Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Omaha mom: How a divorce can lead to improved parenting

My alternating Saturday mornings are wildly different. In one weekend, I wake and stretch my toes, heave a big satisfactory sigh and smile into the quiet. I prepare my coffee, lazily curl up on my couch to read my newspaper and decide how I will spend the day in self-care and hobbies.

On the next weekend, I can hardly wait for my fifth-grader to come peek into my room so we can loudly make breakfast together in the hopes of stirring her 13-year old sister. The cheerful chaos of mapping out our activity-driven day ensues with the search for shin guards, identifying when homework will be done and getting caught up on the who’s in and out of their fast-paced, friend-swapping lives.

As a divorced parent, both weekends carry guilt.

In the first, I feel guilty for the sheer enjoyment I experience in down time. Often, the quiet lasts too long and I crave the chatter of my girls, and my heart sinks by Sunday evening with missing them. In the second, I feel guilty for having to “catch up” after the past couple of days without them. I have to balance the urge to “make up” for missing them with spoiling them and planning only fun-filled activities void of any normal parent-child responsibilities and chores.

I have learned in my own life and in watching divorced parents for nearly two decades, that navigating the hardness of co-parenting and never really getting used to not living 100 percent of the time with your children takes a lot of work. It also leads to some fairly universal new parenting perspectives.

We have to do it all, and that improves our overall parenting — even if it's exhausting. During our parenting time, we are 100 percent in charge and responsible for all things parenting, including new challenges and issues because we must be both mom and dad.

For me, I had to learn how to be more active with my kids because that was a role, pre-divorce, filled by their dad. He had to learn the art of matching hair bows to outfits and tracking all of the parenting to-dos. We are both now more complete parents, having had to fill both roles.

We have rich relationships with our kids. For better or worse, our children spend more one-on-one time with each of us than they ever did when we were a family unit. Despite the downside of never having us together, they do get undivided attention from each of us on a regular basis.

We have a deep appreciation for time spent with our kids. As any parent who has been away from their child on a business trip or an adult vacation has experienced, you miss your kids. You look forward to seeing them again. You cannot wait to hug them. Divorced parents experience this feeling toward their kids weekly. As a result, a deep appreciation grows post-divorce for the time you get with your children. It is rarely taken for granted and often treasured.

Divorce is hard; parenting after divorce is even harder. But the new parenting perspectives gained from the grit of just getting through it lead to renewed relationships with your children that will be the best version yet.


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