The Benefits of Being a Divorced Single Mom (and Sharing Custody)
Ok, we all know the down side.
I could write a dozen of articles about the isolation, the loss of friends, the feeling of abandonment… and I have written a lot about those things. They are very real, very heart-wrenching, and just plain hard.
But what we all need to do right now, in this very moment — as you likely just googled and found this article, and are probably trying to find the bright side of all of this — WE, my ladies, need to stay positive.
For starters, remember: We got ourselves OUT of a bad situation, one that was not healthy for us, one that was not furthering our personal development. One that was sucking the life out of us.
So let’s take a moment to recognize that.
We are now free.
And now? We need to rally.
So I am here as your new best friend — your new-best-divorced-single-mama friend — to tell you these 10 things you can feel good about, right now, as you sip your wine or your La Croix or whatever it is you’re sipping, because I hope you’re all sipping something and have your feet up.
Note: I know there are many single moms that don’t share custody, and you don’t get some of of these benefits I write about below. I send a salute to you. I do feel grateful that my son’s father is a responsible guy that wants to be involved in our boy’s life. But there are also times I wish I could call all the shots and not have to split my sweet child’s time between two homes. We all make the best of what we have, I guess.
Here’s my take.
10 Benefits of Being a Divorced Single Mom (and Sharing Custody)
1. Nights off
Every Wednesday night, and every other weekend, is ALL MINE. No bedtime routine, no resistance to baths or brushing teeth or putting on pajamas. No, ma’am. My house is quiet, my breathing is deeper. I’m more relaxed. My Spotify is turned up. Sometimes I spend it quietly, sometimes I go out. Sometimes I write or draw or work. But being divorced, there is no negotiation about how I am going to spend my night off. I get to decide.
Oh yeah, baby. Every other weekend (and every Wednesday night) I get to catch up on blessed sleep. I get the entire bed. I often sprawl out and sigh deeply when I finally crawl in (usually after a hot bath). And I know I won’t be awakened by anyone, except perhaps my sweet old dog, huffing in my face. It is pure bliss. (Except the dog breath.)
If you’re new to being single, fear not. That “other side” of the bed that seems empty and abandoned will soon have a new feel. Creep your toe over there, dear. Soon your whole, unshaven leg will be over there. Shortly thereafter you find your new home: The middle of the bed.
3. Focusing on your needs.
At first it can seem overly quiet. And of course, there are weekends I feel lonely for my son. Or moments during the weekend. But after two years, I have found a rhythm on these solo weekends. I plan ahead more, so I have at least one social outing. But I like to keep a good portion of the weekend as ALL MINE. Maybe I want to watch a lot of Netflix. Or clean. Maybe I want to meet a friend for brunch and go for a long run. Maybe I need to spend 4 hours finding the perfect new pair of jeans. Or catch up on some work.
On my weeknight off I try to fit in something that feels like pampering. A hot bath. Painting my (short, stubby) nails. Making popcorn and binge watching a show.
4. Trying new things.
Last weekend, on the invitation of another single mom friend, I went to a blues dance party. It was preceded by a lesson. I’ve NEVER blues danced. I was terrified. But I went. And it was exhilarating to try something I’ve never done before. I was not good, but I met some nice people who also didn’t know what they were doing (and a lot who did) and I was glad I took the leap. I had fun, and I smiled and laughed a lot. Would I have done this if I was still unhappily married? Heck no.
Trying new things has been one of the biggest blessings of my divorce. I have now tried belly dancing, improv, taken a solo vacation, gone to more live music shows, became a fitness coach, and started a Meetup group for single parents and meeting more new people every week. I am living my life more fully than ever before. I’ve told fear to take a hike, and I am participating in life.
5. Redefining your life. Rebuilding yourself.
Divorce is the ultimate let down. We think — no, we KNOW — that we found our perfect partner for life, and we commit to that. And then something happens (or many somethings) that make us reconsider. And then, after much drama and difficult decision making and gross legal processes, you’re single— BOOM.
The identity that we had is partially gone. Which is, at first, difficult. To put it mildly.
But! You get to redefine what you want your life to be. Who you associate with. What you spend your time on. You get a second chance at designing your life. The way you spend your time. The way your treat your self, your body, your soul, your mind.
