Parenting after Separation, making the most of family changes

22 January 2012

Parenting after Separation

Making the most of family changes is not that difficult to achieve if you are open to cultivating a positive and flexible approach to family life after separation.  Looking ahead without dwelling too much on what has been helps to approach parenting issues in a realistic and light-hearted way, anticipating and adapting the extra dimensions in your family, seeing them as a challenge rather than as a hassle.

This is not to say that separating can be made to be positive just by will power.  Most go through a really bad time as we come to terms with what we are facing.  However, your children will do better if you are positive and confident with how you approach life in general.

Appreciating one another’s point of view on different standpoints is an important step towards successful co-parenting.

Helpful and unhelpful attitudes

Every parent wants to be a successful one.  We hope that our children will achieve everything we would like to have achieved ourselves.  We try to improve our parenting in all the areas where we feel our own parents got it wrong, and to give our children all those things we value about our own childhood.  We worry quite a lot about the effect our separation will have or is having on our children, and we want to do all that we can to make up for the changes they have to make.  We want to ensure that our children don’t miss out on all that is important.

There’s no doubt that parents separating is usually a sad and disrupting experience for children, but they generally get over it in time, and will certainly do so faster if it is handled well.

If you are able to put aside notions of blame, disappointment, failure, injustice and instead learn to understand how these factors will influence your and your children’s attitudes and behaviour then you are able to take on board a commitment to self-responsibility, personal awareness, patience and the potential for growth.

Language and labels

The last decade has seen a marked change in assumptions about parenting after separation.  It’s not just about ensuring that fathers have an equal right to parent when there is a family break-up.  It would seem that more and more parents are opting for shared parenting on an equal basis.

Therefore, instead of referring to your child’s other parent as “the ex” or  more formally “previous partner”, a more positive approach would be to refer to him/her as “John’s dad” or “Jenny’s mum” or even better, use the other parent’s name in reference rather than avoidance.  We were all given names and by using each other’s names in a kind manner allows our children to observe and reinforce our positive behaviour towards other people.

I read a blog the other day and the heading is “Put your words away” (written by earlbrussel).  It refers to a teachers who taught her children to “put their words away” shortly before crossing the road.  This has struck a chord with me.  If we as adults remember to “put our words away” before saying something negative, then the process of acceptance allows you to focus on what is important right now.

Accepting your ex for who they are allows you to focus on the needs of your children

Taking care of yourself

It is easy to get so caught up in the new parenting role that we neglect our own wants and needs.  We might feel guilty and selfish wanting to take “time out” even while our children are around, thinking we have to be there for them 24/7, play with them or attend to their needs all the time.  This is a trap most of us fall into at one point or another.  Don’t think that self-reflection , and looking after your own interests, is self-indulgence.  Children demand and hold your attention but why not show them and expose them to your world.  Do something that is important to you and share it with them.

Working towards successful co-parenting is a gradual process of attitude change.

♣ Image credit: office.microsoft.com/images/ MP900399506 & MP900409455

Toddler, running with wolves….

20 January 2012

Toddler, running with wolves…

It’s 5:15am and I wake up to the pitter-patter sound of my daughter’s feet on the tiles as she shuffles down the hallway to my room.

“Hello Mummy”, I hear her say with a bright smile on her face.

I know it is still too early for her to be up. “Oh Miss Magu, why are u up so early?” I sigh, wanting desperately to be still asleep.

“I got a poo!” she pipes, “I got a poo!”.   There is nothing I can do but get up and change her nappy.  I explain to her that it’s still early and she has to go back to sleep.

“Close your eyes sweety,” I say, “it’s still sleepy time, the sun isn’t up yet”.  She nods her little head in agreement and pulls the blanket back over herself.  “I want bottle” she starts to whine.  I get her some milk, hoping it will tie her over and help her get back to sleep.  It’s a habit I have been trying to break, she loves her milk bottle in the morning when she wakes up so early and sometimes even goes back to sleep again.  I close her door leaving only a small gap. All is quiet, she’s happy, I’m happy.

Today is garbage pick-up and I decide to take her dirty nappy out. The truck goes past at 7am and he’s always on time. I tip-toe past her room to the front door. The keys rattle as I turn them in the lock, the screen door squeaks just a little bit but loud enough for her young ears.  Not a sound from her room.  Its lovely and fresh outside, the air wakes me up but I want to go back to sleep.

