Coming out as a single parent is difficult. It’s not as life-changing as coming out as gay or liberal, of course, but it does carry a certain distinction. Benicia is a big family community with all types of families, yet single parents still get that empathetic heavy sigh with a head tilt to the side.
New parents have so much to learn, but luckily all you have to do is stay one step ahead of the kid. Being a single parent requires us to re-learn skills, almost immediately. I don’t have all the answers but I have learned some things.
Focusing on emotional health is important. Sustaining a healthy relationship with your ex-spouse is vital for everybody. The potential for hurt feelings, frustration and anger is unavoidable, but it helps if you maintain a mutual respect and honor the love you and your spouse once had.
With that said, let’s get real: Separation is not easy. Every situation is different with it’s own set of unique challenges.
Remember that you are not alone so it’s OK to ask for help. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can do it all on your own. Everybody needs help at some point, even if it’s just babysitting or moving furniture. When friends ask “Is there anything I can do?” take them up on it. This is the opportunity for your friends to reveal themselves. You’ll make life-long bonds. The best part about accepting help, is that generosity is contagious. You’ll find yourself wanting to help others which can be very therapeutic.
It’s important for us to take care of ourselves. It’s natural to want to put on brave face, but we can’t be afraid to get real. Be honest when friends or family ask how you are. Sometimes it helps to just talk over a beer and a spicy tuna roll. If you need to vent, ask a friend you can trust for complete discretion. Openly bad-mouthing your spouse benefits no one.
Logistical challenges include how to divide your kid’s time between two parents, managing two households and keeping track of your child’s health, education and friendships. The coordination of school and activity schedules is hard too. A Google calendar is a useful tool to communicate and track it all.
Then there are more complicated issues like how and when do you explain the separation to the children and how much do you tell them? Behavioral therapists recommend waiting for children to ask specific questions rather than laying it all on them at once. It’s believed that kids will let you know when they are ready. Of course, if the child is witness to unpleasantness, that conversation should not wait.
What are the rules for single parents socializing and dating? When is it OK to introduce your kids to a new love interest and their kids? How do you keep your child from feeling disloyal when they spend time with the new family?
These are difficult issues and I am learning as I go. No matter how I’m feeling, I do remind my Biscuit that his father and I will always love and take care of him. I also remind myself that everything will be OK. It helps.