Elizabeth Kuster, author of Exorcising Your Ex, gives newly single moms tips for a successful split.
Divorce is especially difficult for moms, because they usually can't make a clean break even if they want to. If your ex is going to remain part of your child's life at all, you're going to have to see his stupid face sometimes. Here are three ways to ease your pain:
- If your ex is your child's father, don't talk badly about him in front of your child. "Kids are a product of both their parents," Elizabeth Kuster says. "If you call your child's father a cheating, no-good bastard (or whatever), your child could very well interpret that to mean that part of him/her is bad, too. That could destroy your child's self-esteem. It will also put your child in the middle, and kids shouldn't have to 'play favorites.'"
- Resist the urge to have your ex stay over "like old times." "Yes, divorce is a slow process, especially when custody issues are involved," Kuster notes. "As time goes on, your hormones and/or loneliness may make sex-with-your-ex very tempting, especially if you didn't want the split in the first place. But if your kids see Daddy making coffee in the morning (or run into him in the bathroom in the middle of the night), they're going to be very confused. They'll assume you've gotten back together; when they find out that's not the case, they'll be crushed. They'll also find it harder to trust you and what you say in the future. It's not fair to put them on that emotional rollercoaster. It won't be easy, but you can develop a platonic relationship with your child's father. Set that boundary, stick to it no matter what, and eventually you'll both move on."
- Don't reconcile "for the kids' sake." "Children are extremely sensitive," says Kuster. "They may not know what exactly is going on or be able to verbalize their feelings about it, but they can tell when a home is filled with tension, resentment, anger, apathy, and/or sadness -- and they'll be adversely affected by it. The fact is, if you're unhappy, your home will be unhappy and, ultimately, your kids will be unhappy. So get over your guilt and stop thinking that sacrificing your own happiness by staying in a bad relationship will be 'better' for the kids. This is one of those times in life that you need to put yourself first for the good of all (kind of like how airlines instruct you to put on your oxygen mask before your child's). It's not selfish!"
For those divorced and separated mothers out there, what's your post-breakup advice to other moms?