15 Things Your Divorced Friends Want You To Know
We were all once like you. We once had a spouse and kids. We had a family. Maybe it was picture-perfect but was wrecked by an affair or betrayal. Maybe it was never as perfect behind closed doors as it looked on Instagram. Maybe it was always a hot mess and everyone knew it.
But, regardless, we had what you have, and now our family is no longer the same. It has changed. Our lives have changed.
One of the hardest things about joining the Divorced Wives Club is that it can be isolating. Whether our old friends just feel like they can’t relate, if they think divorce is contagious (it’s not), or if they think all newly single friends want their spouses (we don’t), many of our married friends seem to disappear.
I choose to think it’s just hard for some of our married friends to understand this new phase in our lives. Maybe they have questions they’re afraid will be uncomfortable for us to answer. Maybe they don’t understand why we’re only available at odd times (every other weekend we are all in, but the once-perfect Thursday nights are now out). Maybe they think they’re hurting us by talking about their husbands or being invited to family events.
Anyhow, I’m hoping this list may clear a few things up.
1. We are worried that our kids will be treated differently.
Our kids have been through a lot, and we know it. Many of us carry guilt about not making our relationship work, even if we did all that we could. We have to answer questions that our kids have, hear them complain about going back and forth between parents, and see them miss out on events because they are with the other parent on that weekend.
We, just like all parents, just want our kids to be healthy and happy.
Our kids know that a lot of their friends have parents who are married. They know they are different.
Anything you could do to include our children, to treat them as you did before the divorce, would be so appreciated by us.
2. Being divorced/separated is not the same thing as having a traveling spouse.
While I personally have had a traveling husband, and I know how difficult that is, it is not the same as being divorced or a single mom. If you happen to suggest as much or call yourself a “single mom” because your husband is gone for a few days or a week, just be aware that you are probably offending a single mom you know. I know you probably mean nothing by it, but while you may run the household alone, you do still have someone to do life with. True single moms do not.
That being said, I personally think that being a divorced mom holding down the fort at home is a bit easier than having a traveling husband in some ways. When I was married and my husband would come home on the weekends, he would kind of rock the boat of everything we had going on. Sleep schedules, routines, meals, etc. would be thrown out of whack. Also, I felt like I had to clean like a madwoman every Friday before he got home. AND I still missed out on some girls nights, etc. when he was traveling because a sitter was so expensive. So, while you aren’t a “single mom” while your man is out of town, that doesn’t mean that it is easy or that you have nothing to complain or be frustrated about. Just know that particular phrase tends to get under some single moms’ skin.
3. Unless you got married less than 5 years ago, your dating advice is old school. But we still love it when you try to talk dating with us.
We LOVE that you care about our dating life (if we are talking to you about it…unsolicited questions are not so welcome). It’s nice to have someone to talk to about that cute guy we met or the last date we went on. But wow! How times have changed! Not only is dating in general totally different with dating apps galore, but dating with kids is light-years different than dating without them.
Just remember, we are trying to figure out this new dating world too and may make some mistakes along the way. If you can just reserve a bit of judgment and try to be encouraging, that would be great! And, yes, we do appreciate all of your advice…we just might not take it.
Also, the phrase “I’m so glad I don’t have to date these days!” is probably meant as a way to relate, but it can kind of sting. Most of us aren’t exactly thrilled to have to go out into the dating world the second time around.
4. Complaining about your spouse to us may be a bad idea.
There are three types of divorced women:
TYPE ONE: The well-adjusted ones who are not bitter and who want to hear everything about your life. You can have an occasional vent session with these girls and they are not offended or bothered in the least (I fall under this category). But not every divorced woman is there yet.
TYPE TWO: The ones who are hurting. Complaining to these friends about your husband is like complaining about your kids or pregnancy to someone who just had a miscarriage or is dealing with infertility. Unless you know for sure your friend can handle your vent sesh, try to be sensitive to her feelings. While you may be pissed that your husband didn’t take out the trash last night, your divorced mom friend has been taking it out by herself every single time since her husband walked out.
TYPE THREE: The bitter ones. These should be easier to spot. If your friend is a little too gleeful of your irritation with your husband, and especially if she encourages separation or divorce, stay away from her. She is toxic to your marriage. A good friend (married or not) would suggest counseling or reconciliation if you are having issues. I personally hope my married friends have life-long and happy marriages! If your friend isn’t on your marriage’s team, drop them.
5. Please don’t leave us out now that we’re single.
We want to be invited on that girl’s trip or to the family cookout. We miss you. Our kids miss your kids.
I was so thankful for those friends who still invited me to things after I was divorced. A few of my friends truly made me feel as if nothing had changed. They still invited me to adult events where couples were, and to be honest, since the guys usually hang out with the guys and vice versa, I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. We were still invited to family parties and cookouts and events. They made me feel normal. They made my kids feel normal.
