk about It
Divorce is one of life’s more difficult transitions, and no one goes through a divorce unscathed – recognizing that you are going to hit a few roadblocks along the way can help immensely. Further, once your divorce is finalized, you should not expect things to magically fall into place (although getting to the other side of your divorce can feel like an immense relief). Communication is key. Bottling things up inside can quickly backfire, and if you do not let your trusted friends, loved ones, and family members know what you are going through, they cannot help you – and you may have never needed their help more. Further, if you don’t give your boss and coworkers at least a heads up, they cannot accommodate your solo parent needs (if and when they do crop up). If you have to dash out of a meeting due to an emergency related to single parenting, your office will be far better equipped to cope – and more likely to understand – if you have shared your situation with them. Carrying the emotional burden of divorce on your own doesn’t do anyone any good, but sharing your concerns can have all the following positive effects:
Lightening your load
Allowing others to better understand your situation and to dip in and help out as appropriate
Preparing your work for a few inevitable single parenting hiccups along the way
Freeing yourself to better address your children’s emotional needs (which is difficult to do when you are utterly weighed down by your own)
If you are concerned that one or more of your children are having a difficult time expressing their own feelings, carve out the time necessary to show them that you are always there to listen. Remember, too, that professional counseling can be profoundly beneficial for adults and children alike.
Three: Preparation Is Key
It may have been a long time coming, but suddenly, you find yourself in the role of a single parent, and it is easy to become overwhelmed and not know how to get back on track. That is okay. As we said, the whole perfection thing is a pipe dream. When it comes to parenting in general and solo parenting in particular, preparation is everything. The school day starts early, and with it come a million details that must be attended to. Take the time the night before to gather the homework, projects, and books; to send off the teacher emails; to put together the school outfits, and to throw the sports equipment in the bag – you will thank yourself in the morning. While you are at it, do not be afraid to involve your kids in the process. It is their school day, after all, and children tend to respond well to taking ownership.
When it comes to getting organized, a great place to start is with a large wall calendar. Using a different color marker for everyone in the family can help you get a better grasp on who needs to be where (and when). Trying to remember every parent-teacher conference and soccer practice can quickly become unmanageable, but once you have a calendar system set up, you will be far better prepared to tackle the day – come what may.
Four: While You Are at It, Involve Your Kids
Your lives have changed, and while your children may have lived like little rajas prior to your divorce, taking on a bit of responsibility never hurt anyone, and kids appreciate being included. Doing the dishes as a family, for example, can build a bit of fun into the evening, and you might be surprised by the amount of goodwill and camaraderie it fosters. Appointing your children's age-appropriate chores around the house can help you keep your home running more smoothly and can help strengthen the ties that bind.
If you find that you need additional help around the house – while you tend to your job, your kids, general upkeep, and beyond – there is no shame in hiring a housekeeper to swoop in once or twice a month and help you keep things in order (if doing so is economically feasible). Whatever you can do to lighten your load – and that works for you – is worth considering. And harkening back to Tip One – if something does not get done, it does not get done (we are not going for perfection here).
Five: Practice Saying No
As a parent, you are probably quite practiced at saying no to your children (it seems to be about half of the job description), but you are probably less familiar with saying no to requests from your children’s school, from other parents, from your neighbors, and so on. Giving back is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and while no one would advise you to focus solely on yourself and refuse every request that comes your way, now – during your early foray into single parenthood – is likely a good time to scale back. If you need to take a hiatus from the PTA, do not be afraid to do so. If you have a hard time saying no to whipping up six dozen brownies for the Scouts, try it on for size. It can be hard to choke out the word no if you are everyone’s go-to parent, but once you say no a time or two, it will get easier, and it can help you make your life feel more manageable. When you are ready, you can go back to running the PTA and to dominating those bake sales, and you will be better prepared to show them how it is done (after taking the break that you need).
When it comes to your commitments as a newly single parent, it is important to prioritize. If you are involved in a commitment that is important to you, you are not obligated to duck out. Consider your options, and you may find an alternative approach. For example, if you and a friend arrange to swap babysitting efforts, you may be able to carve out the necessary free time to remain committed to those projects that matter most to you. And bonus – kids love nothing better than spending time with other kids.
Six: Call a Truce with Your Ex
Divorce has a way of pushing a wedge between parents – no matter how committed you were throughout the divorce process to keeping things amicable. You and your children’s other parent probably have a bit of strife (or a lot) in your post-divorce relationship (such as it is). This is all normal stuff, but after you have taken the time to process the hurt you have experienced (whatever this looks like for you), reaching out to your ex and calling a truce is likely to do you, your children, your ex, and your newly minted family unit a whole lot of good. If you and your ex are able to let bygones be bygones – or at least to treat one another civilly (again, no need to be perfect) – it can change the dynamic of your divorce and lighten the load for everyone. The one nearly universal truth for all divorced parents is that they both want what is best for their shared children.
When you and your ex turn the corner and decide to be on the same page for the sake of your children, it can open up an entire world of ease and comfort for everyone. The strife between you and your ex makes your children uneasy, and it also hinders your ability to help one another. The bottom line is that when you help one another, you help your children, and that is the goal. There is no statute of limitations for calling a truce with your ex. If you are not ready now, you may be next month or next year. Take the time you need.
Even if you are not ready to turn the proverbial cheek, deciding that you are going to cooperate with your ex in terms of scheduling emergencies and glitches in relation to your kids, in general, can go a long way toward maintaining a semblance of order in both of your homes. If you have kids, you have scheduling snafus, and this is one thing that you and your ex almost certainly can come to a meeting of the minds regarding. Knowing that you can count on one another for scheduling upsets can also help pave the way toward an actual truce in the future.
Seven: Do Not Forget About "You Time"
The thing about solo parenting post-divorce is that you will likely have periods without your children that can be even more disorienting than parenting alone. Although parenting on your own is challenging, do not be surprised if not having your kids around for a night or two (or even longer if your ex lives farther away and has the kids for blocks of time) is even more difficult. Some parents take this downtime to get everything in tiptop shape for when the kids get back, but it is important to also take some you-time. You have been through a lot, and the stress and emotional upset do not suddenly dissipate simply because your divorce has been finalized. If you want to be fully present for your children, you need to show up for yourself. This can mean carving out time for doing whatever it is that brings you pleasure, that helps you feel grounded, or that you simply enjoy. Ideas include:
Curling up with a good book
Heading out to a yoga class (or dialing one up online)
Taking a walk to enjoy the fall air
Getting together with friends
Taking in a movie
Working on that craft project that has been on the back-burner for a while now
Whatever energizes you is a great place to start. And don’t forget daily self-care. Getting in a bit of exercise each day and eating healthily (most of the time) is important.
An Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney Can Help
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is an accomplished divorce attorney who is committed to helping you effectively tackle your divorce and post-divorce legal concerns. To learn more, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.