Single Parenthood After Divorce: It Gets Easier

single parent
Emily and Kevin address difficulties of single parenthood and give some solutions to make single parenthood easier.
August 25, 2013

Recording: Divorce Talk Radio does not give therapeutic advice. The topics discussed are for informational purposes only. If you are in need of therapy or counseling, please consult a licensed professional in your own state.


Emily: Welcome to this episode of Moving Forward. I am your host Emily McGrath and our co-host, Kevin McCarthy is here with us. Hi, Kevin.


Kevin: Emily. How are you and how have you been?


Emily: I am doing fabulous. How are you?


Kevin: We’re hanging in there, doing fine. You know, of course in life we all have our problems that come up at us no matter if or out of the divorce, so my car is acting up now. So, we got to take care of our dear old Betsy.


Emily: Oh, poor Betsy.


Kevin: Yeah, so . . .


Emily: Well, hopefully you can tend to that and take care of her.


Kevin: Right, and thank you for having me here.


Emily: Oh, absolutely.


Kevin: I really appreciate it.


Emily: Thank you for being here. Today’s topic that we’re talking about is single parenthood which I know first and foremost.


Kevin: You certainly do.


Emily: Very well. I’ve been doing for the last three years. So, depending on the age of the child can depend on the transition period and how difficult it is on the individual parents and the actual child. My son was only one and a half, two years. He had no idea what was going on.


Kevin: So, this was when the divorce first came about, the papers were filed type of thing?


Emily: Yes and he just kind of went along. I mean, with any young child just goes along with what the parent says.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: The child doesn’t have a choice and I think with that transition it was harder on myself and my former spouse at the time because you’re used to having that other parent there to kind of fill in when you want to get something done in the house or when you want to run a quick errand and not take the child with you. Having a baby is a lot of work and it takes a lot to get the child out and about and run your errands, so then when you go from having that and then you’re living on your own and you’re being a single mom or a dad that’s a huge change.


Kevin: It really is.


Emily: You have to really rethink when you go on your errands. I prefer personally not to take my child with me to go grocery shopping. It’s a lot easier in my mind to not have him with me and I would prefer to use that time other with him, whether it be playing outside or just playing a game, not going to the grocery store.


Kevin: Well, sometimes of course you have to.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: But, the whole purpose of course you know, being married is that you have that spouse. You have the second person, so we all know what kids like to do when they go into the store. Mommy, daddy I want this and I want this and I want this.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: And are we there yet?


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: By the way, I could tell you it even goes through their teenage years. Dad are we there yet?


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: So, that never ends or I shouldn’t say never ends. That would keep going for a while, but it is nice to have the spouse with you too.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: Where in this case he would stay home, watch your son.


Emily: Or vice versa.


Kevin: Then you go out and do the errands.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Or vice versa.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Absolutely.


Emily: Then with single parenthood you don’t have that option unless you change your schedule and do it when the child’s with their other parent with their visitation time. That’s an option which I choose to do.


Kevin: I guess in your case Emily, your child was small.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: Mine were in their early twenties when my divorce happened.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: There are some similarities which I’m sure we’ll discuss as we keep going, but in your case though and mine we didn’t have the babysitter, we didn’t have who’s going to be watching the kids today as opposed to someone who is a future single mom and someone who needs someone. That’s where the parents come in at or your parents, friends, your siblings. They all become more part of the child.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: This is where you have to adjust your schedule to meet their schedule so they could watch in this case your son.


Emily: Exactly. Otherwise, I would go when he’s with his dad.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: That would be another option which I prefer to do because it’s just easier. I go in and get what I need and I go home.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: You know, it’s that much easier. It’s not like you have, “Oh, mommy I want this, I want that, I want a treat.”


Kevin: Plus it’s a little time for yourself to get your thoughts together, so mom needs her time and still dealing with the divorce and even the post part of the divorce on how taking care of the children.


Emily: Right and another thing that comes up is that you don’t have someone to back you up whether it be with a tantrum or an argument that comes up between you and the child or bedtime. Bedtime is a huge thing with me right now and my son is not wanting to go to bed. I find him being up until 10:30 sometimes.


He’s only five. There’s no reason he should be up at 10:30, so right now with being a single mom I don’t have that back up that says, “Okay, it’s time to go to bed, you heard your mom it’s time to go.”


Kevin: Yeah, “Son, get in the covers we’ll be in there to tuck you in in five minutes,” whatever the case is.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Well, yes.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: That can be a problem.


