Revitalize Your Relationships: Rebuilding Life As A Single Parent
How often do you hesitate over whether or not to accept an invitation to a dinner party, for fear that your ex will also be there – with their new partner?

Have you started avoiding your family because they all seem to have nothing better to do than give you advice on how to get your relationship back on track, or how to get a new partner?

Do you feel the weight of society’s judgment on you when you are unable to get to your kids’ sporting matches or rush around the shops with your tired, whiny kids in tow?

Becoming single again after having children tends to have impacts on your life that it is impossible to foresee. Once your life revolved around the concept of you as part of a couple; now you need to learn to unravel the threads which connected you to your ex, while still somehow maintaining your connection to your support network.

Not an easy challenge.

Let’s look at some tips to help you navigate those tricky social waters and get back on top of your social life.

1. Ask and Enable

If you’re feeling nervous about a social situation, speak up. Ask your host if your ex will be present and if so, how intimate the gathering is likely to be. If you simply can’t be present if your ex is there, be clear about this to your host, and explain that you really want to maintain your connection with your friend, so perhaps the two of you could arrange another opportunity to get together later on.

If you demand that your friends take sides, you will lose some of them, not only because they feel obliged to prioritize your ex, but also because you are putting pressure on them to be drawn further into your business than they feel comfortable with – which might push them away from you.

2. Speak up for yourself

If your friends or family members are putting pressure on you to reconcile with your ex or find another partner quickly – especially if they are playing the guilt card and telling you that your child needs another parental figure – you need to take them on. Well-meaning people might misinterpret your situation, and they will give advice based on their flawed understanding.

In cases like this, you are better off trying to help them to understand, rather than to allow them to hurt you. I you need supportive words or deeds, such as sympathetic listening without advice, ask for it specifically. They love you; they want to help you, so help them to give you what you need.

Other people who throw advice your way might have lived through difficult relationships. They’ll say, “It didn’t hurt me so you should toughen up.” If you know that certain people will never understand or sympathize with your situation fully, there is no point trying to convince them. Instead, simply distance yourself from them or, if that’s not possible, then nod, smile, agree, change the subject and ignore their advice completely.

3. Be comfortable being single at home

Cooking for one adult instead of two, spending the evenings at home alone once the kids are asleep, going to bed alone – these every day activities scream to you how much has changed in your life. You need to learn to be comfortable in your own company again. Rediscover your likes and dislikes and be completely selfish for a while.

Think consciously as you go about your daily life about the opportunities you now have to do things differently. Perhaps you can make some changes in the garden or rearrange the furniture in your living room – this can be surprisingly therapeutic and give you a real lift in mood. At all times, focus on what you can do rather than what you have lost.

4. Be comfortable being single in company

Being single when you go out is confronting. Suddenly you don’t have an ally at a party where you don’t know anyone. You have to remember how to approach people and strike up conversations. Every time you see someone you know you have to brace yourself for the inevitable questions about your ex and your life together.

Fortunately, most newly-single parents are not approaching these social situations completely inexperienced. Most of us were single in company once upon a time. You need to dust off those skills and put them to use once more.

If it makes it easier, practise what you will say if anyone asks you about your partner. Rehearsing will help you not to vent about the past. If you can be confident and clear in your message, you will leave the other person in a comfortable position to continue the conversation, and you will be able to focus on the present and future rather than remaining stuck in the past.

5. Change your perspective

Single parents are incredibly hard on themselves. We constantly feel as if society is judging us for the poor job we are doing, whether at the school gate or in the supermarket.

But unless we are incredibly unlucky, these feelings are usually coming from inside ourselves, rather than from external passersby. We are the ones judging us, not the checkout lady or the other mothers at the gate.

As a single parent, you are doing the job of two people. If you get your children to school more or less on time, you are already exceeding the workload of half the other parents at that school gate. If you get your groceries bought and manage to wrangle them and your kids around the shops, back into the car and safely back home to dinner and bed, with no casualties, then you have done something significant.

You need to give yourself the credit you deserve and look at your achievements with an approving eye rather than a critical one. A little change of perspective can work wonders for your self-confidence.

Emily is a consultant to parents, businesses and schools. She helps parents understand scientific information and expert opinions on various parenting topics, to help them make the best decisions they can. She helps businesses understand the value of their parent workforce and parent customers and helps them to make their businesses more parent-friendly. She also works with schools to improve parent-school relationships.

Emily’s podcast, Parents in the Know, is available on iTunes, Stitcher and through her website, www.emilymmorgan.com, along with other great resources and books for parents.