Q. Newly divorced, I'm finding it hard to take advantage of my "free" time, when my kids are with my ex. How can I enjoy it more?
A. Saying goodbye to your children, even for a few days, is hard for any mom. It will take a while for you to accept that your kids are fine without you. Great weekends also require planning, especially for people who are divorced. Make a list of 10 things you'd like to do — including fun stuff, tasks you can't get done with the kids around, and helping others — and try to follow through on at least three things every weekend the kids are away. Get yourself on a schedule of well-being and stick with it until the good times catch up with you.
Q. My married friends no longer invite me out, and my single friends are busy. How do I rebuild my social life?
A. You've got to take the lead by inviting your married friends, along with other people, to your place for brunch or dinner, and by letting your single friends know that you're up for the movies, shopping, whatever. But you also need to branch out, which requires effort and involves risk at a time when you're likely feeling tired and vulnerable. Ask friends to introduce you to people they think you'd like. Join a volunteer organization or a book group — anything to put yourself out there while doing something you enjoy. It's hard work, but you'll soon have plenty of good company.
Working with Your Ex
Q. When the children spend the weekend with my ex-husband, his new wife lets them stay up late, eat junk food, and pretty much get away with everything. When they come back, they're cranky and out of control — and I'm angry.
A. You can't make the rules in your ex's home, but you can calmly spell out your concerns to him and ask him to work with you for the sake of the kids. And don't dis wife number two, which will only make him defensive. Instead, thank her for taking care of your kids and point out the things she does right before bringing up any problems. ("If the kids stay up late Saturday, it's hard to get them to bed on Sunday. Can you help me out?") You just might get the support you need, and the payoff will be huge.
Q. My ex almost always has his girlfriend sleep over when he has the kids, who are only 8 and 10. What can I do to make him stop?
A. This is a sensitive topic that requires a face-to-face meeting with him. Stay calm and rational, and start by affirming his right to date. Then explain why your children shouldn't be exposed to his personal life. Point out that they can quickly form attachments to girlfriends and feel hurt when they leave the scene, and that it's inappropriate for him to have sex when they're around, even behind closed doors. Share with him any comments the kids have made ("Mom, it's so weird when Dad and his girlfriend disappear into the bedroom"). Then ask him to stop inviting his girlfriend over when the kids are there. If he refuses, talk with his friends and ask them to speak up for you. If he won't change sufficiently and you feel it's in your kids' best interest, consult your lawyer about suspending his visitation rights.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.