After a separation, your whole perspective on weekends can change.
Perhaps you are juggling your children on your own all weekend. If so, weekends can become one long, unrelenting workload, where you are stretched by attending to your children’s needs, the household tasks and your other commitments. Time for yourself or to enjoy other adult company? That’s a joke!
For others whose children are spending weekends regularly in the care of their other parent, weekends can present a different challenge. The days can stretch out ahead of you without you knowing how to fill in the hours and feeling lonely as your other friends are all busy doing things with their own children. The house becomes strangely and uncomfortably quiet (you take back all those times you wished for a moment’s peace!).
For those who don’t have children, weekends can also be painfully quiet, isolating and lonely. Friends are often busy with their own partners. Events and activities seem to be geared towards couples – it seems that everywhere you turn there are happy, loved up couples! Difficult emotions can be triggered as you realise there are some activities you struggle doing on your own or that give you memories of enjoyable times with your ex. Some groups or clubs you used to participate in may feel off the agenda now as your ex is still involved in them.
So, how can you turn those weekend blues around? How can you put the cool back into your weekends so you look forward to them again?
1. Enlist Others. Being separated does not mean having to do weekends on your own! Tell others how you are feeling and how they may assist you. Struggling with having the kids endlessly every weekend? Are there friends or family members who can take them for a couple of hours each weekend regularly? Perhaps you can do swaps or turnabout with the parents of your children’s friends? Think creatively - I remember a period of time after my parents separated where my mother packed us children all off to Sunday School each Sunday morning just so she could have some well deserved time to herself!
2. Indulge Yourself. If your weekends are characterised by feeling lonely and painfully aware of your single-ness then what small steps can you take to embrace the opportunities that having time to yourself brings? Right now, on reading that, you likely want to scream how absurd I am. That is, if you could summon the energy to move out of your sad-sack state. But, trust me, over time you can build a sense of time alone in the weekends as being a luxury for yourself.
If you don’t want to, you don’t need to pick up after yourself, get out of your pyjamas or cook a sensible dinner! You can do what you want. There is no one interrupting your sleep, your daydreams or your visit to the bathroom! You have the tv and stereo remotes all to yourself and a house to dance throughout without anyone judging your moves! Now is the time to create that list of all the things you’ve wanted to do if you just had more time and then set to doing them. Take that yoga class, visit that special market you’ve been wanting to go to, volunteer, work on friendships you have wanted to cultivate, take a day trip to explore your town or city.
3. End the guilt. Don’t feel guilty for indulging in your alone time or in getting others to help you get through the weekends– you deserve to refill your tank and do things that help you recharge. Enjoying doing so and enjoying having child-free time doesn’t make you a bad mother! Evidence of you being a loving parent is not found in you spending time apart from you children feeling miserable. All that does is, well, make you feel miserable. What example is that setting for your children?
Importantly, don’t make your children feel guilty that you are alone. They need to know they are off to have time with their other parent and that while they are gone, you will be having a great time doing lots of things you have planned.
4. Think about the other side of the equation. If you are co-parenting, then it can be useful to crawl out from feeling “woe is me” for a little while in order to recognise that if you are feeling pained, lonely, sad, worried or isolated while your children are away from you then there is a very high chance their other parent also feels some of those things when the children are with you. This is another of those moments where you want to scream at me again, huh? But, having the chance to see things from the “other side” is valuable to being able to build a positive, flexible and cooperative co-parenting relationship.
5. Make the time with your children meaningful. If you’ve got the children for the weekend, don’t cram it full of chores and other tasks. I know, I know. If you’re a working mum, your weekends are likely the only time to get all those chores and domestic tasks done so you can go to your other job during the week!
What would happen if you created a new weekend dynamic? Get the kids on board with some of the domestic chores meaning you can then all spend some time together watching a favourite tv show and having popcorn? Can you enlist someone to come and do some chores for you that would otherwise be on your weekend to-do list, freeing you up with some time to take your children to the park and for icecream each weekend? If your children are elsewhere for the weekend, use that time to jumpstart the tasks for the week ahead (but don’t forget to have some “indulge myself” time) so that when they are with you, you have the mental space and time to enjoy some time together.
6. Achieve a Goal. I have a colleague who told me her divorce was the best thing that ever happened for her career and her parenting. When the children were not with her, she used that time to pursue career goals and to get ahead in her work. This meant she was achieving those goals but it also meant that when her children were with her, she had the comfort of knowing a lot of her work was in check and she could take a bit more time out for her children. Now, your goals will likely be different. Whether you are aiming to: train your puppy, go all Marie Kondo in your garage, earn and save additional income so you can buy an apartment, or start to meet new people, your weekends may be a valuable source of time to set about those goals.
7. Have a Plan. If weekends are feeling miserable for you, create a plan for avoiding this. Identify what situations are likely to have you yelling at your kids or running for your duvet cover with a bar of chocolate in your hand. How are you really feeling at those times and what do you need? Are you really annoyed with the kids for being loud or is it you are actually frustrated because you feel you have no help?
Then develop your plan - what can you organise or put in place before the weekend to help you avoid those situations or weather them more constructively and positively? What situations will you stop yourself from doing because they are just not helpful to you? For example, does it really serve you to pour a wine and proceed to sob your way through your Facebook photos of happier times together? What can you do instead?
How do your weekends feel after being separated? If you found them rough at the beginning, what did you do to change that up? I’d love to hear. You can drop me a comment or come on over to The Divorce Lighthouse Group and share with us there.