Last year, my ex took his sabbatical in Turkey. After returning, it was clear that he would eventually move back to our area. How and when that would happen, not so clear.
After taking a deep breath, my head started spinning in all sorts of directions on how to absorb and process that information. How would this affect our daughter Mina? How would I be able to do it all? How would visitation work? The list kept spiraling.
What I didn’t expect was his request to reduce his parenting time with Mina because he didn’t think it would be fair for her to get used to having him around. Huh?
I somehow couldn’t wrap my head around that one. His next move could be 1-5 years in the future. I would have thought that there would be a request for more time, not less, in order to create a strong enough bond to withstand the distance.
Preparing For Fulltime Single Parenting:
The experience from last year's sabbatical prepared me for this eventuality. I recognized that I needed to create a support system of friends and daycare, and scheduled rest time for me to recharge. I made a list and began reaching out to friends to see how they could support me when or if this transition happened. The support was overwhelming. So many offered to take Mina one night a month so that I could have time for myself. “We will help you and Mina” was their mantra, "don’t worry!"
Next, I went down and signed Mina up for the aftercare program at her school. It is affordable and available on a drop-in basis. I only paid for what I needed. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have that opportunity. I had regretted not doing it last year during the sabbatical and became exhausted trying to balance work duties within the confines of a school day.
The more I did after that conversation to proactively lay the groundwork for the future, the more relaxed I became. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but at least I was working on a plan to help me.
Prepared My Child For Less Time With Her Dad:
The hardest part for me was bringing up the conversation with Mina that her dad wanted to reduce his parenting time with her this year. How do you do that without it coming across that her dad didn’t want to see her? I really struggled with it and avoided the conversation until the last possible moment. Through emails, I had proposed a schedule to her dad for the upcoming year. His counter proposition eliminated four nights a month.
I decided to put the times down on a visual calendar for her to look at objectively. The more I made it objective and tangible, the less it became emotional. I calmly told her that we needed to take the time to go over time with her dad this year. She asked about my proposed schedule, then his, and sat looking at the calendar. Because I was able to distance the conversation from the emotional element, she was able to think about what she needed. After a few minutes, she came up with her own counter offer; she accepted the reduction of time during the week, but still needed her Sundays with her dad.
I felt that was a fair compromise and emailed it off to him. Her compromise was not accepted. I asked her how she felt about it. She just sort of looked away and said, “Mama, I don’t want to talk about it now. Can we talk of happy things instead?”
It will be hard for the little one as she tries to wrap her head around this new arrangement, but she has a lot of support and love around her to help her through.
What I do know is that being proactive and not reactive helped to ease the stress and pressure from my shoulders. Focusing on what fun stuff she will do with her friends at the different aftercare programs helped to ease into the transition. It won’t be easy, but having a plan of action brings comfort, knowing that we will all figure out a way to be OK.
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