I also had other friends who no longer invited me. It was as if since I was a little different, I wasn’t welcome. Or maybe they thought that I would feel uncomfortable, so instead of leaving the decision of whether to attend up to me, they made the decision for me. Either way, it hurt. It made me feel weird, out of place, and alienated.
So, if you are on the fence about whether to invite us or not, please invite us. We’ll make an excuse if it feels too uncomfortable, but we will appreciate the invite all the same.
Oh, and another thing…if you go to church, invite us to sit beside you on Sunday. It can be weird to get used to sitting alone at a service where almost everyone seems to have someone with them.
6. We may have changed, but we still have things in common with you.
I know that having a husband is a big part of your life, and it used to be a big part of ours. But even though we no longer have that in common, we still have other things that we share with you.
After all, we still have kids and all that comes with that. Most of us probably originally became friends over our kids anyway…that’s what moms do.
Plus, even though we are no longer wives, we are still women. We still love neighborhood events, shopping, dancing, trying new restaurants, laughing over a glass of wine, girls trips, etc. Whatever we did with you before, we still love now! We can still be friends.
7. We try to make the most of our “free weekends.”
For those of us who have our children every other weekend, that time is precious to us! I know that I personally have my kids 80% of the time. That means that 80% of the time, I do it all. I don’t have anyone to pick up the slack or to pass the kids off to if I need a break. On the flipside, I’m totally alone 20% of the time. No kids. Not as many responsibilities So, in that 20% of the time, I try to do the majority of my socializing, dating, etc. as well as catch up on housework and my to-do list. There is nothing worse to me than a wasted “free” weekend. So, if you do have a weekend free when you would like to have some girl time: grab brunch, get a little pampering, etc., call up your divorced mom friend. If it is her free weekend, she would probably love nothing more than to have some time with you.
8. But when we are with our kids, we don’t want to leave them.
I cannot tell you how many times I have said no to a kid-free event on a weekday or a weekend when I have my kids. Yes, I need a break. Yes, the 12 days straight with my kids without having help can drive me insane. But I work full-time. I spend most of my evenings shuttling kids to afterschool activities. When I have time to spend with my kids, I want to hang out with them. I DO know I need time for myself and so once in awhile I will do something for me, but don’t get offended if I say no, even if I have someone to babysit.
The worst part of becoming a divorced mom is that almost every single MNO takes place on a Thursday, no matter what it is: Bunco, Book Clubs, Wine Nights, etc. It’s hard to justify getting a babysitter for a Thursday night when my kids are going to their dad’s for the weekend the next day.
9. Our kids are going to miss important events because they are with their dad, and we hate it.
My kids have missed out on a lot when they were with their dad. Even though he and I co-parent very well together, he lives three hours away. Which means that my girls miss a lot of birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates, and other events.
Our kids are sad to miss out and we are sad that they have to miss out. But don’t stop inviting them. They may be able to make it next time.
10. Our stress level is high.
Oh what I wouldn’t give sometimes to have someone to share the load with. If anything, I think I miss that the most.
Just someone who could watch the kids while I run to the store. Or who could unload the dishwasher. Or do the nighttime routine so I could just have a little break. Someone who could help with taking the kids to their afterschool activities. Someone who could be there with the kids so I could run out to a girls’ night without feeling guilty about it. Someone to share paying the bills. Someone to take over with discipline when I’m burned out. Someone to back me up when the kids want to keep arguing with me.
It is stressful doing it all on our own.
And on top of that, we are the breadwinner in our family. And we’re worried about our children’s well-being. And we’re trying to make sure our kid doesn’t miss out, because they already miss out on having both mom and dad there in their home together like all of their friends whose parents are still married have.
And if we’re dating too….oh boy. Have you seen the people on those dating apps? Remember how stressful and nervous you were to go on a date in college when all of your girlfriends were there helping you get ready and sharing in the experience with you?
Well, now it’s just as nerve-wracking, but you’re getting ready on your own, and most of your friends can’t really relate because they have been married for eons. Plus, if you end up going on a date when the kids are with you, you’re trying to get your kids settled with a sitter and battling “mama guilt” before you head out.
So yeah, it’s stressful. And it never ends.
11. We are exhausted.
I’m not 100% saying that I am “having a newborn at home” exhausted, but I’d say I’m pretty close to that most of the time.
Look at everything I listed in #10.
My days are spent:
– Getting kids up for school, packing my child’s Gluten-free & dairy free lunch, getting myself ready for work
– Going to work for 8 hours
– Rushing (always rushing) to pick up my kids from daycare and the sitter’s to get them to dance (one of them dances or tumbles every day).
– We get home. I cook dinner. Because not only is it expensive to eat out all the time (and out of budget), but my oldest can’t have gluten or dairy, so I have to make special meals for her.
– After dinner we: practice dance/stretch/sometimes watch a tv show/play basketball/walk to the park on our one early dance day.
– We do bedtime routine/devotion/prayer/my youngest begs me to sleep with her. I try not to fall asleep and give myself a time-limit on how long I will stay. I stay about 30 mins longer than I tell her I will. She still cries when I leave.
