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Single Mothering: Life After Divorce

Working on Your Single Mom Skills

Raising children is complicated enough without having the added factors of a divorce. Do the best you can. Pray for help, and love yourself and your children. Children have within them the mechanism to adjust to any situation. They will find ways to cope throughout their lives. Having a divorce in their personal history will not doom them to failure or to life as a sociopath. If you are supportive, loving, and understanding, you can allow nature to take its course. Your children have lives and decisions to make just as you do. You can't protect them from every potential trauma.

Keeping an Eye on Your Child's Reactions

One thing you can do for your child is to be observant. In some children the residual effects of divorce will not go away or balance out without some kind of professional help. You may notice problems in school or problems with relating to other children. You may see delayed development or unusual behavior, such as being overly withdrawn.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

When I was separating from my second husband, our home was filled with conflict. My highly sensitive son had always seemed to be a quiet child by nature—we even briefly entertained the fear that he was slightly autistic. After our divorce, however, my son suddenly came out of his shell, talking about all kinds of things, including God and the planets. It was as though the floodgates had been opened. Evidently it took the divorce—and the end of parental conflict—to make him feel safe enough to cope with his surroundings.

The Many Flavors of Coping Mechanisms

Children find many different ways to survive situations they perceive as threatening. My son responded to my conflict-ridden marriage by creating an internal world to protect himself from the chaos around him. Although I watch him closely for signs of trouble in school or in other areas, he seems to have adjusted well to the positive changes in all our lives. His father is much happier out of our marriage and has a good relationship with his children.

Delayed Reactions

Sometimes a child's reaction to the stress of divorce will be delayed. You may not find out for years that your children have fears or resentment related to the break up. You can help them, but you need to realize that you are not directly responsible for their ability to heal. Realistically, all you can do is provide the resources for them so they can grow and develop in a healthy way. Eventually they will have to pick up the reins of their own lives. Many children of divorce use this event as a reason for not taking responsibility for their own growth. If you have been supportive of them, do not buy into this and guilt-trip yourself throughout eternity. We are all part of a web of interaction. You were a catalyst for certain events in your child's life but you can't control every outcome.

Fitting In When You're a Newly Single Parent

Things change when you are newly single. You may begin to feel somewhat alienated from your married friends, in part because it seems clear to you that you're coping with more problems than they are. And you'll be tempted to judge yourself harshly. You will feel you can't accomplish as much as you think you should. For certain, you'll often be tired. You are going to be adjusting your attitude to a new reality. Your new life will have many exciting aspects to it but you will need to learn your limitations and set your priorities.

Mom Alert!

Nonpayment of child support by “deadbeat” dads is a widespread problem. If you do nothing else in your divorce settlement, make certain that your child's interests are protected—child support is, after all, for his benefit.

Facing Up to Finances

If you have to go to work and have never worked outside the home, you are going to have to adjust to the demands of employment. If you have been out of the workforce for a while it is not easy to change your mindset into one that is income-producing. There are demands of the job that take some getting used to. You may even resent having to struggle if motherhood has been your sole job. You will also feel frustrated about not having the time to do things you were able to do when you were at home with your children full-time.

If you were a working mother you will not have to adjust to the working world but you will very likely have to adjust to a lower standard of living. Courts are not likely to award any kind of alimony, and child support typically does not cover more than the basics. At any economic level it is unlikely that you will stay exactly where you were before the divorce. You may be happy to be out of the relationship but you will have to adjust to your new economic life.

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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