When you were married, when you decided to have children, when you raised your kids, both you and your partner built a system of parenting that no longer exists.
The things you might not have learned to do, are the things you distinctly recall asking your partner to take over, and the things you haven’t even thought of. But now, all of the parenting things are YOURS and YOURS ALONE.
When you are the ON parent you have the responsibility to parent at 100%. The parts of your parenting skills that may have atrophied over time now need to be dusted off and beefed up.
One of those lost skills might be cooking and cleaning for the family. It can be easy resort to crappy habits and fast food, all the stuff that would be frowned upon as a parent.
When you’re alone you can let your eating and cleaning slip. But when your kids are around, you need to step up your game.
The Time With the Kids
Learn again what your kids like to do. If they don’t know (and often that’s what they will say, “I don’t know.”) keep asking, keep trying new things. It might be easier to give up and let everyone watch TV or tune into their iPads/iPhones. But don’t detach when you have opportunities to stay close to them. This is a hard time for everyone. But you can demonstrate healthy behaviour by engaging them in healthy activities and giving them healthy food to eat.
Take the time to be alone with each of your kids. It is easier not to talk about stuff, especially divorce. But given the time and openings, your kids may reveal some of what’s going on in their lives and what they are thinking about. By keeping a positive attitude about the divorce (“It was better for all of us. We are happier now.”) and staying engaged with them as little humans, you demonstrate for them that your love and support is unwavering. That’s key. Be consistent. Be as joyful and engaged as you can. There will be times when the screens come up for all of you. That’s okay. But try to set connection and closeness as the default relationship mode.
The Time Without the Kids
It can be hard surviving between kid visits. You may feel so lost without them, and without the closeness of a primary relationship, that can lead to isolation and got depression.
But then the day your kids would return to you, you become Mum/Dad again. But this was not healthy. Your happiness can’t become too entwined with theirs. And at that point you need to get on with your own life, get on with your fitness and wellness programs, and most importantly, get on with your own mental recovery from the divorce.