What Single and Divorced Parents Want You To Know
By Janice Quirt
Photo © kaykin/Twenty20
Oct 16, 2018
When someone gets divorced, a lot of things change. Finances, living situations, mental stability, needs — they all get turned upside-down. And adults, like children, aren’t always good at asking for help or making their new needs known. So here are a few things that divorced or single parents might want or need their friends and family to know, but are too shy or proud to come out and say. They're definitely things I'd like people to know.
We Don't Always Have As Much Money As You
Just like that great Friends episode in which Rachel, Joey and Phoebe struggle to tell Ross, Monica and Chandler that their incomes aren't comparable, money is often tight after a divorce.
Imagine that: you take a household with a certain income, and that income is fixed and your family is used to it. But suddenly, there are two households with two sets of bills and usually two sets of kid stuff. It’s a very real struggle. And after a divorce is just about the last time that you want to start denying the kids' experiences and items. So please understand if we suggest trips to the playground instead of the amusement park, or mention staying in for drinks rather than going to the fancy bar. On top of all the other stresses of the divorce, we are likely also financially stressed. And it’s tough to live through, and even tougher to talk about.
We Need You, Not Jokes About Single Parenting
We get that it’s hard when your partner is away, working late or doesn’t seem to pull their share. But actual single parenting means that there is no return date circled on the calendar. There is no presence — not even one in or at the office or on conference calls. You may feel like the only one doing the household chores, but so do we. There’s no team in our tag team, because as single parents we’re “it” all the time. So please, let’s support each other through this the best we can.
Relevant Reading: It's So Hard to Be a Mother Who Doesn't Drink
Know That Our Holidays Are Tough
Holidays are much tougher than we may let on. On the first Thanksgiving after my divorce, my kids were with their dad and didn’t attend our family’s celebration. I remember my sister saying that she was sad as she set the table for two less, missing my kids. It helped to hear her say that, because let me tell you — as I drove solo to that Thanksgiving dinner on a rainy, grey October afternoon, I had Adele blaring and was crying hard enough that I had to pull over once or twice.
Spending Christmas Eve or Christmas night alone is pretty gut-wrenching, even with family support. Halloween is a tough one, and even with the most positive co-parenting relationship, teaming up to take the kids out together can be awkward. And going solo feels sad. Being the one left behind to give out candy on your own? Also not so great. I know people will say to just get together with friends and suck it up! But here’s the thing: on holidays, friends often want to be with their own families. It’s hard to be a hanger-on. And some of us just aren’t extroverted enough to invite ourselves into the fray. So please ask after us and include us on holidays if you can. We’ll be so appreciative.
We Need Our Friends More than Ever
During the prime, child-rearing years, we don’t always have the most time for our friends. That's especially true if they are in different school districts or cities. But we need you now more than ever. Getting together on our kid-free nights will really help with how strange it feels when we are in an empty house. Banding forces for a trip to the park or movies will make our weekend. We would even appreciate you watching our kids for an hour or two as we begin the slow and arduous process of perhaps finding a new mate. We know you’re busy, and that sometimes the last thing you want to do is schedule in more activities. But, please — we need our buds and family.
Relevant Reading: I Think There Should Be Buddy Benches for Lonely Parents Like Me
Schedules Aren’t Always Very Flexible
It’s hard to plan around our “with kids” and “without kids” schedules. Want to plan something with the kids? Well, there’s a chance you may not have them that weekend. Looking for something for adults? It could be your weekend with the kids at that time, and just can’t spring for a sitter again. Or maybe you don’t feel right leaving the kids. And it’s often not so simple to change schedules with a co-parent. I’m sure some co-parents have an easy, flexible approach to swapping days and weekends. But for others, it could make a logistics master want to weep, because the negotiations can be — to put it lightly — tense.
And really, these are just some of the things that hit home for me. Post-divorce, it got to the point that if I was dating someone with kids and we didn't have compatible with-or-without-kids weekend schedules, I knew the relationship was destined for failure.
So, as divorced and single parents, all we can really do is our best!
And I'm trying. My family and friends have been amazing during my post-divorce journey and I couldn’t have done it without them. From friends who went to the Ex with me to moms who travelled to my new tiny condo for a play date — you rock! I wrote this so perhaps you and others could appreciate the reason behind behaviours and habits. And if you’re reading this as a fellow divorced or single parent, know this: you’re not alone! We’ve all had a variety of struggles, and I promise that it does get easier.
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