The Hardest Thing About Separating/Divorce: The Nights When The Kids Aren't There
One of the hardest things in my experience of being separated is those nights where the kids don’t sleep in the house with me. It took seven months to get to the place where I allowed them to sleep out - and even so it completely hit me like a ton of bricks when they had their first night at daddy’s house.
I sat beside my youngest’s cot and cried big ugly mama tears and did everything within me to resist running away from the house. The house felt dark, empty, soulless. And it didn’t help that I was in the middle of decorating and revamping my downstairs space so it felt WEIRD. I also strangely felt more anxious in the house alone opposed to when the kids are there. Which is interesting considering when they are there I have zero anxiety or fear about being the only adult in the house.
Anyway, I’m not alone so I wanted to share some useful tips to help you should you find yourself in this situation.
Also it’s worth mentioning I’m pro mums and dads so this blog is in no way bashing dads. I speak from a mums view point as that’s my experience.
1. Reframe the way you look at ‘child free’ evenings. It’s normal to spend the whole evening upset and thinking “This isn’t how things are meant to be.” Chances are when you gave birth you never envisioned having nights away from the kids (unless gran and grandad swooped in so you could go away on a lovely date night) but under these circumstances we can forget that we often desperately crave time away from the kids and we also need it. So when the opportunity does arise EMBRACE it. Easier said than done but there’s no point mulling over it. Plus you don’t want the kids to sense that you are too emotionally floored when they aren’t there or they could start feeling guilty about the time away from you when really they should be enjoying time with dad! Also remember some parents don’t spend every night with their kids because they work night shifts or they are away for periods of time for work!
2. Allow the emotions to pass through but don’t sit in them. If your a highly sensitive person like me there will be things that can actually make you worse and I’ve learnt this the hard way. When the kids would leave the house I would feel upset, find the most upsetting soulful music and play it on repeat over and over again until I was a hot mess! (I feel sorry for my neighbours if they did hear my heart wrenching music and me whaling along to it) Avoid the temptation to wallow. Turn the music off or switch to something happier and uplifting!
3. Avoid alcohol! I haven’t got direct experience of this as alcohol isn’t really part of my life (but I’ve been there and got the T-shirt with an old relationship that ended). If you have a night away from the kids you certainly don’t want to spend it drunk. Not to mention that alcohol is a depressant so will make you feel one thousand times worse! Make healthy choices. You have a chance to sleep early, eat really well and wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated so choose wisely!
4. Remember why you are in this position. You’re separated from your child’s other parent for a reason - and it’s so your children can have a happier, positive life without tension or bad energy in the air. You’ve removed them from arguing and ill feelings so now you can pour everything into the kids. Some people are never brave enough to make this decision and end up raising their children in the traditional put together family but expose the kids to lots of turbulence which really affects them as they go through life. Be proud of yourself for boldly stepping into this new season.
5. Accept that the other parent equally deserves to have their children over night. This can be difficult especially if the relationship you have ended was extremely toxic. But providing there is no danger to the children and your ex partner is a good parent then they rightly deserve to be able to have their kids over night as it’s also hard for them. They are likely in a new home (away from the family home), a home that’s not quite the same standard they are used to and have those nights where they struggle too. Generally speaking guys don’t open up as much about this. You may think they are heartless and emotionless but I guarantee they aren’t they are just so tapped out that they don’t even know how to express their emotions. Also, if the other parent was heavily involved during the night when you lived together (getting up when they were little babies, feeding, changing etc) it is actually really unfair to then deny the opportunity to be there for their children over night. This requires a lot of maturity on both sides and stepping out your shoes and into your ex partners for a moment so you can find empathy for them.
6. Do everything you want to do! Chances are before you split you moaned about having enough time for you, having to skip the gym or miss practice for the sports team that you once enjoyed being part of. So now is your chance. Find healthy hobbies. Do new things. Go back to the gym. Hang out with that new friend. Take that walk in nature. Just make sure what ever you participate in is healthy for your mind, body, soul. I don’t advocate drunken nights out!
7. Do things but don’t get ‘too busy’ with friends or work. It’s important to see friends and engage in hobbies but it’s equally as important to sit alone. It’s a practice if you’re not used to being alone. But I promise you the more comfortable you become in your own company the more peace and contentment you will experience - not to mention you will build inner strength. Even people in relationships need to learn the art of being comfortable in their own company. Use this time as an opportunity to delve deeper into self discovery. Find a mindfulness practice. Use a meditation app, future self journal or even just sit and visualise about your future.
8. Gratitude. It’s not cute being bitter and twisted (plus long term it can make you unwell to carry these negative emotions in your body). Your children wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your ex partner. So practice being really grateful for their sperm 🤣 (sorry had to add that one), no but in all seriousness be grateful for them. Thank them for everything they taught you and thank them for holding the mirror up to you to show you all the healing that you yourself STILL need to do. Everything is a life lesson so chose to be grateful and always ask yourself - what is this trying to teach me?
9. Get cosy! As mentioned at the start of the blog I recently revamped my living space. Well a fabulous interior design company did it all for me. I didn’t have the head space to focus on my living space but I started to loath it. I wanted to move house and I would be online all the time looking for rental properties. Sometimes your space just needs fresh eyes looking at it - whether that being an interior design company or a friend. Create a space you LOVE and also remove any reminders of your past life. I can honestly say I adore my new space and it’s so zen, calm and relaxing and I’m sure those child free evenings are going to be less painful when I’m laid on me new corner sofa with a cup of tea in hand.
10. Be spontaneous - one thing I missed when I became a parent was the ability to be spontaneous and I’m here to tell you sometimes it’s ok to run away. Get in the car, book a last minute Air BnB and go somewhere really rural on an adventure. I did this recently - I didn’t tell anyone and I went MIA on socials and my phone for 24 hours. I’ll be doing it again and love that I don’t have to tell anyone. What’s on your bucket list? Go do it!
I hope this has brought some comfort to you. I was going to add - message a friend or some one of support if your struggling however I know when I’m upset the last thing I would do is contact anyone but that’s just the way I’m wired. I do however find comfort in speaking to people in the same situation as me or people who have been in this season as they ‘get it’. I find married friends disappear- likely because they have poor communication skills so don’t actually know what to say and it can be really hurtful so confide in people who get it, and if you really are struggling you can seek help from a therapist (as I do), family members or any other service out there.
If you want any coaching support during this transition period please do get in touch. I do one off sessions should you want to meet face to face or arrange a phone call. This can be an opportunity to create a Co-parenting plan, talk around any struggles you may have and gain clarity on next steps. Just reach out and drop me a message. I’ve recently been working with males as well so I’m happy to do coaching sessions for dads. (*Disclaimer - these sessions are not a substitute for therapy)
Also if you find my blogs useful please let me know! I have a lot of silent readers but the more feedback I get the more I can understand what’s helpful and it helps me put together future content for you.