I crawl back into bed trying to get to sleep, it took a while.  I must have dozed off into a micro sleep, couldn’t have been for long.  I open my eyes with my daughter’s face 2 inches away from mine.  With a big smile and as loud as she can she yells … “wake up mummy!”  And laughs.  She got that from the Wiggles, they say “Wake up Jeff” and he shakes himself as he wakes up.  It has become a game between the two of us, she plays it with her dad too… but sometimes it backfires… like today.

5:30am   “Honeybee!… why are you not sleeping? Today will be a long day for both of us”.  She is wide awake and I have zero chance of getting her to sleep but I try one more time.  “Hop up, come lie next to mummy and close your eyes, see mummy’s eyes are closed”.  She copies everything I say, in her babble.

“Close your ahyes (eyes).  Only lookie wit de ahyes”, she says innocently.  She’s still learning to pronounce the words properly.  “Lookie wit de ahyes”,  she repeats several times.  “Shhhh, sleep!” I growl.

Two seconds later she jumps up and slides down the side of the bed. The house is safe, she can’t get into trouble, she has toys and books to entertain herself.  I cannot help it, I listen out to her noises, what is she up to.  I needn’t to have worried she was back in a flash with two books, her hairband and her hairbrush and declares: “That maaine (mine), it go missi, it go missi”.

“What’s gone missing?” I ask but I cannot make out what she says.

I give up on the notion of any further sleep and get dressed.  What time is it?  Not even an hour has passed.  Little Miss M becomes more insistent and wails in a higher pitch: “It go missi, it go missi, oh no! Where is it?”.

I finally worked out that she wanted her toy necklace she was given for Christmas but we can’t find it anywhere.  I distract her, “what would you like to wear today, my sweet?”.  She walks purposefully to her wardrobe and points to her pretty dress. Something she has not done before.  I take the dress off the hanger and help her put it on.  She loves it, smiling and turns around in a twirl to make her dress flare up.  Then she remembers her necklace and starts looking again.  I busy myself in the kitchen and put the kettle on for a cup of coffee.  My kickstart it would seem, these days.

6:30am  Breakfast time.  Little Miss Independent does not want anything for breakfast, not even her favourite food, yoghurt.  She is becoming more insistent for something but I don’t know what she wants.  Opening and closing the fridge several times and tries to grab hold of whatever she can within her reach but above her eye level.  My patience is wearing thinner as she starts up her whining again.

Why do kids have to whine! For goodness sake!

I know she’s tired but can’t express it. Putting her back to bed is just as frugal. I grin and bear it but feel like mother wolf wanting to get her cub back into line.  She hasn’t really done anything to warrant it, except the whining perhaps.

Time passes slowly, we play a game, read a book and watch the garbage truck arrive, we wave to the garbage man, he waves back and again when he comes back down the road.  It’s time to change into her kindy clothes but once again Miss M decides its GAME ON and goes completely limp when I try to dress her.

It’s actually funny watching her as she collapses her whole body into a human heap, and she laughs her cute little gurgle laugh.  I tickle her knowing that usually does the trick but not today.  “I tickle you,” she laughs and bolts off down the passage, with no clothes on and as fast as her little legs would take her.

I see a little girl, she’s not a toddler anymore.  Has she grown overnight? She must have, no wonder she’s full of beans today, probably another developmental leap.

She sure is running, running with wolves.*

*Running with wolves is used as a metamorphosis by me to explain how I felt this morning. We do not have wolves in Australia, but some days I feel like I am the matriarchal wolf in a pack, fighting for survival. 

Image source: [IMG]http://i215.photobucket.com/albums/cc49/kfachko/ascension20by20denton20lund.jpg[/IMG]

Why a great co-parenting arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved

Why a great co-parenting arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved

8 January 2012

Today I would like to explore why having a great co-parenting arrangement in place is so important and beneficial to everyone involved.

I often wonder how could some relationships turn to total warfare between parents.  We start out as loving each other and liking things about each other.  We go out of our way to make the other person happy, we have children together ….. and then something goes wrong.  We fall out of love.  What was once love turns to hate, what was once doing something for the other turns to obstruction in every possible way and everyone gets hurt in the process.  It does not need to be that way if we just stop and think about it long enough.

