The most common complaint I hear from divorced parents is that they are frustrated and angry because they don’t feel they were given enough time to spend with their children due to their custody agreement.
They believe that when the legal system divided the time spent with their children with both themselves and their ex-spouse, they got the short end of the stick. These divorced parents feel they were unfairly ripped off by the legal system and unfortunately, have no way of controlling the outcome leaving them with no choice but to settle for what was ordered.
If this is how you feel, then I’m about to help you see your situation from a more comforting and positive perspective…
As you know, many things in our lives today seem to be out of our control – including the weather, job security, the cost of living, even what people think and say about us. Not having control of an outcome scares most people because many of us need to feel in control of our reality to feel safe. We prefer when things are predictable and controllable. Otherwise, we get anxious worrying about all the negative things that could potentially happen if we’re to trust other people or our fate.
However, controlling anyone or anything is virtually impossible as well as unhealthy.
It only encourages fear to arise when faced with a change that dramatically impacts our life – like thinking you’ll lose your loving connection with your children if you’re only able to see them once a week rather than every day!
As a divorced parent, you’ve already had to learn how to embrace a lot of change in a short amount of time, like adapting to a new life for yourself and a new way to parent. This includes sharing your children’s time with your ex-spouse and possibly their new partner as well. You don’t have to like it; in fact, you can spend what time and energy you do have with your children complaining about it and even being angry and frustrated about your situation. But that will not change the situation – it will only change you! I’m not saying you don’t have the right to feel angry or frustrated from time to time…your story is very real and you’re the only one living it. However, I can tell you that the only way to make sense of your bad situation is by CHANGING the way you’re dealing with it!
Cup half full, my friend! I know that sounds cliche…but here’s why it works…
Whether you are divorced, or not, the “time” any parent has with their children should always be precious because time is fleeting. Even in the healthiest family scenarios where both parents are happy, mutually loving and respectable to one another, your children will eventually grow up and move out and want to begin creating a life of their own.
Therefore, your time with them, will again, be limited! Take it from me, I have three adult children and I’m lucky if I can get all three in the same room for a family dinner at least one day a month due to their own busy personal and work schedules – that’s literally only 12 times a year! Twenty-first-century family living is ridiculously busy and energy depleting! No one seems to have the time to get together anymore. Or if they do have the time, they usually don’t have the extra energy.
Like you, I love my children dearly and miss them when I don’t get to see them often. I, too, wish their busy schedules would allow for more mom time – but that’s not always realistic. Don’t forget your children’s time also must be divided with their other parent, grandparents, friends and school obligations as well. So rather than spend all your energy getting frustrated because you feel you can’t control the quantity of time you get to spend with your children, put all your energy into cultivating the time you do have into creating more memorable, fun, quality experiences with them instead.
This will not only make the time you have special but far more memorable and exciting. Focusing on the good times will also release unnecessary stress and harmful emotions that compromise the quality of your parenting.
Here’s my parent coaching tip for you on how to change your frustration to gratitude…
Sit quietly for a moment, close your eyes and give yourself permission to take yourself back to being a child at your family dinner table. Envision your mother making you eat all the vegetables you hate that are on your plate. Pay attention to how you feel. Although she was doing what was best for you on a daily (quantitative) basis; it wasn’t a very fun, or exciting experience – right! Now recall your mother telling you that if you ate all your vegetables, you could have a special treat afterward – yeah – ice cream! This made you feel happy and hopeful enough to endure all those boring vegetables because you knew that soon you would have fun, be excited and happy to be eating ice cream.
Now open your eyes and realize that although you have limited time with your children and must wait until what feels like forever to see them in between visits, take comfort in knowing that your children think of YOU as THEIR ICE CREAM TREAT! They will be thrilled to see you AND you get to spend quality time with them instead of being the quantitative parent whose role it is to carry out the day-to-day “boring” activities.
Getting back to my first point, you may not be able to control – or even understand – why you have less time to spend with your children because of your divorce – but you are in control of how you get to spend the time you do have. So start thinking of yourself as that exciting, fun, qualitative “ice cream” parent that your children can’t wait to enjoy and create new memorable experiences with.
Hold on to that! Life is nothing more than moments in between the day-to-day routines. And, when your children grow up, and they will grow up, they will lovingly remember and share those memorable experiences with you that you both created together. Even when you have long forgotten about some of them, I assure you, they will not!
Use your “in between children time” to start creating your next amazing, memorable “ice cream” moments with your precious children NOW!