Emily: It’s difficult especially when you’re tired, you’ve worked all day and that’s another thing. Your schedule changes.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: I was only working part-time before the divorce. I ended up having to get a full-time job so I would have benefits and have the amount of money to support us, so that’s a change. My son had to start being in daycare full-time when he was with me which is a big change as well.


Kevin: Daycare.


Emily: Daycare, yes. He was in daycare for a little bit when I was working part-time, but he was mainly with his dad or myself, so that was also kind of like a mental check on myself.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: I didn’t really think a whole lot about it because I knew what I had to do, but still it’s like, okay I’m losing that time with my son, so I need to make the time that I have with him count and be a good time not arguing over bedtime or having tantrums over something that he wanted that he wasn’t going to get. That was another challenge as having single parenthood.


Kevin: So, I guess at this point to get your son into bed I’m sure during these past two to three years since the divorce started and now of course it’s been over for a while you had to sort of try to figure out okay, how do I get him to bed if he’s just not pooped out for the whole day.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: So, you’re experimenting trying to come up with a couple of different solutions.


Emily: Yes, and actually it’s kind of strange because it’s only come up the last couple of months.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: I haven’t had problems the whole time. It’s just like, the last couple months.


Kevin: I wonder if age could be a factor in it? Maybe he’s meeting some more friends I guess when he goes out.


Emily: Well, I think some of it is the daytime change.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: We used to go to bed at 7:30 now its 8:00.


Kevin: Well, the sun is still up.


Emily: And the sun is still up.


Kevin: During the summer.


Emily: He doesn’t want to go to bed, but the sun goes down about 9:00 so I don’t understand why he’s still feeling the need to be until 10:30. So, I have tried a couple of different techniques. I’ve tried massage and aromatherapy just to calm his body down.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: Sometimes I think their little bodies are like sponges. They just take it all in then they don’t crash.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: He’s just sucking it all up and with having the transition of coming from dad’s house maybe and just excitement of being back at home and wanting to be with me.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: So, I’m wanting to take some more time with him and just calm him down and have some personal time with just me whether it be reading books and sometimes that helps. Reading books.


Kevin: I was going to just bring that up. How are the books? Do you sit with him?


Emily: Sometimes.


Kevin: Lay with him in bed or something?


Emily: Well, he has a toddler bed.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: It’s not huge. We sit on the couch and read.


Kevin: Nice. I like that.


Emily: He has his little blankie and what we call bear. It’s his like, little lovies.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: So, it’s snuggle time. That’s when I try and calm him down, but sometimes that doesn’t work. Sometimes he’s still crazy and just can’t get things to settle down. That’s why I thought okay, well maybe massage therapy or aromatherapy. I get some lavender scented baby oil and kind of rub that on his back and that seemed to help a little bit.


Kevin: So, he is coming around?


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: It does seem to calm him down a little bit where he’s getting into that sleepy type of phase or sleepy mode?


Emily: Yes. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that if I give him a bath that calms him down too, but not to a point where it’s okay, it’s time for bed. He wants to go catch fireflies. You know?


Kevin: Sure, okay.


Emily: So, that can be another issue with being single parent.


Kevin: It’s just getting the child or children into bed.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Then how about since you are so experienced in this and of course being a coach with your business, how about let’s say during the day. I know with some kids of course at certain ages they take those little . . .


Emily: Naps.


Kevin: Daytime naps here or there.


Emily: Yes. My son actually still takes naps.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: I know he’s five, but he’s the child that needs a nap.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: Absolutely, but we’ve shortened his naps. So, if he sleeps two hours you have a big problem on your hands because I am not going to get him to bed. Maybe if your child is still taking naps maybe limit them a little bit and see where the child is at night and going outside and play because we do that too just run that energy out of them and no sweets at night.


Kevin: No.


Emily: I try not to do sweets at night. We don’t have many sweets in the house at all. So, those are a couple other ideas to do as well.


Kevin: Hopefully to that if the kids are going back and forth between mom and dad and sometimes too they have to stay at maybe one of the former in-laws or your sister’s house or you know, that everyone is on the same page.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: If he or she takes a nap make sure it’s a short.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Get him or her up going. So, hopefully the communication between who’s ever watching the kids are in sync.


