My husband and I both come from families with parents who've been married for decades. Deciding to separate and then to divorce meant taking our children into a world we'd never experienced ourselves. More than anything else, we've both worried about them and how this will affect their lives.
The funny thing is that it hasn't turned into the giant fiasco you might expect. It helps that our kids are still young and don't think to ask us why. But what's helped the most is that taking this step has made us into more involved and more centered parents, even if we're no longer parenting together.
1. More Me Time. Before, I had a husband who worked long hours and no support system. I was more than a primary parent, I was a 99 percent parent. Splitting up and setting up a custody schedule has us both carving out just-for-kids time and just-for-me time. Now that I have Friday nights to myself I have the break I always craved as a stay-at-home parent.
I get three nights a week of undisturbed sleep. There are no errands to run. I can meet a friend for brunch without having to line up a sitter or order a kids meal for a small companion. Last week I even got a pedicure in the middle of the day just because I could. I pick the movies and the TV shows I watch. I can lay in bed and read all day.
It's actually an adjustment to learn to live with a couple of days of open time. You can start up old hobbies. You can connect with friends.
But best of all, when you see your kids again a couple of days later, they are more beautiful and more precious than they were at the end of a long week. My energy is renewed, my patience is restored, and we're all ready to enjoy each other.
2. Less Stress. I do all my parenting alone now, which is harder in a lot of ways. I won't say it's easy. Sometimes I don't get to eat my own dinner until 10:00 p.m. But getting through those difficult hours after school and before bed are not so tough when you're not already on edge.
I hadn't realized just how much my misery in my marriage was weighing on me. There was always the question of when my husband would get home, what mood he'd be in, how we'd manage dinner, how we'd wade through the evening's battles with the kids. If my husband was home, instead of managing something myself I would feel resentful if he wasn't there to immediately step in and assist. I was causing a lot of my own pain and frustration.
Taking that out of the equation means a lot. After the kids go to bed I don't have to deal with any anger or resentment at my spouse. I don't have to face stony silences. We don't avoid each other. There are no fights. It's just a quiet evening for me to relax or clean up or take a bath. And it's weird how much easier it is to get through a rough evening solo.
3. More Working Together. Now that there isn't all this extra baggage of our own arguments and grudges, parenting together is a lot easier. We can talk about it clinically instead of getting upset in the heat of the moment. We can email back and forth. There aren't any spontaneous blow ups. There isn't any finger pointing or blaming.
If I notice the pack of diapers he bought isn't the right size, I can just include a note about it in a weekly email about what's going on, what the state of the laundry is, how they've been sleeping, etc. It's a lot less loaded than the conversation would be if we had it together at the end of an exhausting day.
We've started to talk about disciplining strategies for our 5-year-old. We're setting out a short list of rules we can consistently follow with consequences we've agreed upon. Dealing with these big issues has never been so easy.
Parenting alone may not be ideal but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Right now, I'm still working on finding my single parent mojo, but it's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.