I decided four months ago to get into wicked shape. I had been feeling frustrated and mopey, and had just had a horrible date with a guy I had gotten my hopes up for. (He turned out to be a drug addict. Buh-bye!)
The empowerment I have found in the act of taking better care of my body through better nutrition and more regular exercise has been profound. I am in the best shape I have been in since college (and definitely eating better than I did in my cheap-ramen-or-fries-at-the-cafeteria days). I have loved it so much I decided to become a coach. And as a fitness coach I am also helping others feel their best and reach their goals. It’s been life-changing.
6. Time off for dating (yourself or others).
When (or if) you get to the point of dating, or just want to get out for fun by yourself, when you share custody — you have the time.
I have enjoyed dating. Yes, I’ve had some bad dates, but some fun ones, too. When I was newly single I accidentally got on Tinder (Seriously, I only wanted to see how it worked) and ended up getting sucked into it and then dating various guys for about 6 months.
I’ve since stopped, and I’m not at the point where I want something serious now, but having men show interest in me was uplifting and made me feel sexy and wanted.
But through the process of dating I learned how much I needed to simply care for myself. That before anyone else could show me love, I needed to show myself compassion and caring — first.
So since I’ve stopped dating I’ve had more nights out with myself. A delicious burger. Or wine and pizza. I call it dating myself. I choose my favorite restaurant and just go. I treat myself. Sometimes I read, or doodle, or look at Facebook or people-watch. It’s freeing to get comfortable being alone in a room full of other people. You realize nobody cares. Nobody is watching you. You can just exist, and observe!
7. Being a better parent
When I do have my son, I am a better parent. I’m more rested. When I get him back, I’ve missed him, so I’m really focused on him. I plan events or outings for us, or sometimes just have a nice, quiet day at home with him doing art projects or showing him how the washing machine works. (Three-year-olds are the best. So easily entertained.) Our time spent apart makes us both appreciate each other more.
8. Owning your strength
In my opinion, divorced women are some of the strongest people alive. We have decided to NOT accept bad behavior. We have decided we are strong enough to get by on our own. We have broken out of the “married with children” template, the mold that society has created, because we KNOW we deserve better. We endure the unspoken (or spoken) judgement of people, of friends and family. We have decided our kids don’t deserve to grow up witnessing an unhealthy relationship. And all of this? It is HARD.
But when you finally get through the drama, things get quiet. You may question your decision. Your circle of friends is more distant. You don’t know where you fit.
This is when you need to remember your strength. No, you don’t need to hold onto anger, you don’t need to rehash all of the drama. (Okay, sometimes you may need to remind yourself, but don’t dwell too long — it’s over).
You need to remember this: YOU are strong. And that you made this decision because you knew — YOU KNOW — it is best.
Owning that strength, that decision, is a practice — you get better at it. It eventually becomes a part of who you are, and you embody it. It bolsters you as you take steps into your new life.
9. Your closet. Your messes.
I may, at some point, share a house and a closet again with a partner. But I’ll be totally honest. I love love LOVE not sharing. I love knowing that if a mess is made, I don’t have anyone to blame except myself.
I have a tendency toward anxiety, so when things get cluttered I tend to start getting irritable. And it was worse when there was another body creating more clutter with more clothes and more dishes. It may be one of the smaller benefits, but it really is peaceful. I enjoy the simplicity of knowing it’s just my stuff (and my son’s).
10. A second chance at real love.
We have learned. Yes — I have fear of getting into another “bad” relationship. But I am also excited. I get to try again.
I’ve also learned more about love as a broader concept. Being a mother. The love my son has for me is so unconditional. As a mom, I now know the feeling of that kind of love. My marriage wasn’t that free, easy kind of love. It felt very conditional. I was always walking on eggshells.
If I get into a relationship again and it doesn’t feel like a pure, unconditional love, I feel more equipped to recognize that. And move on.
I also know that should I get into a relationship with a man that isn’t quite right, that I have greater love in my life already with my son, my friends, and my family.
New love will be icing on the cake of my already delicious life.
What other perks have you found in your single mom lifestyle? I’d love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Liina at www.basementqueens.com