I never set out to get divorced.
I got married on the later side, at least compared to the rest of my friends. I met an artist. He was moody, smoldering, and hot. Our relationship was passionate. The highest of highs and lowest of lows. I won’t bore you with the details, but we got married less than a year after meeting and pumped out three kids in five years. He spent late nights in his studio and slept in all morning, while I – a working, pregnant mom – got everyone ready for the day, including myself. But that, I could take. As things got hectic – as they tend to with a couple of kids – it was his blatant mistreatment of me, the emotional abuse I never saw coming, and his resentment of who I was and what I stood for as someone who wanted a good life for my kids. Again, I won’t bore you.
Everything in our relationship came to a head during Covid-19. We stayed with my brother at his house in the country for about six weeks. One day, my brother’s girlfriend sat me down and told me she didn’t recognize me anymore. That I had become a shell of my former badass self, and that my husband was draining the life out of me. She was right. I was miserable. I knew that for the sake of my daughter, and the modeling I wanted to show her of what a healthy relationship could look like, I had to get out.
It wasn’t easy. It sucked actually. There were many times where I questioned if getting a divorce was even worth it, but eventually I did it. Two years, countless negotiations, hours of therapy for me and my kids, thousands of dollars in legal fees, and I am officially divorced. Now, when I go on weekend trips with my married friends, or when they see me doing everyone’s pick up after a day at work, they tell me that I’m a superhero. I’m not a superhero. I’m a single parent.
Over the last two years, I’ve learned how to be a single parent, and I’m here to share that knowledge with you.
Community is Everything
If you have family around you, consider yourself lucky. But for most of us, especially single parents, community is key to making it all happen. Whether you’re choosing a school or town to live in, get a feeling for how communal it feels or if people are going it alone most of the time. You’re going to need to lean on others, so get a sense of how supportive people are before planting roots. Or join a local religious affiliation, a pickleball team, jazz band. Whatever you need to do to build community.
It’s OK to Choose You Sometimes
This one is so so hard, because I constantly feel like I owe my kids more because of what they’ve been through, but sometimes I need to give myself a day or even just an afternoon. When you’re parenting alone, it’s hard to carve out the time, but even just a spin class, a bubble bath or pedicure can give you one moment of your life that’s devoted to you. If you don’t have childcare, lean on friends (see above) to take your kids. They love you and they get it. Then you can go back to parenting happier and more refreshed.
Set Up Boundaries
You don’t have to spend every weekend at your parents’ house because you’re a single parent. It’s OK to outsource help sometimes and not rely on those (like mothers) who can drain your spirit. Even if the help is free! Also, just because you’re a single parent doesn’t mean you owe your kids the other half of your king bed every night.
Keep it Simple
My kids do their after school programs at their school. Is it the best chess class on earth? No. Is my son going to be the next Leo Messi at the preschool soccer class? Not by a long-shot. Does it make my life easier? Abso-frieken-lutely. Fewer pickups, drop-offs and logistics in general means more time for other things.
This goes for all parents in my opinion, but if you order a pizza when you meant to cook dinner, so what? Don’t beat yourself up over every little thing. I think when you’re a single parent, you feel like you need to overcompensate constantly. You don’t. Your kids will be OK. If you lose patience, if you yell, you’re only human. They’ll be fine. It happens to the best of us.
It’s OK to grieve in front of your kids because you want them to feel OK grieving in front of you. Whether it’s divorce, death, or maybe just the lack of another parent in a world where they feel they should have two, there’s loss. Let them know you’re also sad, and that all of their feelings are OK. And that, in time, it will get better.