Becoming a single parent, especially after being married and having a partner to share in the physical and emotional labor, can be a challenging transition. The role of single parent, even for those in a healthy co-parenting relationship with their ex-spouse, comes with many responsibilities, some of which you may not have even thought of yet. After all, you are going to be in charge of managing your children’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being during your parenting time, at the very minimum.
Given how intent you are on raising your children to grow up to be happy, successful, empathetic adults (otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article), this reality may scare you. You may not feel prepared for the job just yet or up to it at all. Not to worry, I got you. To help get you to a place where you are comfortable, there are a few areas you can brush up on or learn new skills. Here they are.
Organization after divorce serves three primary objectives. The first is physical cleanup, the second is a cleanup of money and time, and the third, which will be addressed later, is an emotional cleanup. The three are very much related.
Getting organized often begins with a push to clean up the space around you. If you have moved from or are planning to move from the marital home, this may naturally become your first step. You would be surprised how much the space you live in can affect your ability and willingness to organize other areas of your life, including your finances. So go ahead and toss away those objects you are no longer using and no longer serve you because they conjure up unpleasant memories and feelings. Let them go.
As you are physically organizing, you will next want to begin addressing what may likewise feel unorganized and out of control. And that is your handling of money and time, two very necessary skills to hone when you are going through a divorce. Let us turn to the first one, budgeting.
Being the sole head of your household will feel and be much more manageable when you have a handle on your household finances. Divorce often changes the financial picture, even if you were the spouse in charge of keeping your family’s budget. Knowing how much money you have and have coming in, whether it is from child support, spousal support, or gainful employment, versus how much will be going out is the most obvious place to start your examination.
Pulling these numbers together is a hurdle for many people. Not only from a logistical standpoint, since they have to go through the often arduous process of finding the information they need and then compiling it, but also because it may mean facing certain truths about their financial situation.
Unfortunately, nothing good can come from sticking your head in the sand, especially when it comes to your finances. Having these questions loom in the back of your mind can be a greater stress source than knowing you have financial issues, which is all the more reason to get started on it as soon as possible.
Once you know have a grasp of what your financial situation is, you will be free to address any problems you may see. It may mean cutting back on certain expenditures to close a deficit as well as finding ways to increase your income. This stage can actually be a lot of fun and a challenge. Pro tip: Think about your budget as a puzzle where all the pieces must fit together for it to be complete. If there are missing pieces in your puzzle, look for what you can do to fill them.
Then, for the even more fun part: Dream big. What do you want? To buy a home, save more for retirement, go on a lavish vacation? Do not be afraid to set goals. Then go about trying to reach them.
As a single parent, you will now be in charge of your household and all of the responsibilities that come with it. It can be a lot. Scratch that. It is a lot. Read: Attending to your career (if you are gainfully employed), paying bills, balancing your budget, keeping your home clean and organized, doing laundry, cooking meals for your family, getting your children to school every day, driving your children to and from extracurricular activities as well as doctor appointments, making sure your kids do their homework and are doing well in school, plus anything else that comes up, including the unexpected. Whew!
Developing a schedule now, today, despite realizing you do not have enough time to do everything you have to, is essential. Again, like understanding your financial picture and where you may have deficits, finding where your deficits are in your day, week, and month is a must. That way, you can cut back where necessary. Or find ways to become more efficient with your time, which may involve brushing up on yet another skill: managing others.
As a single parent, apart from keeping your kids safe and taking care of their basic needs during your parenting time, you also hold the lofty responsibility of guiding them into adulthood to become kind, decent, hard-working people (like you) who will be able to function independently and leave their mark on the world one day. What does accomplishing all of this require? The ability to be a good manager.
When managing your children, being a good manager begins most obviously with your own organization, i.e., your family. Indeed, your development of the skills outlined above is a good start. But there is more to management than only this.
To manage well, you also need to have confidence in your abilities, an idea of who you are and what you stand for in this world, what it is you wish to impart to your children and whoever else you are managing (alternate caretakers, for example), and related to that, an understanding that, as a single parent, it is OK to bring in reinforcements to help support you in your objectives.
