The ending of a marriage changes both your world and your child’s world irreparably. Living situations change; sleeping arrangements change; finances change in ways you cannot possibly expect. This challenges the single parent, even when the other parent is involved in the child’s life.
So with all of these changes come tests to your own sanity. How you will make it through every day becomes a challenge. And sometimes those challenges are unexpected. It’s not only the worries on the days you have your child. Sometimes the worst times are when the depression sets in on the days you don’t have your child. You may have escaped the difficulty of the toxic relationship you were in, but you didn’t escape the loneliness you felt when you were in that relationship. And now your child is gone so you can’t even rely on them to invest your energy.
Which means as a single parent, you need to find ways to stay sane. You need to do whatever you can to keep your sanity because you have little ones you still need to care for. I have my own methods for keeping sane in the midst of it all. The following are five things I do to keep me sane in the midst of being a single dad.
1. Remember the Other Parent Has a Role to Play
I probably have the extreme reverse of this situation with my daughter’s mother being a helicopter mom trying to control every aspect of my daughter’s life. And when I have a helicopter “co-parent,” I know they are involved in my child’s life. The hard part comes when you are afraid of the role they play and how it might damage your child. Nevertheless, the other parent has a role to play, whether they succeed at it or not, in your child’s life. And to give your child the opportunity to thrive, you have to recognize not only the fact they have a role but the fact that I cannot replace the other role.
Yes, I will encourage my daughter to find other female role models. And I will hopefully bring women into my daughter’s life she can respect and love. But they will never replace the mother she has. They cannot love her in the way a mother can. And they won’t sacrifice the same way a mother would, no matter how hard they try. I have to be able to relinquish my ability to play the role of mom and let her mom be the mom.
As for me, I am the dad, and so I will step in there and protect my daughter when necessary. And when I have my daughter, I will give my daughter the freedom to fail so that she can succeed in the long run. And hopefully, I will run counterpoint to the things her mom says and does which could be destructive. But ultimately, I have to let go in a way which doesn’t interfere with her mother’s role in her life. Remembering the other parent has a role to play takes away the stress of thinking I have to play every role and would fail at every role.
2. Remind Myself of the Things I Love to Do for Me
It’s can be easy to get wrapped up in all of the things you have going on in your life when you get divorced. There is a separation of property. You need to separate your living conditions. You have to arrange who has the kids and when. Your job changes because you need to have the flexibility to take care of your children. The changes come fast and furious, and each little change makes you a little more dead inside. So you need to be able to do something about those changes. And part of this is to rediscover one’s self.
That begins with remembering the things you liked about yourself before you were invested in the relationship in the first place. Honestly, part of the reason you may have split was that you lost too much of yourself to begin with. I agree that marriage is making two whole people into a whole new person. But if you lost yourself entirely at the start, what were you really contributing to your new whole? The only person contributing would be the other person as you lost yourself and sense of direction or purpose.
So I needed to remind myself how much I enjoyed reading and writing. I needed to remind myself of how much I loved the cinema and going to the movies. So much of myself I lost over the past several years, and I need to reinvest in myself. This begins with trying to do the things I love again and seeing what things give me energy and feed into myself as a person.
3. Exercise, Exercise, and Exercise
I know why, when they are going through difficulties in life, some people turn to drugs or alcohol. They do make you feel better for a time. Actually, they just make you a little nutty and you feel like your problems vanish away. Only then you discover the next morning all of your problems are still there with a few more problems besides all of that. It gets to be scary. And you feel overwhelmed.
Exercise releases positive endorphins. You will feel good about yourself and that all of the problems you have are manageable. I think this feeling that they are manageable instead of gone makes a big difference here. Because they never vanished, you don’t end up with the severe come down you have when you try to pretend they have gone away with alcohol or drugs. I am not anti-alcohol. I am just not for using alcohol as a cure-all for your feelings of being overwhelmed or feelings of depression.
So get your butt in gear and get off to the gym. You will feel better about yourself and your circumstances. And it’s your body’s natural defense mechanism for those kinds of feelings. And I am all for a natural cure as opposed to a drug.
4. Find Positive Things to Meditate On
You need to find things positive in your life from which to draw energy. Yes, your children can be those positive things. So you can do that. But I would think about all kinds of things you can be grateful for. Whether it’s work, family, presents, health, friends, inspiration, or the numerous positive things you have going on for you in your life. All of those things will help me get through the rough moments when the arguments come, or the doubt begins to set in. Spend at least 10 minutes a day reminding yourself of the good things in your life and things definitely will be better.
5. Eliminate Negative Energy From Your Life
There are things in your life which rob you of a positive sense of the world. So you should get rid of those things. I am not saying to focus on the positive and eliminate the negative from your life and thereby eliminate all rational thought. If you see yourself go in a bad direction as bad things happen to you, this does not mean to ignore the bad things and keep pushing on. What I do mean is that people have sources of bad feelings in their life which make them focus on the bad things instead of the positive things.
Whether it be people who remind you of all the bad in your life or it is an object which constantly reminds you of the failures of your past, you need to get rid of them. Sometimes they can be as innocuous as a pair of boots your partner gave you before splitting. If they feed into your negative image of yourself, you need to replace them. For me, this meant tossing out a pair of perfectly good boots and making sure I didn’t hold onto any of the stuff I directly associated with failure in my life.
This story was syndicated. Read David Elliott’s original post on The Single Dad’s Guide to Life.