Emily: Right. Yes, I would agree with that and that’s a conversation that my former spouse and I have had. There was a night last week, the night that he was up until 10:30 and I emailed like, “Hey, did he get a nap today? He was up late and it seemed like he did not want to go to bed.” Apparently, he had only gotten a 20-minute nap which kind of takes out that theory. You know, if he doesn’t take a long nap then he’s going to go to bed early. Well, that’s not exactly it. I think with that situation I think he really wanted some extra time with me because he hadn’t seen me since the last time he was at our house. So, I think that was probably the reason why he was like that.


Kevin: Also, I believe what would be helpful is a pattern.


Emily: Yes. A routine.


Kevin: A routine. The same thing. The same time. Everyday.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: So, in his mind or her mind it’s being programmed.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: All right, we’re going to eat dinner. After dinner we watch a little TV then we read a book together then mommy gives me a little treat or Jell-O or something, whatever. Then we read and then it’s beddie time.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Beddie-bye time.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Or nightie-night as I like to call it still. So . . .


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: What a routine.


Emily: So, hopefully those will help and people will be able to get their children to bed because that is an issue. Then in the morning they’re tired and they don’t want to get up.


Kevin: Right. Now, on the flip side all right, let’s talk about getting a child up.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: Day two of course, we all sometimes just don’t want to get out of bed especially in the winter time you feel comfy and cozy in the nice warm cover.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: What would you feel getting someone out of bed? I know it could vary from season to season and if the kid has school or not. What’s your thoughts getting someone out that let’s say doesn’t just get up and out like they normally should do?


Emily: What I do is I keep the same schedule regardless. If they didn’t go to bed on time that’s regardless because they need to be up. So, I got my son up the same day at the same time the next morning because we have to keep a routine. Keeping the routine the same is probably the best thing.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: They’re going to be tired, but that time the next day is going to be a whole lot easier and it actually was because he was pooped. He was exhausted. So, I think just keeping that routine the same because with my schedule I can’t vary that very much. I need to take him to daycare and go to work.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: I don’t have that choice to let him sleep in. I’d like to sleep in.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: I don’t have that choice. So, it’s about getting up and getting out the door like we normally would. It might be a little tricky to get the child up because they are tired and because they went to bed so much later than they did normally, but I think it’s important to stay into that routine.


Kevin: Then that morning you would explain to your son, you know, you see now honey if you just went to bed like we normally do you wouldn’t be this tired.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: So, hopefully some of that will wear on them saying, “Geez, I think maybe mom and dad are right about this.”


Emily: Right. Since I do have daycare I do let the provider know we had a rough night last night. He didn’t get as much sleep as he used to. Please keep his naps to a minimum of whatever you have agreed to.


Kevin: Good idea.


Emily: Maybe a little bit shorter because then he or she will be exhausted by the end of the day and then bedtime will be so much easier. One thing I did do one evening. I got him back that day and it tends to be a really hard transition for him sometimes just with his brain or whatever the case may be. So, on our TV we have music channels where they just play music.


Kevin: Right, yeah. I like those.


Emily: So, my son loves music, loves to dance. We had a little dance party in our living room.


Kevin: It was fun.


Emily: I put on the most recent upbeat music. You know, whatever that is new and up now that he would know and we had a ball.


Kevin: And was it a good time?


Emily: We danced together and he was exhausted. He pooped himself out and I said let’s shake and get the giggles and the sillies out and so it worked out really well.


Kevin: I guess it’s activities like those which are good for him, but you get a little exercise in. It’s good for mom too. You know?


Emily: Right.


Kevin: And you’re having fun with your kid.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: What more do you really want because you know, maybe the next day he or she is going to be going back to the other side. So, here you had some great quality time.


Emily: Then they remember that.


Kevin: And they remember it, right.


Emily: You know, and so let’s get the sillies and be goofy. Just be goofy with your kids.


Kevin: It’s just another activity now that you can maybe work into your routine, back to that word again, of other things to do.


Emily: Exactly. How fun is that? So, we had a little dance party in our living room.


Kevin: Nice.


Emily: Yeah. We had fun.


Kevin: The Emily and Son dance company.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: That’s what I’m calling this.


Emily: Another challenge would be tantrums.


Kevin: Okay. Explain tantrum. He may be sitting on the couch or she, whatever and no.


Emily: Yes. Right, exactly.


Kevin: No, I’m not doing that. Okay.


Emily: Yes, when they put up a fight and refuse to do something or they are balling and sometimes get violent which is not good, but before it gets to that point and you can kind of tell that your child is going there like, pouting, flip out and cross the arms. And not really wanting to do what you have to say. I’ve notice what works with my son is having him pick out his favorite color and then think of a balloon.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: Have the child blow up that balloon and you actually do it with them. What that does is that gets the oxygen going through your brain and you can’t be mad.