Resistant to opening up your life to a team? Think of your family and your role as its leader as your most important job. You want to be successful at it, right? Well, those successful in business generally recognize that they cannot perform every function in their organization. Neither can you. So, learn how to ask for help.
So the expression goes: It takes a village to raise a child. This concept does not and should not change just because you are a divorced single parent. You do not have to do it alone. For starters, hopefully, your child’s other parent is a willing and eager participant in your children’s lives because this is usually (in the absence of abuse and other circumstances that are not in the child’s best interests) a choice place to garner support.
If you currently have a contentious relationship with your child’s other parent, consider implementing strategies that could improve it. These strategies include prioritizing the battles you choose to take on with your ex and letting go of those details that, sometime in the future, you will likely realize did not have a substantial and long-lasting impact on the well-being of your children. Be honest with yourself about what these details could be.
Beyond your child’s other parent, in case of an emergency, be sure to have a list at the ready (like on a bulletin board or in another easily accessible location) of people who could pick up your kids from school or be called upon in an emergency. If possible, have in place a work-from-home option in the event you need to stay at home with your children on snow days or because of illness.
This requires being upfront about your situation from the beginning or finding an employer who understands the rigors of parenting, especially single parenting, and can offer the flexibility you could benefit from as well as your family. Due to increased awareness of invisible labor’s toll on parents, employers are introducing policies supporting this type of life-work balance every day.
Why the emphasis? Having a support system is as important to successfully raising your children as it is for maintaining your mental health. To raise a family and do it well and live the post-divorce life you aspire to, you need to exercise this self-care first.
Problems, problems, problems. That is all you seem to have to deal with now as a divorced single parent. Well, no one ever said it was going to be easy. Growth comes with growing pains.
Therefore, you will need to put on your thinking cap in a way you never have before. To reiterate the analogy from earlier, look at your life as a puzzle you must put together. As you do, you will begin to see the bigger picture.
To that end, do not try to attack every problem you encounter at once. It will inevitably be too much, even for the most organized among us. But do attack each problem systematically.
One effective way to manage and solve problems is to look at them and conceive of the worst-case scenarios. Ouch. Who would want to think about those? You, that’s who. That is because, in all likelihood, the worst-case scenario is exactly this: The worst and, accordingly, probably the least likely thing that could happen. But not the only thing that could happen.
So work from the worst potential outcomes up to the best, and figure out your next steps in advance of them happening. That way, you can make more informed decisions along the way. Not only will you make better decisions, but you will also be less likely to regret the ones you did make because you thought them through. Feel more in control yet?
If you do, you are well on your way to what skill you need to brush up on the most. And that is your attitude.
Adopting a positive mindset amid a major life change like divorce is not easy, especially when you have become set in a pattern of negative thinking or see yourself as an Eeyore rather than a Tigger. Regardless, changing your outlook will take a commitment on your part. The shift will not take place overnight either.
It may also require assistance from a mental health professional. Dissolving a marriage can be the cause of trauma or be the catalyst for old traumas to raise their ugly heads.
Then there is the overwhelm divorce can cause, which can present itself as anxiety or depression. A psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or some combination thereof can make a marked difference. So, too, can a support group, friends, or confidant to rely on. The help is out there if you know where to look.
Getting divorced is not only about making it to the finish line, aka, divorce day. A divorce decree may mark the ending of a marriage, but it also marks the beginning of your post-divorce life, a time that can extend well beyond the divorce process and the length of your marriage. It is, therefore, something you should not take lightly.
At Elise Buie Family Law, our team of divorce and family lawyers take very seriously the time after your divorce is over. Indeed, this is what we strive to prepare you for all throughout the divorce process.
With copious educational resources and an extended network of professional referrals that we have built over our team’s cumulative decades spent practicing in this field, we can provide you with the direction you need to see your dreams, the new ones you are creating now, come to fruition. Call us today to get started.