With divorce comes many life changes and even more adjustments. When you've only known one way of life... as a couple married, living securely under the same roof with your children, being thrust into a new life as a divorced parent can be discombobulating to say the least. There are so many things we are wholly unprepared for when it comes to divorce and our children… things we didn't see coming. But with open communication toward those who are beginning the path of divorce, valuable information can be had in ensuring their path is a little less treacherous and instead a bit smoother.
5 things no one tells you about divorce with kids….
1. One parent may over buy, over spend and over give to the kids. When your seven year old comes to your house on your week you may be shocked to find them grinning ear to ear while they proudly hold up a shiny iPhone in gleaming triumph. Yes, your mouth is hanging open and you have an entire narrative of "You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" running through your head as they flounce to their room talking about some video on YouTube. Reeling, you grasp the kitchen counter as your mind screams: "I hope there are parental controls on that thing!" Yes, it's frustrating. Is it right? No. Is the other parent playing a pathetic game of competition aka like "me better"? Yes. You have to pick your battles wisely. If you have major issue with them having a phone there is always the option of stating it needs to stay at Dad's. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Your child tells you something Daddy did… he drove her across multi-states on vacation… on New Years Eve night… only one of the most hazardous nights of the year to be on the road… prime time for drunk drivers. As she tells you this you have the great temptation to roll your eyes and sigh. Instead, you do everything in your will power to control yourself… but inside your mind is racing and all you can think of is what an irresponsible selfish toxic you-know-what he truly is… which is doubly confirmed when their sweet selves share with you that your ex-mother in law bought them a wine opener for them to give Daddy for Christmas… <eye roll> yes, they are setting a stellar example there. Yes, you'd love to state the obvious… that clearly ignorance runs in the gene pool on that side of the family… yet you must hold your tongue. No one tells you how many times these scenarios will play out… but yes, trust me, many other's go through this and you are not the only one standing there in horror as your son relays how he saw Daddy's girlfriend in her birthday suit on his phone… as you think to yourself: "No way this is my life!… seriously, is anything NORMAL anymore?!" I hear ya… and as soon as I have the answer to THAT question you'll be the first to know.
3. You may have to become a better cook. A healthier cook… and eliminate all sweets or have them as a very special once in awhile treat. Because the other parent has decided that it's perfectly acceptable to give an eight year old an entire bag of Hershey Kisses or M&M's or five chocolate croissants for breakfast to eat to her little hearts content… and it shows. You now have to counter act all the artery clogging fast food he's doling out to her because his couch calls, the game calls, the newest girlfriend or his selfish need to win points through her stomach. In the beginning it may feel like a jip having to go the extra mile on food preparation but really it ends up benefitting you too… because divorce is hard on us and our health… and it will be doing something good for yourself as well. That's a positive accomplishment.
4. Clothes are now a source of continual frustration. You buy your son three new pairs of jeans. Each week when he goes to Dad's he wears a new pair... until you don't have any left... because good ole Dad always sends him back in torn pants or soccer shorts and now you've lost all three pairs of brand new jeans. You are understandably frustrated because as we know money doesn't grow on trees. Dad won't return them despite multiple requests. Aside from a bat to Dad's head or sending your son back half dressed maybe it's time to scour second hand shops for worn items that can be used specifically for exchange day. Another option is to have your final decree modified and state that all clothes sent each week must be returned... at least then it's in writing.
5. Your kids feel their world has been turned upside down and they no longer have a "home". They refer to Dad's as "(insert street name) house" and yours as "this place"... if they are struggling realizing they have two homes now, however nomadic it is… therapy might be helpful during this major life transition. At the least it's good for a parent to continually affirm to their kids that the divorce is not their fault, they have two homes and you are there to listen anytime. Let them voice any frustrations they have even if you can't fix it, they will know you care simply by listening.
I believe one of the most unexpected and disappointing things that happens for moms in divorce is that unlike when you were married under the same roof with your children twenty four seven is that now you aren't as much a part of their immediate world. This new reality is magnified if you've been a stay at home mom and attended their every hurt, every gripe, every boo boo. You were your children's rock and soft spot to fall and now you aren't every other week or for whatever your time period with them entails.
It's easy to think if you're not in it and observing from the outside: "Why can't you two just get along?" Well, that's easier said than done when someone is dealing with an ex who is using the children as pawns and continually does everything he can to thwart your children's healthy progress. The other issue is who is in his inner circle… if they aren't any healthier than he is then their words of advice will more closely resemble toxicity than anything truly helpful and in the best interests of the children. They may more closely resemble destructive enablers on the sidelines cheering him on than insightful company.
When mentally dealing with your ex for the sake of the children try (and I know this is difficult) to picture him as you knew him (or as you thought you knew him… if he's a narcissistic sociopath) in the beginning of your relationship… when you first met (reaching, I know) and hopefully that will aid in lowering your inner pot of boiling emotions that threaten to take over. This act will only serve to positively impact your children as well as your own well being.
Granted, life should not include so many small (often what seems daily) frustrations and the inner desire
to scream yet when we chronically mentally subscribe or ruminate to the "should not's" in life… the
"what should be's"… and the "he isn't"… we actually keep ourselves stuck.
At some point we have to let go…
Admitting yes, we don't have the picture we wanted… yes, our children don't have the life we wished for them… but staying stuck on that page leaves no room for any good that can happen… what good can take place when they are with you… that yes, you can still have victory when they are by your side, hearing their woes and bandaging their boo boo's… that yes, you can have the conversation about drunk driving and your views or whatever issue is close to your heart… that yes, you can teach them to take the time to slice a piece of fruit and remove the seeds versus the instant gratification of opening a chocolate kiss from a foil wrapper… that yes, they may feel as though they have the toughest life at times because they have to schlep back and forth with everything they own… yet every time they walk through the door remind them they are loved… they are here, not just at "this place" but a very special place… their home… and unlike the day they have to pack it all up and leave to trudge back there is one place they never ever leave…your heart.
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