As many of you know, being a single parent, if you are going to do it right, comes with a lot of trade-offs. Kids frequently react negatively to these trade offs because they upset their expectations about what they are going to do. It certainly makes them have to contend with whatever the other parent is going to do. And they can worry that sometimes that you do not care about them when you switch. They feel like you are pawning them off on the other parent when you weekend swap with the other parent. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Empty Time Without Your Child Feels Awful
The irony here is that in some ways it feels like your life is being upset by the change much more than the child. I don’t know about you but I plan my life out around my daughter. I try to make sure I am completely available for the time that I do have with her. Missing out on big moments is not part of that plan. So when then inevitable time to trade time does come, it feels empty. You know that first weekend after you have split from your ex and they have the child instead of you. Everything at that moment seems to stop. I know depression is probably a component of this but it’s also like hitting a brick wall. Your inertia has carried you into this moment. You played games, or watched movies, or made dinner and now you are responsible for nothing. Everything stops.
Once upon a time you were good at planning these open weekends. In fact, before you were married you couldn’t wait for them because you had the whole world in front of you with endless possibilities. Sure a few of these possibilities have diminished since you were a child. No, you are not going to star in that big movie. You are probably not going to pitch game seven of the World Series. And you definitely are not going to hike Mount Everest. Maybe you will hike Mount Wilson, Big bear, tackle that mountain of laundry . . . But you still have plenty of things that you can do.
Yes, things did stop the moment you hit that brick wall. And if you do nothing you may be stuck in that rut for a very long time. Your motion has changed and now you have to do something about it. Yes, you have to figure out those things that make you who you are. I don’t know about everyone but I’m sure a lot of people lose themselves inside of their marriages. They abandon everything they are into, committing everything to this entity that they hope will last them a lifetime. And then the moment it comes crashing down they feel a bit lost.
For a person in my situation, the losing of one’s self gets exacerbated when you are dealing with mental illness. (This is not to say I don’t have my own faults for the marriage failing, I will cover those in a later post.) What it is saying is that dealing with this illness can drag you down a rabbit hole where you do not know where you are. Friendships, connections, hobbies, passions and many other things get lost along the way because you are trying many moments just to survive.
So when I hit that moment of separation I didn’t feel like I had a clue who I was. I did a lot just to survive my situation. But I had no clue how to thrive. I had to become fully me again. I had to find my own voice. This blog is part of that process, but I also think going out and making connections and finding things that I love is also part of this process. It means no longer staring at life from the sidelines and getting out and actually playing.
What You Can Do With Free Time
So what is good for a single parent to do with a ton of time and not sure what to do with it? If I just get lost in my parent duties it’s ignoring a huge opportunity for growth. I could do cleaning but for me I have to change it up. I need to clean while listening to some classical music. Or in my case I put on some John Williams and let it not only inspire movement but take me back to other days where life was carefree, or at least the worries of the world were not my concern.
But you can’t just sit at home and find yourself. You have to find a way to go out. And going to bars is just not my scene. So first think about the things that recharge your energy. What makes you feel like the world is full of possibilities? For me it’s being around people. This means going out to a park, or the beach, or even an amusement park just to let myself go and see people around me being happy.
Then it gets to be about beauty. Where do I find beauty in the world? A hike in the mountains, listening to the waves crash against the shore at the beach, and an art museum or gardens beautifully kept and pristine can all accomplish that for me.
And finally reconnect with a friend or two. It might not be an easy one. Maybe a relationship has slipped into appreciation at a distance. Ah the bane of Facebook!!! So send a friend or two a line letting them know how much you have missed their friendship. It may take a while to get back into the groove. But you can’t just sit there any longer while your life is in neutral. You gotta live!
And here I am on the precipice of another one of those trading weekends. Now what to do with myself??? Ah yeah… I remember. Now you do it too.
David Elliott, Single Dads Guide to Life