I broke up with my daughter’s father six months ago. She is 6. I am at a loss on how to do this myself. I have no one to ask for help. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do. What’s good ex-etiquette?
First, good for you for reaching out. Adjusting to raising a child by yourself after a breakup is a huge undertaking. The breakup is devastating, but then having to put on a happy face for your child when you feel like you just want to check out deserves an Academy Award. I bet you feel overwhelmed. We have all been there; I know I have.
Considering how down you feel, this may sound like a silly suggestion, but I’m going to refer you to the Ten Rules of Good Ex-etiquette for Parents. I thought long and hard about the most common pitfalls parents face when compiling the list and included, “Ask for help, if you need it” as the second rule for a good reason. (The primary rule is “Put your children first.”)
Parents in your position need help and after the craziness of a breakup often have no idea where to turn. They agonize, like you. They feel overwhelmed, like you. So the most logical place to look for help is the last place they look: their child’s other parent.
It sounds illogical, I know, to reach out to someone from whom you are trying to break away. Some even feel this attitude postpones your period of adjustment, and for some it probably does. But your responsibility as parents doesn’t stop because you broke up.
When it comes to your child, it’s his responsibility to help you, just like it’s your responsibility to help him because together you brought a child into this world. Even though you have broken up, your daughter deserves both of her parents all the time, not just on “your time” and “his time.”
That said, it’s also healthy — and imperative — to work on your independence and build a new support system. Here are a few places to look:
— Your child’s school: Your daughter’s teacher may know of other parents in your position that need help. Carpool, start a babysitting coop.
— Most churches and temples have divorce recovery programs that offer support and are great places to network.
— Friends and relatives: Personally, my best friend knew what I was going through and stepped up. I will never forget it. I met her because our daughters were in the same class in kindergarten. Those daughters are now 27. Many build lifelong relationships with the parents of their children’s friends. These people understand the need for help, and you can offer it to them as well. Stepping outside of yourself to offer others help is often a great source of healing.
— Online: Bonusfamilies, as well as other organizations offer online communities where you can vent and ask for direction. Look for the Bonusfamilies or Ex-etiquette page on Facebook for starters.
— Think outside of the box: Strangely enough, as time went on I cultivated a friendship with my bonuskids’ mother and we became each other’s primary go-to person when we needed help.
I know it feels dark now, but time does heal. One foot in front of the other. That’s good ex-etiquette.