The Double-Edged Sword of Alone Time When You're a Divorced Mom
While there are plenty of mothers who deal with dads who don't want to see their kids or who are flaky figures in their children's lives after divorce, most of us in a divorce situation are managing a custody schedule and coparenting with active fathers. In my state, the trend is for dads to seek parenting time beyond the sort of "old-school" every-other-weekend model. In fact, quite a few parents are opting for 50/50 custody. In my case, my ex-husband and I split our daughter's time as 60 percent with me and 40 percent with her father while she is of preschool age.
This may change in the future, but for now, this leaves me with more alone time than I had as a married mom. For many divorced moms, alone time without the kids comes with a myriad of emotions from sadness to relief, as well as peace! Whether you're desperate for one hour away from your kids or you're dreading the time your little ones are with their father, there are plenty of great ways to spend your alone time wisely.
But first, let's acknowledge the downside to alone time. Occasionally, someone will comment on how great it must be to be alone when my daughter is with her father. News flash: I am losing out on my daughter's life three nights a week. Can you imagine not seeing or knowing what your kid is doing for more than a few hours at a clip? This point always hits home with other moms because many aren't away from their children for such long stretches of time. It's tough for me when I hear my daughter is sick, tired, or having a bad day and I'm not able to be there for her because it's "Daddy's day." I feel sad when I miss out on little firsts (that don't feel so little to me) in my daughter's life like her first visit to the dentist because guess what, it's Dad's Monday and not my Monday. Then on occasion when my daughter speaks, it's like I'm listening to her speak a foreign language. She'll say certain expressions that I know she got from her dad or his family and not from me. Not from our old family — dad, child, and me. The daily rhythm of her life with him goes on, yet even with Skype and phone calls, I'm not truly privy to that world of hers with him. I merely have a window's glance in.
Yet at the same time, it would be devastating if my daughter didn't have "Daddy days." Her life would be missing a father. I'm glad her dad is an active dad. I try to always see it as a blessing, and never once would I want him to miss out or her. I just have to take my hurt feelings and sadness to my pillowcase.
No matter what, if you're coparenting with your ex, you're going to be alone without your kids whether it's for a day or a weekend or more. So think about your alone time as a chance to achieve a few goals: relax, regroup, and attack.
It's hard for me to get anything done when I have my daughter because I don't have a support system to watch her or help me if need be. Plus, I'm working full-time as well as working an active freelance job on the side. When I have alone time, I look at the hours as a chance to get stuff that must be done off my to-do list. If you need to Spring clean, plan an event, buy furniture, or do your taxes — any large project — do it when you don't have your kids and relish the fact that you don't have to try to do this with a gaggle of children amongst you. We all know how hard it is to accomplish anything when you're with your kids. I used my alone time to attack divorce paperwork, grocery shop, and closet-clean, as well as finish large writing projects that were due. It felt great to be able to accomplish so much. Relish those hours to take care of business!
If you've recently divorced, regrouping is essential. You should spend some of your alone time assessing what you need to do to move forward with your life. However, even if you divorced five years ago, getting days or hours to regroup is amazing. You can seek out a new job if you're currently unhappy with your employment. You can check out a new yoga class or perhaps use the time to make some essential doctor visits if you have unresolved health issues. Did the divorce do a number on your self-esteem? If you answered yes, your alone time would be a great time to attend a support group or see a therapist. I have used my "regrouping" time to work on my résumé, seek out new projects, look for a music class, and search for housing I will need once our marital home is sold. Take advantage of your regrouping time!
My alone time is definitely used for some relaxing. Being alone with a child or children can be tough emotionally at times for any mom, divorced or not! Take your time to see friends, go for a jog, watch bad movies, read a book, or bake — whatever makes you feel great! I mean, why not use your alone time for a girls' night or weekend if you can? And let's not forget dating and sex. This could be your time to go out with a new guy and have some fun if you want to keep it light . . . or get to know someone if you are sure you're ready for something serious. For me, I use my "relaxing" time to meet up with friends, go to the gym, read, or do a mini-spa at home: facial, manicure, pedicure, etc. Use your time for some fun: all work and no play makes Mom a total drag!
While I miss my child when she's gone and hate missing out on time with her, I also don't feel guilty enjoying the time or utilizing my alone time wisely. This is a big issue for many moms. It's like we're masochists: having fun without our kids seems against the unspoken internal mom rules! When it comes down to it, I realize that taking care of myself makes me a better mom. Since the divorce, I have had moments of depression and even experienced my very first panic attack. If I don't stop to consider my own needs, I won't be able to care for her. I had to take the wheel back and take charge. I got a divorce so my daughter could have two happy parents. If I were unhappy and stressed, what would have been the point of all of this? So take those minutes and work them, ladies! And don't feel bad.