If you “drop the rope” there is no warfare

My ex once said to me “drop the rope”.  It took me a while to fully comprehend what it really meant.  Basically it refers to the game of tug of war which is a sport that directly pits two teams against each other in a test of strength.  In this context, if one partner “drops the rope” then the other partner has no-one to fight with.

I stopped long enough to realise that he hasn’t really changed who he was when we first met, nor have I changed – we just became embittered by what was no more.

I slowly learned to “drop the rope” and by doing so I felt much happier within myself which in turn of course benefitted Little Miss M.  I was always careful not to let my disappointment, anger or fear out on her and once I completely embraced the idea the overall mood improved dramatically.  So then, once I managed to accept the break-up of our relationship, I was able to discuss co-parenting arrangements amicably and quickly realised that sharing Little Miss M on an even basis gives us time to “recharge your batteries” – so to speak.

In fact the benefits are tremendous.  Some are pretty obvious benefits such as:

  • she still gets to see her mum and her dad regularly;
  • there is no, or very little tension around her and in her world all she sees is that her mum and her dad love her very much;
  • we get time out without having to feel guilty or selfish;
  • there is still flexibility within the arrangement;
  • it allows us to date other people without having to involve our child or anyone else too soon;
  • you get to sleep in once in a while! (not easy with Miss M waking up at 5:30am most days).

The less obvious benefit and possibly a very underrated one at that is:

  • our child(ren) learn different things from both of us; or the same thing in a different way, expanding their horizon;
  • they are more balanced and the observed behaviour is one that is amicable.

I fully realise that not everybody is able to come to terms with a break-up without the help of mediators but if there is one message I would like to pass on today it would simply be “drop the rope!”

… it is what it is…

Single Parents Dating

Parents Wanting Partners

Welcome!

1 January 2012, Happy New Year!

This is a blog for single parents.  With this blog I am hoping to raise the awareness of single fathers, single mothers, relationships and hopefully change the perceptions of many towards the often associated stigmas as a single parent.

This is a blog about single parents who are rebuilding a shattered life after a relationship has ended and at the same time being the best they can be to their child or children.

Lastly, this is also about my own journey of growth, as a single mum with a beautiful toddler daughter, who has helped me find myself and experience more joy than I had ever thought possible.

Raising Little Miss M* is a project I had wanted to write about for quite some time and since there is no better time than the present, with a new year ahead filled with hopes and dreams, opportunities and a renewed energy I have not felt these last two years, why not just do it. I am hoping to share with you the highs and lows as a single mum and other interesting stories that may come along, helping others to heal, to laugh and to cry … all part of the process.

Why Parents wanting Partners?  When I first separated all I wanted to do was to immediately find the man of my dreams and replace the man who was my dream, rebuild a family life that no longer was.  When my daughter was born my visions were of her father and her mother (me) walking along the beach together, holding hands and watching our child grow, together.  Life does take interesting turns and twists, often very unexpected and there is usually little room for negotiations.

My immediate need became a concern when I realised that most men in my age group (40 – 49) were looking for women eight to ten years younger than they were (to have kids with).  And the men who were just a few years older than me, aged between 51 to 57, were usually no longer interested in “doing the family thing” and were experiencing their own mid-life crisis, wanting to travel and ride a motor bike.  Phew, this was not going to be easy!

And then there was this new group of men.  Someone I would not have considered if I didn’t have a little girl myself. Men, who are full-time single fathers! A very often underrated group of devoted fathers who are doing what single women have done for many years, just quietly there in the background, going along their daily lives.

“The role of a parent is to provide hope to a child in an uncertain world”.  (Gordon Livingston, author of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart)

After discovering this whole new world of dating “difficulties” where children are involved I realised that there is more to this than meets the eye.  I have met several full-time single fathers for coffee or dinner and kept hearing the same stories over and over. I have also met a few fathers who are struggling to come to terms with no longer being able to see their children as often as they used to and shared their pain more than I wanted to admit (to them).  This is a topic I will soon write more about as it does lie close to my heart.

I hope you enjoyed my writing for today.  I am new to blogging but certainly would appreciate your comments, feedback or your own stories if you would like to share. Over the coming days and weeks the next few topics (in no particular order) are:

  • A mother’s voice
  • A father’s voice – the other side
  • I don’t know why sometimes I get frightened
  • There you go!
  • Camera, lights, action!
  • Just do it!

*Little Miss M is used to keep identities private