31 Jul 7 top tips to help you cope with being a “Part-Time Parent” after your break-up
This is peak time for single parents struggling to cope when the children are with their ex. During the school summer holidays, I receive so many calls and emails from single parents who are finding it hard as their kids are away for long periods of time and even going abroad with their ex. The truth is nobody ever signed up to being a “part-time parent” so it’s only natural to find it challenging to get used to the fact that you can’t spend every day with your child.
It is never easy. Breaking-up or divorce usually means your children will split their time between each parent so you will have to get used to not having them with you all the time. You become what I have termed a “Part-Time Parent” which means you have time when you are Mum or Dad, but then also time when you are without them. This proves extremely challenging for many of my clients as they only identify as a parent and have lost touch of who they are as an individual.
Please don’t worry if this sounds like you! It is normal as parenting can be all consuming and it’s natural to lose a sense of self as it is a selfless job. So it’s to be expected that you feel a little lost when your children are away from you because your role and identity is based around them.
You are not just a parent, you are a human being with feelings and needs and this is a golden opportunity to refocus on you and putting yourself first for a change. I know that some of you will find this hard and almost feel guilty about it. However, the reality is that you do have time without your kids whether you like it or not, so you may as well make the most of it as you only live once!
If you are finding yourself struggling to cope then here are my 7 top tips to help you:
- Recreate an identity for yourself that is not Mum or Dad, but YOU as an individual. It can be hard to remember what life was like before kids came along or what your purpose was but it’s time to think about who you are as an individual, what makes you tick, what you love doing, what makes you smile and what is important to you.
- Use my technique Flip It and find something good about this situation. I had a client who decided to use the time alone to start up her old inline jewellry business and create an extra income stream during her time without her baby. Other clients have decided to use the time to get fit, spend time with friends they never see, relax and catch up on sleep, go on dates and also travel to dream destinations.
- Do the right thing. In most cases it is the better for your children to spend time with their other parent. It is good for them to develop that bond and in their best interests to have a healthy relationship with both parents. Bear this in mind as I know for many of you it will help you to cope if you know it’s good for them!
- Don’t doubt your role with your children. I have clients who find it hard for their children to spend time with a new blended family, especially if their ex has another partner. Don’t worry. Your child will know who you are to them and a Mum or Dad’s role in their life cannot be replaced if you are doing your best and they know that you love them. However hard you may find it, it is a good thing if your children like the new partner as it means they will feel happier being around them and make their time there more enjoyable. I know in some cases this can be a hard pill to swallow, but always do the right thing by your kids. If they are happy then this is a good thing.
- Shift your focus from your children while they are away. I know you will miss them and of course you will think about them and wonder how they are, However it is key that you keep busy and refocus your mind on YOU and your life while they are away. You have an opportunity to do something for you and not be tied down by the parenting routine – so make the most of it!
- Be an outstanding role model for your children. Whether we like it or not we are role models for our children. They will be learning how to cope with situations based on our behaviour! So even when it’s tough it’s important to bear this in mind and do the right thing. Don’t bad mouth your ex or put them down in front of your kids. Also by watching you pick yourself up and turn your life around and be happy again you will teach them a valuable life lesson. As I always say ”It’s not what happens to you in life that defines you, it’s what you do about it that makes you the person you are”.
- Be the best you can be. It’s ok to have good days and bad days as long as you are moving in the right direction. It’s also ok to be YOU just the way you are. Don’t try to be something you are not – embrace your weaknesses as part of you and highlight your strengths. Remember nobody is perfect and so being you is unique so embrace it 100%!
I do know part-time parenting can be challenging but you will be surprised at how it does get easier with time ….and practice. Believe me that it is FUN to develop a sense of self and identity away from the kids and start to enjoy the freedoms that it brings. Of course you will always be a parent who loves being with your children – this won’t change. But being able to enjoy both sides of life will make you a happier parent when they do come home!
Sara Davison is the best selling author of “Uncoupling – How to survive and thrive after break-up and divorce”. She is a leading global expert in her field and media commentator. She runs a clinic in UK and also has clients around the world. She offers coaching sessions, Break-Up Recovery Retreats and online courses. For more information about coaching with Sara or her work please visit www.saradavison.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.