– I do dishes and laundry and clean if I can muster the energy. Or I fall asleep in bed with my clothes on. Or I have already fallen asleep in bed with my youngest and stumble to my bed in the middle of the night.
– I set my alarm to do the same thing the next day.
While not every divorced mom shares my exact schedule or circumstances, almost all of us have one thing in common: We are trying to be everything to everyone, while trying our best to support our kids and help them have the best childhood possible. All with no partner to help.
And, yes, those of us who have every other weekend off can sometimes catch up on sleep on that off weekend. But we’re also so busy making the most of the that time (we have so much to do to get caught up around the house) that if we DO catch up on sleep and rest, we are behind a day when the kids come back.
12. When the kids come back after a weekend with their dad, it’s hard.
So, picture what it’s like when the kids spend the weekend with Grandma and then you get them back. We all know about that “adjustment period” right? Well, for many of us divorced moms, we deal with that every other week.
When kids see dad only every other weekend, they tend to get a little spoiled at his house. I’m not faulting the dads for that. It’s just that…when you don’t have to actually be a parent to your child every single day, you can let things slide. You want to make the most of the time the child is with you, and you want for the visit to be a great experience. It makes sense, and I would probably feel the same way if I were in an “every other weekend” dad’s position.
My kids definitely have different rules at their dad’s. There’s more candy and sweets, a lot more screen time, and no responsibilities. My youngest sleeps with her dad (she is very cuddly), which makes it SUPER fun when she comes home and wants me to lay with her until she falls asleep.
Very doable two weekends a month. Not practical or feasible when I have to use the time after the kids are in bed to get the house in order.
13. We are on a tight budget.
No matter what kind of lifestyle we had when we were married, no matter whether we have gone back to work or if we get child support, we are probably on a tighter budget than we were when we were married.
I had a sweet friend once who was trying to help me house hunt. She told me that the house down the street from her (in our old neighborhood) was for sale. While I could have afforded that house when I was married (and I do receive child support and have a great job), I couldn’t move into the same type of house that I’d had before my divorce. Some may be able to fund a similar lifestyle, but most of us have had our budget take a bit of a hit.
14. We can do it all (almost). But sometimes we do need some help.
We are strong. We can do almost anything.
Since my divorce, I have learned to kill bugs, conquered my fear of being in a house alone, started paying all the bills by myself, taken up every household chore…
But when you or your kids are sick with something major, you never wish you were still married more.
When I had the flu, my friends dropped off soup, crackers, tea, and medicine to me. When my daughter had the stomach bug and I couldn’t leave, my friends dropped off Gatorade, Pedialyte, and saltines. While we don’t want to be pitied, and we can do a lot on our own, there are just some times when we need some help.
There are also some household issues that I can’t tackle alone. A friend sent her husband to help me hang a light in my house. My brother-in-law checked out my car when it was acting funny to see what was wrong. My dad and boyfriend helped me put the furniture together in my house. Even though we have to do almost everything alone, it is nice to have a little help when we need it.
15. Please don’t trash our ex-spouse or get involved in the drama of our divorce.
We all have our moments when we want to vent about our ex, but it isn’t healthy for us to dwell on the past or on his bad traits.
I know you may have things you want to say about our former spouse, especially if you didn’t like him or the way he treated us, but please don’t use our time hanging out as a trash session. Also, please never say anything negative about our child’s dad in front of the children! After all, no matter what you think of him, he is still the father of his children, and they love him. They don’t need to know everything their father has done wrong, just as we don’t want them to know everything that we could have done differently.
If you get too involved in the divorce drama, you aren’t going to be able to be supportive of a healthy co-parenting relationship (which is best for the children and all involved). Your negative behavior could even cause us issues in court as most custody agreements include a clause about disparaging remarks made about either parent in front of the children.
Instead of bashing, keep our mindset positive and help us find solutions to our problems. Encourage us to make some time for us (maybe even offer to watch the kids for a bit so we can relax). Remind us to keep our eye on the prize of a healthy co-parenting relationship so our kids can be healthy and happy! That is what we really need…even if we don’t realize it!
As an added bonus, if you don’t get overly involved in the negativity, you can treat our ex kindly if you see him at a band concert or dance recital without feeling weird and awkward, which is a win-win!
Even though some things in our lives have changed, your friendship is still valuable to us. Don’t give up on our friendship or shy away just because you don’t understand exactly what our lives are like now. I hope this post helps those married mamas who are having a difficult time relating to their newly divorced friends, but if you are having a hard time connecting to an old friend who has gone through this huge life change, just ask her about her life now. She may be dealing with the same things as me, or she may have other challenges, but either way, the path to understanding begins with open dialogue.
I’d like to thank those friends of mine who have been there for me through all of the changes in my life, who have never ceased to include me, and who always made my kids and I feel like part of the group. I love you.
Originally published in Scary Mommy 5.10.19