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Single Mothering: Life After Divorce

Creating a New Identity

Whether you stay in the house or apartment of your marriage, or end up moving to a new location, you should make every effort to make your home your own. It is very good for your morale to redecorate to suit your tastes. When I divorced my first husband I got an apartment for my daughter and me. Because I had just ended my marriage to a real stick-in-the-mud, I went wild with decorating. I was reacting to the staid practicality of the home we had lived in together, all done up in earth tones. Although I had a shoestring budget I decorated my new place with so many flowers and so much lace it could have passed for a Victorian bordello.

You, too, can revel in creating your new, post-divorce identity. If you like purple with pink polka dots you can decorate in it. Express yourself in any way you want.

Celebrating Your Freedom

By the time a marriage fails, chances are it had begun to feel oppressive. In my case, I treated my new single status as the equivalent of having been paroled. I had a newfound appreciation for the simple things in life, like having my personal autonomy back. And I enjoyed the luxurious sense of freedom that comes when you realize that you can put your things anywhere you want without anyone saying a word about it.

There is a downside, of course—you will probably miss sex. But if you were in a dysfunctional marriage there probably wasn't much good sex anyway. Certainly it wasn't a good enough reason to stay in a bad marriage. If you need to work off some of that excess physical tension, try joining a gym. If it is a coed gym you can look at the buff behinds. If not, working out is a great stress reliever and can help you curb your libido so you don't think of doing something unproductive like jumping back into the frying pan.

Constructive Choices for the Single Mom

Here are a few other things to do when you are newly single:

  • Buy a tool kit. Repairs are not brain surgery.
  • Cultivate some helpful neighbors or friends.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Redecorate to reflect your true and perhaps formerly suppressed personality.
  • Revel in your freedom and appreciate the little things, like quiet.

Post-Divorce Kid Chaos

When you have yourself in reasonable balance you'll need to pay particular attention to the way your children are handling things. I have never known of a child who has not had some emotional reaction to divorce. It changes their concept of reality. Even if the marriage was a constant battleground, it is the devil they know. Children have difficulty expressing their thoughts and fears directly so you need to be aware of subtle cues. I believe in talking to children at their level, no matter what the age. There are ways of explaining the changes in a truthful manner without giving them too much unnecessary detail or complicating things.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

Children will look to your nonverbal cues to establish their reality. If you are upset each time they have to make the transition to their father's house they are going to think there is something to be upset about. If you are overly fearful about certain situations the children will internalize that fear, even if to them it has no rational basis.

Establishing a Visitation Routine

Try to establish a routine of visits to the father that leaves little to chance. If you can keep things consistent you make it much easier for your child to adjust. Flexibility is a good thing when there are special occasions, but those occasions should be deviations from a standard schedule. The child wants to know where he or she will be on a given night. Even though he may have only a vague sense of time and of days, he will like knowing that Wednesday is always Daddy day.

Your time as a single parent can be precious. While you are a single parent, despite the many struggles, it is a time when you really have your children all to yourself.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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