Mom: Here's How to Empower Yourself After a Separation
Separating from your spouse or partner is a gut-wrenching experience. You're uncertain of how your life will change and how your kids will deal with it. In this scary situation, you might expect the worst, but beyond the doom and gloom, there's hope.
The beauty of parenting after separation lies in the opportunity to empower yourself by taking charge of your household and co-parenting with your ex on your terms. Who knows? You might just realize how powerful you are.
Here are six ways you can empower yourself as a newly single mom.
1. Empower yourself by collaborating with your ex
Co-parenting means you cooperate with your ex-spouse to create consistency between homes. It allows a sense of normalcy during a turbulent time for you and your kids. Your kids are used to spending time with both parents, and you're used to being part of a team.
While you might cringe at the thought of working with your ex, there are some perks:
- It's a less jarring transition.
- Sharing parenting responsibilities reduces your workload.
- You could save on childcare costs.
- The children will have more support.
(Note that in some circumstances you should limit your cooperation, such as when your ex has been abusive.)
To successfully co-parent, you'll need a solid parenting plan. Put your foot down, and let it be known what you won't tolerate. If you don't want your ex's girlfriend sleeping over while your kids are there or you don't want your ex asking you uncomfortable questions about your personal life, write that in your plan.
Keep in mind: you don't have to be besties. You can show your kids support even when you're sitting separately at their soccer game or ballet recital. You only have to talk when it's time to make a parenting decision or discuss your kid's gross new habit of picking their poop out of the toilet. (It happens.)
Over time, you might be able to get along better and could even come to admire one another as parents.
2. Empower yourself by getting what's best for your kids in court
Nobody wants to go to court. Nobody likes lawyers. (Okay, that's a bit harsh – but they're expensive!) Yet going to court is often a necessary evil.
Even if you're able to sit down and iron out the details of a parenting plan together, you should get a court order to make sure your ex follows the rules. (Luckily, you can usually do this without a lawyer.)
Things can get nasty when you can't work with your ex. Despite the myths out there, moms don't always get custody. They must prove that they're best able to provide the care and attention the children need. Work with a lawyer to gather solid evidence of what an excellent mother you are. If you can't afford that, look into legal aid services.
You can also do some evidence-gathering on your own. Save screenshots of every gruesome social media post your ex makes about you. Print out every text that shows they refused to pick up the kids because they had other (unimportant) stuff to do.
Lastly, let's talk about the money. If you make less than your ex or spend more time with the kids, you probably qualify for child support. Now's not the time to be nice or prove that you don't need a man. Asking for support doesn't make you greedy or hard up — it makes you a good mom. Get that coin, girl. It's for your children.
3. Empower yourself by thriving as a single mom
While your ex might contribute, you are the only parent in your household for the time being. You must redefine who you are as a mother to be the parent your kids need.
Many women don't want to be called single mothers because of the baggage that comes with the term. Single mothers are stereotyped as undesirable, needy and desperate for the help of a man.
As women, we know all about reclamation. Some of us call our best friends the b-word (you know the one). It's about time we did the same for single mother. Single mother now means independent, self-sufficient, lioness momma – or whatever feel-good words you want to put in there. You can probably think of something better.
Some practical tips for owning the single mom in you:
Take charge confidently
Being a single mom means more work. If you were a stay-at-home mom, you might have to dust off that resume and contemplate whether you really know how to use Excel. (You do. We all do.) If you were already a working mom, you might have to add dreaded chores like mopping to your busy schedule.
Whatever you do, do it confidently, even if you have to fake it till you make it. Taking on more responsibility could help you unleash your inner boss babe and prove to your children – and yourself – that you got this.
Set reasonable goals
The keyword here is reasonable. You might be tempted to write "be the perfect mom" on your list, but that ain't happening. Keep it simple. Try to cook a few nights out of the week instead of ordering takeout. Help your kid with their science project. Keeping track of all you've done could give you a big confidence boost.
4. Empower yourself by laying down the law
Moms can be fierce as anyone when it comes to laying down the law. Check out these tips to become a no-nonsense momma.
- Be direct: Find a second voice that the kids can tell apart from your regular one. This way, they know you mean business when you tell them to behave.
- When you say "no," mean it: If you tell your child they can't do something, don't change your mind just because they whine. If you do, they'll never take you seriously.
- Set clear expectations: You don't need to be a drill sergeant, but you should get your kids into a routine. Post a chore chart on the fridge, set a curfew. They can only follow the rules if they know them.
- Stick to your approach: Your children might say, "Daddy doesn't make us go to bed at eight!" but that doesn't mean you should let the kids stay up later. Don't let the pressure of wanting to be the "fun parent" get to you.
- Reward good behavior: Just as your children have things taken away for bad behavior, they should occasionally get rewards for good grades, completing chores and other good deeds. This could give them an incentive to behave and achieve more.
5. Empower yourself by helping your kids adjust
Your kids are more aware of what's happening than you might think. A good approach is to explain things in a relatable way. Remind them of why they no longer wear diapers or need training wheels on their bike; change is an inevitable part of life that's necessary for growth. Tell them Mommy and Daddy are still growing, too, but could no longer do it together.
So they don't feel too down about being away from their momma when they go away for visits, find ways to make sure they feel mothered while they're away. Wear their blanket to get your smell on it. Sneak a love note into their backpack. Call to check in on them. Feeling your presence could help reduce their anxiety.
6. Empower yourself by nixing mommy guilt
Mommy guilt is when you feel like you're a bad parent. This is a common feeling, especially if you spend time on social media where mom-shaming is everywhere. These tips could help you tune out the negativity.
- Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses: There's no such thing as a perfect parent. Maybe you don't always get the kids to school on time, but you're always there when your kid needs to vent. Stick with what works, and try to change what doesn't.
- Take care of yourself: Self-care isn't selfish. Slap on a face mask and soak in the tub. You deserve it. Your kids need you in the best mental and physical shape to care for them.
- Let it go: There will be days when you just want to run out the door. You get to this point when you've been holding in a lot of negativity and stress. Release the tension before you explode. Keep a diary, vent to friends and family (but not your children), find a hobby that will help you take your mind off stressors. Get professional help if need be.
Nobody said it would be easy…
But it's not impossible.
Beyond the darkness of separation, there's opportunity. You get to spend more one-on-one time with your kids. You could learn new skills. You could get that cat your ex was allergic to. Separation could be the first step toward self-realization, finally unlocking your full potential as a mother and as an individual.
Yes, being in a relationship provides a sense of security, but if you're unhappy, that security could hold you back. Don't wallow in the memory of what was. Empowered mothers like yourself rise above the past to soar towards a better future.