Recently I disclosed on my Key to Kids Facebook page that I was a single parent. These were words that I never thought I’d need to put into a sentence, let alone go through the process of adjusting my children to a world where their parents live in separate houses.
Very few people intentionally embark on a parenting journey with the idea of doing it alone, and I can hand-on-heart say I certainly didn’t. I have all the happy snaps of family holidays, ‘firsts’ that my children experienced and fun social events where the world viewed my family as ‘perfect’.
So you can imagine the grenade you throw into your life when you need to smash this image and announce ‘well actually no, my perfect family is not perfect.’ What’s a perfect family anyway? Many of you reading this will have faced this experience also.. the pressure of public perception. What will people think? What will people say?
Being a single parent is tricky, no doubt. For some people, this was not a choice but something they were thrown into without a say. For me, it was a blessing despite the hard days of actually acting on our decision – him moving out, putting our house on the market, negotiating time with the kids and making this as easy as possible for them.
If you are in the hard stages right now, I write this to you with hindsight and experience. Here is what I’ve learned:
- You made this decision for a reason, don’t forget that. I had a dawning moment weeks after my husband moved out… I felt lighter. Yes, I had to dig through the trenches of doing the parenting thing largely on my own but I no longer had that other stress hanging over me. I could let go of something that had caused me years of pain, like releasing a helium balloon. I felt as light as that balloon and that kept me focused and moving forward.
- Keep yourself surrounded by people who you love, and who love you. It’s often these tough times that prove to you who your people really are. My relationship with my parents became so much stronger because all of a sudden those walls came down and I didn’t have to pretend to be happy any more, because I realised I actually WAS happy.
- Even if you hate your ex, try try try to keep things civil and amicable for your children. Kids need to feel stable and loved. Discussing issues about the kids with them as a united front will reinforce that they are your number one (and they can’t play you off against each other!)
- Be kind to yourself. If you’re sad, allow yourself to be sad. If you’re angry, allow yourself to be angry. Don’t feel shame in talking to people about your challenges, whether with a friend over coffee or visiting a professional. Be real with your kids and let them know (at an age appropriate level) that you are feeling sad today and that lots of cuddles are welcome. Kids can handle more than we give them credit for.
Now might be tough, but picture yourself a year from now. Then a year after that.
Life is not set in stone, we are in control of our own happiness. I hope that your journey can be as liberating as mine.