By: Carrice Wong
Warning: Divorce when you have children may bring you and your family years of pain, struggle and suffering. Avoid for as long as possible.
BUT – if it does happen, you can survive and flourish as a single parent.
There is no easy answer sometimes when you are stuck between the lesser of two evils; stay in a loveless marriage or separate. At the time, it may seem that escape is the only option and like you are drowning in a sink or swim scenario, where the only option is to find a lifeboat and float away to that paradise of your dreams before the marriage turned sour. The water seems crystal clear at the time and the sunrise looms on a horizon not too far out of reach. New possibilities seem obtainable and the desire to be loved again flirts with your tender heart. At least it did in my case.
The problem is that even though I could convince myself that our daughter was better off not having to hear us fight by being split between two homes, I also wondered what would have happened if we had learned how to better communicate instead of bailing ship. What would have happened if we had a support group to help us through the stressful times? What if we had family nearby…what if we were part of a church group… what if we had close friends… what if we had an outsider sharing their experience of hardship from divorce who warned us to keep trying, even if it was just until she became an adult, to not give up yet? It has been four years now since our divorce and even though we have all adapted to our new lifestyle, there is still a longing in our hearts for a wishful but unattainable togetherness.
Five blunt reasons to keep trying while you have young children:
- It is more cost effective to share resources than to finance two homes
- There is less need for babysitting and daycare, as well as less stress if you are stuck in traffic and running late
- If you were a stay at home parent and hadn’t worked for a while your references, skills and network are probably outdated and you have to spend money and time to try to build that again while juggling taking care of a child on your own
- Your child has less quality time with each parent because each parent is now working harder
- You are no longer a spring chicken and dating has now become even more difficult than when you were
But, if you are like me and left without thinking about the downside it is best to make lemonade instead of letting the lemons waste. The focus has to be on what is best for the child. Even though you are no longer living together, you now have to communicate better, even if it is just by text messaging. Resentment and bitterness transition into forgiveness and acceptance and inevitably a form of respect for your parental counterpart. Your child will adapt, your child will love you regardless of your emotional vulnerability and your child will admire you for treating their other parent with kindness.
Inevitably, we want to teach them how to be good adults. They are the next generation and without TV shows like the Growing Pains to stand in as role models for them, they need a home life where they can see co-operation, learn integrity, and foster good values, even if that happens to be in two homes.
Five easier said than done ways to foster love between two homes:
- If you have nothing good to say about the other parent then practice the art of silence
- When your child tries to tattle on the other parent, get the whole story first before reacting and then try to explain the reason behind the other parents’ actions
- Have pictures of the other parent in their bedroom and have an open phone policy so if they miss the other parent they can still connect with them
- Let your child know that both mommy and daddy love him/her very much and he/she does not need to pick favourites
- Openly communicate with your child and share in their excitement if he/she wants to talk about what they did at the other parents’ house so they do not feel like they have to keep secrets
When the marriage changes dynamics, when the family pictures hang on separate walls, when one chair is subtracted from the dinner table and there is only space and time between the realities of past and present; this is when you must keep hope in your heart. Remember your number one priority is to love and be present with your child so their childhood memories will be rich with snap shots of happy moments.
On those lonely nights when my daughter is with her father, our apartment is just walls and furniture instead of a home. Those nights have propelled me to seek out support groups and other resources that will help enrich my life. I would like to share these upcoming experiences with you so will also know the benefit of connection, community and reaching out to others in similar life situations.
I hope you will join me in exploring some of the resources available for single parents in Vancouver. I will be going dancing with a single parent meet up group in the city, meeting with a YWCA counsellor to learn about supports available for single mothers and discussing food bank options for parents with low income. Below I have also referenced an article about single parent dating and an excellent site with accessible resources for parents as well as children. SUBSCRIBE to this blog to the right of this screen to get instant notification when my blog postings are published.
You are not alone, stay connected, you are stronger than you may think.