Part-Time Single Parenting
Incredibly, this week it has been a whole year since I left my wife and I can finally say that time is a great healer. I can now really see the highs and lows of the situation which were difficult to judge as I tried to find my way through the absolute hell that is the end of a relationship, moving house, learning a new job and getting used to not seeing my girls every day.
In the first few months, it didn’t seem real. I had moved out for some breathing space, a chance to give our relationship the room it needed to get back on track and heal. With my parents moving back from France, there would be opportunities to go on dates together and rekindle the romance we’d lost.
But it didn’t happen. My new job turned out to be a LOT more stressful and difficult than I’d anticipated when they’d sold it to me. Furnishing a house virtually from scratch with minimal money meant there was nothing spare for enjoyment. Living 3 miles away from the children’s school meant a lot more time as a taxi service. And I was still having to keep the split a secret from everybody apart from my family. It turned out just trying to breathe was a challenge full stop, without trying to inject romance into my life.
Then Christmas came. How were we going to manage that first Christmas as a split family? Neither of us wanted to miss the early morning magic of the girls discovering their filled stockings. So we compromised and I stayed over, snuggling up to Bear in her bed on Christmas Eve.
As Christmases go, it wasn’t enjoyable. It was lovely to see the girls so excited and happy but the strain of maintaining a happy facade for the entire day made my heart ache. Once the girls were in bed, I decided it was time to leave. This was not the plan (although there had never really been one for this point in the day) and resulted in another nasty, vicious row. I drove off, sobbing and parked along the seafront until I could compose myself enough to join in the festivities with my family without spoiling it for them. And from the moment I walked through my mum’s door, I knew my marriage was completely over. I will never forget that realisation and how completely shattered it made me feel. Even now, reflecting back, it makes my eyes fill with tears.
My first niece arrived with the new year and despite my incredible joy for my sister, I was hurting harder than I ever thought it was possible to. I spent an inordinate amount of time on my own and truly wished for an end to it all. I couldn’t face returning to work; I couldn’t face the world. But I did. Somehow, just having the children to focus on saw me through the darkest days of my life. I made the decision to leave my job as it was leeching energy from my limited reserves and began to plan starting my own business. It was many months before I could actually leave but, on reflection this was no bad thing.
Gradually, as the months continued, I began to appreciate some of the more positive sides of shared parenting. I was able to go away for a friend’s hen weekend as it fell on one of the weekends I didn’t have the girls. I had them there for my birthday and most of the next day, but then they went back to their mum’s and I went out with my friends and sisters and had a wonderful night, made better by the knowledge that I would be able to nurse my hangover alone in bed the next day without children to worry about.
I got to be an adult again.
Even better, the days spent with the girls were all about them. Shopping and chores could be done while they were away so that we could indulge in wonderful quality time together. For the most part, my work hours were flexible, so I worked longer on the days I didn’t have the girls and finished earlier when I did. And the best part? I got to choose what we did together, how we spent our money and where to go. No deferring to a partner who generally didn’t want to spent money or go certain places or spend time with my family.
My parents got to be grandparents without having to negotiate a reluctant daughter-in-law. As the summer arrived, we hung out on the beach, had picnics and ice creams and big family get togethers. I took the girls for a mini-break to Chessington when a school inset day fell on a Friday and we went camping together. The darkness of those early days were turning into a distant memory.
To complement all of this, I started to make new friends, who I could spend time with on my days without the children. It took the edge off the emotions I felt dropping the girls back at their mums and gave me something to look forward to. And I really, truly started to have fun. The smiles on my face were genuine even if the girls weren’t with me. I was rediscovering myself, with the overwhelming confidence of age and experience, and a strength I didn’t know I possessed making it an even more enjoyable process.
In September, I started my own business as a virtual PA. I’d spent months researching it and saving for it and was ready to go after a short break in France with the girls, my sister and niece. I had my first client and a chance meeting with a family friend may have given me a second (watch this space…). It’s a very slow burn and I’m not really earning yet, but it’s incredibly liberating working for myself, making my own choices and having the freedom and flexibility to choose the hours that work for me. With Bear only starting school full time last week, it has meant I’ve been able to enjoy those last few days of her babyhood without having to request time off with an employer. It means we can go to my sister’s wedding in Ireland and stay for a few days into half term with the only necessary negotiations being with my ex.
I can see a future for myself, for me and my girls and it’s bigger and brighter than I ever thought possible.
Of all the lessons I’ve learnt in this past year, it is never to settle for anything less than wonderful, to embrace the positives of life and not dwell on the negatives – or at least try to find the funny side. And to enjoy every moment. My kids are the most precious thing in my life, but when they’re with their mum, I’m the most important thing in my life (although I don’t forget about them for even a second, always wondering what they’re up to).
Life is good.