I am new to the single-mom, family-of-divorce thing: new, but getting into the swing of managing.
At first, it was a huge adjustment. Finding out what works and what doesn’t was a long uphill battle. And, even though my ex and I were no longer together, we had to learn to parent independently as well as a team. It hit me pretty early on that the separation meant relinquishing a great deal of power when it came to parenting. Things are done differently at each house, and I had to be okay with that no matter how badly I wanted to micro-manage what the kids did and didn’t do when they were with their dad.
Everyone knows kids thrive on routine. They need it. They may not always want it, but it’s a necessary part of growing up and managing the day-to-day. I knew creating and nurturing a new routine would need a great deal of attention in order to help the kids transition after the divorce.
Believe it or not, it all started with a slumber party.
It was the first full week of our new custody arrangement after the divorce was final. I was missing the kids something fierce. When they walked through my door, I was ready to give them anything they wanted. Their only request was to sleep in the living room as a family.
That one simple request has evolved into a tradition. Every other Friday, our transition day, the kids and I sleep out in the living room. Well, to speak my truth, I usually stay up until they fall asleep, then tiptoe to my own bed. These bi-weekly slumber parties have become a source of excitement for the kids. They talk about what movies we’ll watch, who gets to sleep next to the dog, and what snack we’ll have after dinner. They bring down their favorite stuffed animals and blankets. Not only that, but the slumber party serves as time marker of sorts. My four-year-old still struggles to understand the concept of time in some aspects, and our slumber party is a way for her to know that her time with her dad has come to an end, and her time with me is just beginning.
While this fun new tradition filled me a great deal of optimism, the journey to master a new routine hasn’t always been easy.
I had to adjust to life with the kids on my own. I was used to doing my household chores with the assistance of someone else. When I suddenly had to do everything by myself, I realized just how demanding my time with the kids became. I struggled to manage the house and their attentions. There wasn’t someone else here to distract them while I folded laundry or did the dishes. There wasn’t a helping hand when they both needed me at once.
I felt stretched thin. This is when the most important aspect of our new routine came into play.
We are a team.
I explained to the kids that I couldn’t do it on my own. We all needed to work together to get things done and to help each other out. It became a bit of a mantra that translated not only as a tagline for our blossoming routine, but reinforced the importance of togetherness, cooperation, and respect.
Chores were handed out, simple chores that are done each day. The kids alternate who feeds the dog each evening, and we take time every night after supper to pick up around the house. Each person is responsible for his or her own mess. These simple chores help the entire family move through each day and each night. It gives my kids an understanding of what’s expected of them. It has also freed up more time for me to devote my energy to them rather than the house and other stressors of adulting.
Eventually, things fell into place and a solid routine emerged–not just a routine, but a new way of life. The kids now have two homes, two sets of rules, two sets of schedules, two of everything. And like the resilient troopers they are, the kids have marched through far more gracefully than I did.
To read more on routines after divorce, click here!
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