Kevin: You told me about this. I think was maybe about a couple of years ago.


Emily: Yeah.


Kevin: You tried it or you heard it from someone, but it worked.


Emily: It does. It works. Since I’ve been doing it for so long sometimes he refuses to do this. No, I don’t want to.


Kevin: Now the tantrum becomes about the balloon.


Emily: And because he knows that he’s not mad afterwards.


Kevin: No.


Emily: But if you do it with them it becomes like a group activity and then even you calm down. I know I’ve done it. You can feel you’re getting angry and blood pressure going up. Then it just escalates and there’s no return until someone’s in tears which we don’t want.


Kevin: No.


Emily: Or the child will get very violent sometimes, but we don’t want that. It’s a very easy activity. I feel like it works a great deal.


Kevin: Well, that does make sense about the oxygen factor because you are using your body and it might get you a little bit tired and it gets you thinking too.


Emily: Exactly.


Kevin: Yeah. When you told me about that I go well, wait a minute. It’s kind of weird and I thought, no hold it, whoa. Let’s think this through Kevin and as silly as it might sound if it works yes, that’s it.


Emily: Exactly. Yes and it does work. I think the children when you use it with them and they get to pick out the color that their balloon is going to be then it just makes it even better.


Kevin: Okay.


Emily: Because they get to choose the color.


Kevin: Are there any other alternatives which of course there are, on what to do if the tantrum does start? Okay, maybe the balloon thing is not going to work for this kid. I say, after hearing this try it people. Let me tell you, the worse it does is it doesn’t work and you gave it a shot.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Maybe what other suggestions to help the tantrums stop?


Emily: Depending on what level the child is at in the tantrum I tend to leave my son alone. Give him time and come back to him and talk to him about the situation. Make sure that the situation’s been diffused. You don’t want it to go into full speed.


Kevin: No, you don’t.


Emily: I like to talk to my son and talk about feelings and how he’s feeling at that moment. So, that’s another way is okay, let’s connect and let’s see what you’re feeling. Most likely they’re frustrated about something because at that age you know, the toddler’s age, pre-school age, they can’t put their finger on and they can’t articulate what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. So, trying to figure that out with them will help and maybe he or she is just frustrated because you’re not paying attention to them.


Kevin: And then maybe by discussing this with the child then that way you could as you say, diffuse it and figure it out and it might make him happy or gee, mom I never thought about it that way.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: Or thanks mom, whatever the reaction might be just to get the kid talking and figuring it out.


Emily: Right. Or maybe you weren’t listening. Maybe they wanted to talk to you.


Kevin: That’s possible too.


Emily: I know first hand being a single parent, you get busy. You’re trying to get dinner ready after work. You’re trying to clean up a little bit maybe and maybe your listening skills weren’t on for the child or he or she wasn’t feeling like they were being listened to which is huge for that age.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: So, it really depends on the age and what’s going on in their head and trying to pull that out of them the best that you can and come to their level a little bit.


Kevin: In some cases I could see where the parent might say, “Johnny, sit down now. Janie, I’ll be there in a minute. Sit down.” All right, well they’re sitting down and whatever the case is. Maybe the parent should explain it. “Johnny, I need to get the chicken off the stove here. I will be about two or three minutes. Whatever it is and then we’ll talk.” So, maybe if the kid knows why you’re putting him or her off could be also part of the keeping the tantrum down.


Emily: Right, and maybe they’re hungry. I know with my child he gets hungry and his blood sugar drops like, really quickly and if you don’t get something in him it’s not a good thing.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: So, maybe giving them a little bit of a snack. Something healthy right before to get them through to dinner.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: That might help as well.


Kevin: Yeah, just a little something to snack on. Boy, I’m sure my ma, I used the word diffused again. I like it. I haven’t heard that word in a while. Dear old mom probably diffused on a number of things of mine just by giving me something that she was making whether it be homemade gravy and bread or whatever and before dinner comes and so forth. So, yeah. I think it is a good idea as you mentioned. Talk to the child. Find out what the problem is.


Emily: Yeah. Because they’re the ones that are acting like this and that’s a great way to find out what is wrong. Why are they upset?


Kevin: Sure and sometimes it could be very clear. To the kid it might be, but then this is where the parenting skills come in at and the word no means no.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: And he or she is just going to have to understand and learn it. Maybe that would get better in time.


