Picture this: It’s Thursday night, and you are thinking about your kids going to their other parent’s home for the whole weekend. You won’t see them until Sunday evening. What will they do? Will they get to bed on time? Will they brush their teeth? Will they have fun? [You probably hope not too much fun, as much as you want them to connect with their other parent, the deep worry that they will love them more or you less creeps in.] Maybe they will be so sad and missing you that they can’t function?
Then, that feeling of dread starts to fill your belly. You get a little sweaty, your heart starts pounding, your breathing increases, and all the classic signs of an anxiety attack hit you. Questions run through your head a million miles an hour until you realize you are off in your own world, catastrophizing about a weekend your kids will spend with your ex. You come back to reality and take some deep breaths. This is the beginning of a long road to getting used to being without your kids in some fairly regular way. How do you cope?
The first time my ex-husband took my kids for the weekend, as soon as they left, I cried. Boy, did I cry! Besides all the worries about my kids, other thoughts were running through my head: What was I going to do all weekend? How would I pass the time? My house feels so lonely! WHO AM I without them?
If you are like me, you probably have those same thoughts and questions. Many people struggle any time your kids go with their other parent. I have found there are a few ways to get through it that work, and that also help me with my journey to healing myself after divorce.
> Have a Plan
Make plans with a girlfriend that you haven’t seen in a while. A dinner out as a woman, not a mom, will keep you busy, and will keep your focus on catching up with your friend, not worrying about your kids. Plus, you will get to do things that, with kids, you wouldn’t be able to do. You can stay out late. You can choose the restaurant with no worries about whether chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese are on the menu. You can discuss adult matters without having to speak in code.
Here’s another novel idea: go on a date! Nights without your kids are the perfect opportunity for you to dip your toe in the dating waters again. If you are ready, this can be something you can look forward to with new excitement for what the future holds.
If dinners out aren’t financially feasible, and you aren’t ready to date, how about a walk or a bike ride? Maybe a friend can join you for a fitness class–simply having a plan to get together with another adult can be good for the soul.
>Feel Your Feelings
Do you hold it together all day, every day, so that your kids won’t see you fall apart? Then take the time you have without them to feel your feelings! Have a good cry on the couch. Write in your journal about your feelings, call a friend, your mom, or someone else who you can vent to safely.
This is also a great time to find a coach or counselor that you trust and can help you work through all your feelings. Use the time without your kids to work on YOU. It will be worth it!
>Practice Self Care
Take a walk, find a way to move your body in a way that feels good to you, enjoy a book and a cup of tea, binge on Netflix a bit [but not too long!], take a bath, meditate, go to church–the possibilities are endless! If you need more information about how to practice self care, read my blog post about it!
>Do Something You Love, or Try Something New!
Did you ever have a hobby that you had to let go of after you had kids? Are you an avid knitter? Pull out an old pattern and see if you can make sense of it. Maybe you love photography. Take a walk with your camera or phone and try to capture some great images. Or perhaps you love seeing live music [and it is coming back now, hooray!]. Get tickets and invite a friend to come along. Do the things that used to make your heart sing and use them to reconnect to the real you.
Not a hobby person? Great! There are so many things you can do! Take a class in something you have never studied before [or go deeper into something you have], ride a bike, adopt a dog and learn agility training, try yoga, or kickboxing, expand your mind and find what makes you happy. Then, when your kids are with your ex, you will have something to look forward to doing.
>Plan to Connect
Ask the other parent if there is a good time to chat with your kids on the phone for a few minutes. Remember, it is important to respect their time with your kids as you would like them to respect yours. Try to arrange a bedtime phone call, or one after dinner time that will allow you to say goodnight and just make that connection. Maybe a ‘good morning’ phone call would be better for your kids. You know them best, so you can gauge what will work and what will worsen any domestic nostalgia [aka, homesickness].
Tell them things that will make them feel safe. Let them know that you miss them but that you are ok and will be ok until the next time they see you. Keep in mind that it isn’t fair to make kids feel responsible for your happiness, especially in a custody situation where they likely have no control over when they are where they are.
It isn’t easy to do, but if you are sharing custody of your kids with your ex, this is a reality you will have to face and having the tools in place can help you ensure success. Keep busy, get up off the couch, and get out into the world–there are great things waiting for you that you won’t want to miss!
Are you ready to feel joy again, reclaim your independence, and chart a path toward more personal meaning and contentment? I would love to help you as you take those steps.
Check out my guide on 7 Ways to Rebuild Your Confidence During Divorce, with real, practical tips on how to start taking control of your story and create the life you have been dreaming about!