The Life of a Divorced Parent

It is very difficult for a divorced parent to wake up in the morning to an empty house. As parents, we spend most of our lives complaining about all the hard work, the lack of sleep, the lack of peace and quiet, the problems, the multi-tasking… But not a single one of us would have it any other way.

A parent’s decision to divorce is one that is usually made over a period of years and one that is not made lightly at all. There are many repercussions to “ending” a relationship; one is that it never really ends when children are involved. More importantly, one’s children are directly affected by the divorce of their parents. While weighing the pros and cons of divorce, the best one can do is put the children’s interests above one’s own. Many people come to the realization that their children will suffer more from their parents’ unhealthy marital relationship or from living with unhappy parents than they would suffer from their divorce.

That does not mean there isn’t any suffering involved. It is DAMNED difficult afterwards.

Divorced parents watch their children hop between parents’ homes on a weekly basis. It is destabilizing for the children and destabilizing for the parents. Eventually a routine is found, but that doesn’t mean the struggle ends.

There’s nothing like a home full of rowdy children suddenly growing lifeless by their absence. It’s nice only when the parent knows it’s temporary, like when the kids are out with friends or at school. As long as you know they will be back, it’s all right to relish in some down time. But once this becomes a more permanent condition, it’s painful. In a parent’s mind, the only thing that makes a home a home is the presence of their children in it.

Most difficult are the decisions divorced parents need to make to prioritize their children’s needs when the results of those decisions directly clash with the parent’s needs. A parent needs his/her children to live with him/her. It’s not only that the children need both parents. The need is mutual. But just as children need both their parents, they also need routine and a stable life. This most frequently means they will end up spending more time with one parent as opposed to the other.

That other parent suffers. It’s miserable. The home is no longer a home. The noises one has become accustomed to that indicate life are no longer present. The constant nagging and yelling and fighting and laughing and not-doing-what-you’re-supposed-to-be-doing is no longer there. There is a huge emptiness. The house is clean. The toilet is always flushed and there’s no pee on the toilet seat. The beds are made. The kitchen is spotless. It’s miserable. No parent should have to experience that. Divorced parents do. And they have to convince themselves that their child’s need for stability is more important than the parent’s need for their child to be with them always.

I’ve never felt our decision to divorce was a wrong decision. In our case and in the case of countless other couples it was the better of the bad options we had. This blog post is not an open invitation to some of you cruel people out there to give me a lecture on the evils of divorce. Anyone who divorces knows there are evils. But we also know that sometimes staying together is worse than being apart. No. This blog post is about sharing the post-divorce experience. People don’t talk enough about the things they go through. Sometimes knowing what to expect prepares you for the difficult times. Sometimes knowing that other people are feeling what you feel makes the hard times just that tiny little bit easier. Being a child of divorce sucks. I know this from my own experience as a child of divorce. Being a divorced parent sucks as well. This blog post is dedicated to both my parents. I understand your hardships. This blog post is dedicated to all those divorced parents out there trying to do the best they can for their children even when that means it’s not necessarily the best thing for themselves.

 

15 comments

  1. Respect Nadia!
    Looking forward to learning more about this.
    But I’d like to understand more about divorce itself, how it becomes the best of bad options over the years, from your own experience as a child and as a spouse, in order for some of us to avoid doing things that eventually lead us down that road.
    P.S I love your courage

  2. I hope that much much kheir and comfort is bestowed on you and your four children.

    Difficulties are usually there and possible for different people in various cases; and those who judge others arrogantly and ignorantly are so so wrong because they can never realize the difficulties that the others who are being judged are going through.

  3. Thanks Nadia for reminding me that the struggle for a clean tidy quiet house with the kids, is a gift in itself.
    It is said that couples planning for divorce know well what they are going to get rid of, but they probably don’t know what is waiting for them. I wish such couples would read your articles then re-weigh the pros and cons of divorce.

  4. Nadia,

    This really hit home with me – at first the sight of my son’s empty bedroom would fill me with sorrow, with time I have managed to file this feeling away somewhere. I try to look at it from his perspective rather than my own, I know he needs time with his father’s family as much as he needs to be with me – and so it gets somewhat easier. My greatest fear is that he feels unwanted, or that he doesn’t belong.

    1. I truly don’t know. I recall hearing a few years ago that a friend of mine was trying to put such a group together. But I’m unsure if she succeeded. Not knowing if there is such support available, what I can suggest is that divorced men and women (after all, it’s not only the women that need support) speak with friends who can help. I’m certainly available if people think I can help. Just email me and I’ll do my best. I’m no expert or professional, but I have some experience and I’ve spoken with others who have been through the divorce experience.

      1. Thank you for your willingness to help🙂 I can’t find your email address unfortunately.
        Yes, it’s essential to have such groups in Egypt.
        It’s a devastating experience although taking the decision to end the marriage, preserving myself of getting sick. After divorce feelings are frightening; disappointment, confusion, uncertainty of what to expect in the future. Realizing that the long invested years to save the most important project in live, was a waste of precious time.
        Finding myself and liking to be with myself, is your advice. The dilemma here is that I can’t even think anymore what I want and who I am, due to many years of self-denial. As if my brain is shallow, focusing on the kids wellbeing, who are by the way adolescents now.
        To endure the divorcing phase & to ensure a living, I pursued a career change to be totally busy and focused on a positive target “success”. Realized lately that this technique of distraction is still not helping, and it further is absorbing my energy and spirit.
        Friends are God blessing, but lately talking to them irritates me😦 although they only mean the very best, constantly trying to ensure that everything will be better as soon as everything is settled & that I will find the right guy who will appreciate me (I despise men lately), sorry to comment on their behavior, for me it’s childish and naïve. In addition they try to make me get out and meet them, don’t have the energy and will for that.
        How can I find myself, the desire & purpose in life?

      2. Dear Nada,

        I can absolutely relate. There is no quick-fix solution to what you’re going through. And there’s no recipe for it either. We all need to go through our own processes to figure out what’s best for us. Most Egyptian women go from their father’s house to their husband’s house. Once married, they immediately get into the child-bearing years and are completely encompassed with taking care of the family. Even if the mother is working she barely has enough time to figure things out. Life becomes a hamster wheel. The result for so many of us is that we lose ourselves. Or we never get to know ourselves to begin with. We’re always somewhere in the shadow of a man. So we don’t know who we are as individual women. And this is what you need to figure out. And how you get there is a long and difficult process. Personally, I’m still working on it. And I’ve pretty much figured out that I’ll continue to learn about myself till the day I die. You know the biggest challenge? It’s finding an inner peace that allows you to go through this process without the anger and resentment. Once you are past the anger and resentment that’s when the real journey can start.

        If you need to email me: nadia dot elawady at wcsj2011 dot org. I’ll then reply to you from my personal email. Ya ahlan beeki anytime.

  5. Thank you very much🙂 for everything, you understood and felt my pain. Your explanation is perfect, I will do my best to work on it.
    Once again thank you for your tremendous help, & please bear me when you find an e-mail from me as this means that I’m distressed and can’t handle things by my own.

  6. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Especially in a culture that discourages talking about such issues and makes woman think that being divorced is something to be ashamed of.

    It is surprising all the feelings and facts I learned through divorce and custody issues that I wished people who have gone through the same would have shared. Maybe it would have made me expect what is to come. Like you, if I would turn back the time I would still make the divorce decision. I am even more sure of it now through the pain than back then.

    Hope you’re adapting better. I am still in the beginning and my biggest struggle is that my child has been my only source of happiness for the past 3 years, it’s really hard to get back to discover who I am and what I want to do with my life without having him with me all the time.

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