Cut Yourself Some Slack -- but Don't Drop the Reins
When my kids and I first moved into our own place, it soon started to resemble a really nice frat house. We'd stay up late watching videos and fall asleep in my bed. We'd eat microwave popcorn and cereal for dinner. Without another grown-up in the house, I realized that it was easier to slide down to my children's level than lift them up to mine. It wasn't long before I realized that this was no way to live -- we needed some order in the house. "Newly divorced and single moms and dads do have to be kind to themselves and allow for less structure, but you can't let it all go and turn into a roommate instead of a parent," says Neuman.
I saw it as a balancing act. I didn't have the time or energy to stress over some of the finer points of household management like I did when there was another adult helping out -- but at the same time, my kids needed structure and the sense of security it provides, now more than ever. So I began to really focus on figuring out what mattered and what didn't. Forget organized closets, spotless bathrooms, and ironing. Try to say yes to serving nutritious family dinners, scheduling regular bedtimes, and being prompt for pickups and drop-offs. For a while, it was overwhelming, but we eventually created chaos lite.
Finally, Become a Crazy Optimist
No matter what the latest study said about the damaging effects of a broken home, I tried to remember that my boys and I were much more than a statistic -- and that our home wasn't broken. "Children grow up fine as long as parents love them and raise them thoughtfully," says Dr. Bartell. "You need to be optimistic."
After being a single mom for three years, I discovered things about myself I'd never had the opportunity to find out when I was married: I was independent and accomplished, and I was able to run a household, bring home a paycheck, and take excellent care of my kids. My children learned just how much we all have to depend on each other -- and on others -- to function as a family. As a result, they became more responsible and empathetic. And my ex-husband? Dear reader, I remarried him, and we now have two more kids together. I didn't set out to achieve this particular happy ending, and I know that it might sound strange. But my husband and I needed to go out into the world and learn some life lessons. Once we learned to do it alone, we were ready to do it together -- again.