My parents got divorced when I was a baby, so I have absolutely no memory of them together. What I do remember however, is that my late dad called me and my sister on the phone every single evening, saw us without fail for our agreed upon weekend contact and that both he and my mom never said a bad or disrespectful word about each other. Ever.
My mom remarried and my dad had a few serious girlfriends but remained single. I grew up knowing that I had two homes, three parents and that I was loved and well looked after. Having a step parent has its challenges and unfortunately for me it was not a positive experience (a story for another time), but I have seen that it can be.
Now that I am going through my own divorce, I have come full circle in life. It is a really odd and often surreal experience finding myself as the ‘ex wife’ and having to parent as a single mom. I never dreamed that I would be in this situation. I thought that somehow I would beat the odds and remain married forever. BUT, Life as you well know, does not give us the script to our stories and so without a dress rehearsal, it’s a really humbling lesson to learn that we just have the now and no idea what the next act will bring.
Both my dad and my stepdad are no longer alive, but I learned many lessons (of how to behave and not behave, when divorced) from them both. The one that I would like to share with you, is that of course, your children never chose for you to divorce, so do your utmost to consider them and their emotional well being in all that you do.
I am not a psychologist, nor an expert and my humble opinion has been formed simply from my own life experience and from the informal Divorce Mentoring that I have had the privilege to be involved in through The Divorce Source. I have of course made and make many mistakes along the way as I travel this path. It is however clear to me, that what I desire more than anything else, is that our precious sons should grow up feeling like strong, happy, resilient guys who came out ok. Actually, I want them to be better than ok! I want them to be terrific!
One of the first and crucial elements to this goal, is to nurture myself, because if I am not strong, healthy, stable, peaceful and focused, there is no way that I can provide them with the framework for thriving. This means I try my best to do small things like eating well, sleep, and find healthy outlets for my stress, like going for a walk or writing down my feelings.
The second thing, is to make a conscious decision to focus on what I can and can’t control. And to teach this invaluable life skill to my children.
Can I choose to listen to music or play soccer? Yes
Do I have any control over the decision if Mom and Dad are getting divorced? No
Can I decide if I want to mope around or go and meet a friend for coffee? Yes
Can I control what another person says or does? No
Helping yourself and your kids to deal with what you actually have power over, provides you and them with a sense of where you should focus your energy and this is incredibly liberating and at the same time empowering. It also allows you and your children to not only practice being in the moment but also to make an effort to enjoy the moment! What a gift! Try it! It works!
In part two, I will share with you how I try to make my children feel secure and about some of the difficult aspects of parenting during and after separation and divorce that I am navigating as best I can.