First, I don’t consider myself to be any kind of parenting expert.
Like you, I suspect, I am working out this parenting life day by day, moment by moment. Some days I feel like I’ve nailed parenting and I am totally super-mum. Other days not-so-super-mum and I just hope tomorrow is better… it has to be, right?
Second, and perhaps most importantly, although I have parented alone for three of the first four years of our oldest child’s life, I have never been a single parent and I don’t even begin to suggest they are the same thing.
My husband worked FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) from the start of our relationship until June 2016. He worked a roster of four weeks away and 1 week home. Continuously. Once a year he took some annual leave.. but given how close in age our kids are, you might guess his leave usually coincided with a birth related event.
It was a choice we made every single day. An active choice. We continually reassessed what we were doing and what our plans were.
Being a single parent may or may not be your choice. And whether it is or not, the idea can still be overwhelming.
I know that as a single parent, you have all the emotional and financial responsibilities of life. You may have friends and family to talk to, it’s not always the same (I have heard though, sometimes it is better..) – but you may not want to lean on them or ask for help.
I still remember so clearly the first day my husband went back to work after our first baby was born. She was three weeks old and we were at the airport. I was so, so brave and didn’t cry…. until a lovely lady walked past and put her hand on my shoulder and said something kind and supportive. I don’t remember what she said but that caring and kind gesture turned me into a blubbering mess crying an ugly cry at the airport for a few minutes. And then I pulled my shoulder back, wiped my eyes and off we went.
It was strange going home that first day, the house felt different.
For you, the first time you go home after separation or the first day after your spouse moves out, the house may feel lighter and brighter – depending on the nature of your relationship, how it ended and whose decision it was. It’s fascinating that how we feel affects how we see the world.
So – here are my learnings of parenting alone that you might find useful as you navigate the next few months – no matter how old your kids are:
- Give yourself time to grieve the end of your relationship, even if you were the one to make the choice. It is a significant decision and unlikely one that was made easily, or quickly.
- Create a routine. For you. For your children. It will take time to create a new normal, but you will.
- Ask for help. Accept help. For you. For your children.
- Don’t feel guilty, even if the decision to end the relationship was yours. You made the decision for a reason. If you didn’t make that decision and you are struggling for help with your separation, ask for help from a trained professional.
- Stay positive. Look to the future. Some days this will be easier than others. That’s okay. Remember your why. If the decision to end the relationship wasn’t yours, redefine your why if necessary.
- Plan for the future. Speak to a financial advisor if you want some help budgeting or creating a financial plan.
- Take care of yourself – do something kind for yourself every day.
- Exercise regularly (it helps with point 5).
- Budget. Break it down across the year so you know when the more expensive months are (car registration, birthdays, Christmas, insurances, council rates).
- Online grocery shopping – have it delivered in the evening when you’re home. It saves a bundle of time at the shop (with the added bonus you don’t need to lug it to the house from the car).
- Bulk shopping and bulk cooking – you can budget for this. It sounds expensive but it’s actually a really great time saver and quite economical.
- Use the time the kids are with their other parent to rest, socialize, do something for you, work more if that is possible or something you want to do (there are some professionals I know who have equal-time care arrangements for their kids and in the week the children spend with the other parent, they work more, without guilt!). .. but refer to point 4 if feeling guilty.
And finally, breathe. You will be okay. This will work out.
Have I missed one? Let me know what your tips are.
Megan Sweetlove is a divorce lawyer and the owner of Sweetlove Family Law and based in the Adelaide Hills. Megan has worked with families who are experiencing separation and divorce for the past 10 years and is committed to assisting her clients find respectful outcomes to their separation, away from the Court process and with a focus on having a healthy future.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 20 minute phone appointment with Megan here.
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