Feeling Like a Single Parent After Divorce
The term "co-parenting" implies that there is more than one individual is involved in the act of parenting, but when you're parenting apart, it can sometimes feel like you are doing it all on your own. An uncooperative co-parent definitely makes things feel less like a team effort and more like a one-person job. Even if the co-parenting arrangement is rather cooperative, feeling like you're all on your own isn't uncommon or necessarily wrong. You're going from doing something together under one roof to doing something apart from beneath two. When single parenting has you feeling low, here are some things you can do to improve your standing and bring yourself back up:
- Work towards being financially independent. If you are a single parent who is receiving money to support your kids via child support payments or alimony, try not to let this be your only form of income. Being financially stable won't just give you more resources to help in raising your kids, but it will also lift your sense of confidence and self-esteem. Besides just earning money, putting your money to good use is also important in becoming financially stable. Saving money should be a priority, and to help in doing so, you should stop any frivolous spending. Another way that a single parent can save money is to not always buy all expensive or name brand products. You can also save money by cooking at home more often. If you don't have time to cook during the week, make and freeze meals on weekends so that you have a freezer full of ready-to-go meals all week.
- Work to build a cordial relationship with your co-parent. It's a lot more difficult to co-parent when working against each other. You might also find yourself sometimes wanting to make decisions with the sole intention of hurting your ex rather than thinking of your child's best interests. Working together is a lot easier than working against each other. If you are truly trying to get along with your co-parent, but they are resisting, fight the urge to argue with them about it. That will just take up energy that would be better spent focused on something more productive. When you feel the urge to argue about something, try taking a few steps back to really think about what you were about to say or do. If you're not in a position to handle yourself well when speaking face-to-face or by phone, try talking in writing. Corresponding in writing gives you an opportunity to type something out, read it, make edits, and even re-read it before sending. This way, you can be sure about what you're going to say before you say something impulsive.
- Remember that you're not the only one who feels the way you do. You are not alone in feeling like a single parent. There are many co-parents out there who are dealing with similar feelings and situations as you. Talking with other parents can help you to understand this. You may already know other parents out there who have gone through a divorce or separation, or you can seek out others to talk to via support groups or online forums. Also, just spending time with friends you already have and who know you well can help to lift you up when you're feeling down. Spending time with friends is a good remedy for relieving stress and feelings of loneliness.
- Don't be so hard on yourself. Not everything needs to be perfect 100% of the time. When your kids are with you, keep the focus on enjoying your time together rather than proving to someone–your kids, your co-parent, or even yourself–that you're doing a "good job". What you should focus on is your children's well-being and overall happiness. When they are with you, remember that you are responsible for making the immediate decisions. While you should have fun, don't forget that being a parent is a responsibility, so don't bend your own rules too much. Just remember to keep a balance between the routine and fun. You can do special things together like seeing a movie or going to an amusement park, but you should also respect your child's schedule for things like meals, bedtime and homework.
- Talk to your kids. Kids want to have a strong relationship with both of their parents. While you might be feeling like a single parent, your kids might also be feeling like they one have one single parent. When one parent isn't being very active about spending time with them or being there emotionally, the kids will feel like something is wrong or even that it was their fault. Let your child know how much you love and care for them. When it comes to fixing the other parent's behavior towards your child, that is really up to them to adjust. You could encourage your child to talk about their feelings with their other parent. While you may want to do the talking, you should try not to put yourself in the middle of this by arguing with your co-parent. If you have real concerns about your child's well-being as a result of your co-parent's behavior towards them, talk to a mental health professional or therapist. They may be able to offer you guidance on how you should handle this situation.