Emily: Right. Another idea is to get the child involved in possibly cooking dinner. I know my son loves to help and cook. So, that’s another way to get them out of their funk so to say.


Kevin: But that’s how I learned my culinary skills. Watching mom, sitting in the kitchen.


Emily: Yeah.


Kevin: Watching dad do his stuff whenever he cooked, so I was always a part of it and I think that could play off with the kids.


Emily: Well, and then there’s eye hand coordination. You know, obviously you’re not cutting up stuff.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: Maybe stirring as long as mom or dad are right there.


Kevin: Cookie cutting. I always did like doing that too.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: It’s simple stuff.


Emily: I’ve made bread with my son and he loves doing that because it gets his hands dirty. So, anything like that I think would be good to kind of change the energy of the child as well. Get them involved in something. Something that they would like to do and then talk to them about the situation. Why were you mad? Again, you know, so that you can really hear what the child is saying and that I feel is a huge connection between the parent and the child just because you don’t that back up like I was talking about like when you were married. You don’t have that back up.


Kevin: Person to be is not there to assist you and to enforce or re-enforce what you said to him or her.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: And this is it. So, that’s where you have to mean business and this is where the child has to understand this too.


Emily: And it’s important not to be wishy-washy in not saying no to something and then okay later on, okay yeah, you can do this or you can do that.


Kevin: The kid would walk all over you.


Emily: Yeah.


Kevin: You talk about a habit. If a parent starts to do that . . .


Emily: Oh, goodness. You’re going to have a monster on your hands.


Kevin: It’s only going to be worse for you, the parent and you’re not helping the kid because discipline now is a whole other topic. I guess maybe we could go into and again, you’re the parent. They’re the child. Who’s in control?


Emily: Right. Well, that’s just it. You need to keep in control of the situation and if you start letting your child walk all over you that’s not a good thing and it doesn’t help the child or you at all because then the child’s going to get confused first of all and oh, I can do what I want. As long as I stick through the no and he have a tantrum then you know what you’re going to have every time when you say no? You’re going to have a tantrum.


Kevin: Sure because you’ll eventually get what you are asking for.


Emily: Yes, right. So, it’s good to stick to your no and don’t be wishy-washy because that will end in a bad result altogether.


Kevin: Right.


Emily: With all parties and probably on the other end as well with the other former spouse. It will probably carry over to that as well because then the child’s going to think if I can do that with mom or dad, I can do it with the other parent too.


Kevin: So, there you go.


Emily: It’s just a slippery slide down. It’s just not good to do.


Kevin: No. Its one hill you don’t want to slide down on. You’re working together where it’s respect all the way around.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: You have to still stay in the parent and child division.


Emily: Right.


Kevin: In the relationship. Yeah.


Emily: Yes and then you’ll have a good understanding between your child and yourself of what your rules are. I’ve noticed with my child, he absolutely needs boundaries. He needs rules in order to have understanding and a good relationship with me. I’ve noticed that.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: Maybe just take a look at your relationship with your child and see how it is. Are you giving him or her boundaries or are you letting them kind of do whatever they want? Kids want boundaries. They actually do want boundaries.


Kevin: Sure and you just have to instill it.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: Then eventually as the years go on they’re going to be using some of your skills to tailor their life as they get older.


Emily: Right and I know as kids grow older they do want to have some responsibilities to feel like they’re part of a family and just work those in to what is age appropriate for each child.


Kevin: Sure.


Emily: That will probably help too because then they feel like the sense of responsibility.


Kevin: Emily. These are great topics that you brought up here from discipline to how to take care of the temper tantrums, putting someone to sleep, waking somebody up and how to get going. Just how to get a single mom or dad you know, it is a tough thing on a kid. It’s also a tough thing on the parent.


Emily: Yes, it’s tough all around.


Kevin: Of course, the older they get all those problems will eventually change and turn into more and so forth.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: But at least on the younger side I think we covered quite a bit here.


Emily: I think we did too. I think it was a good session.


Kevin: Wonderful. Well, another successful session here on Divorce Talk Radio, so thank you Emily for having me as your co-host. I feel like the Lou Abbott, the bud. No, it’s Lou Costello to Bud Abbott. You know, the Robin to Batman.


Emily: Yes.


Kevin: And Kato to his Green Hornet. So, thank you for having me here Emily.


Emily: Oh, thanks for being here and thanks to our listeners.


Kevin: Absolutely, thank you.


Emily: We look forward to having you listen and be a part of our show next week.


Kevin: Sounds great.


Emily: This is Moving Forward. Thank you.

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