Sunday, 9 July 2017

Enjoy Every Second - There's Only So Much Time

If you are lucky enough to have significant visitation time with your babies, you'll want to be certain that they're having the best time as they can (within reason).  It can be difficult to get back into the swing of caring for your children when you haven't had to do so for a while.  You'd be surprised at what you forget.  Here's a few tips to help you along:

1. Before they arrive, simply ask them what they'd like to do/eat, etc. Use google to find any activities and places of interest nearby. For example, find the local library or playgrounds.  If you can splurge, look for activities like indoor play parks, amusement parks, etc.  Equipped with choices, ask them if any of those adventures sounds appealing.  You never know.....one kid may have had a bad experience on a ride; therefore hates amusement parks.  Or they may have picked up a new sport and would like to find a venue and group of other children to play.  The last thing you want to do is drag your child to something they don't want - you have limited of time as it is.  But also remember to keep it simple. The simply want to spend time with you. Don't feel like you have to schedule something for every second they are with you.  Even snuggling on the couch to watch the latest movie on Netflix could be a fantastic activity.

2.  Look for children their age. Local playgrounds would be the best place to find children the same age.  Your kids will be stripped from their friends (assuming you do not live nearby).  That can be a very isolating feeling to them - so, attempt to mitigate this by finding some friends for them. Play dates can be a good way of finding friends - but that can also backfire.  Sometimes kids just wants to choose their own friends out of a group instead of having them chosen for them. Public playgrounds where a lot of children congregate can be useful. Or any other area where children of a similar age will congregate. Encourage these friendships to take place - and if they become really strong, see if you can nurture the bond even when they're separated. Enlist the new friends as pen pals or give them phone numbers to call when it's time for your children to go back home. 

3.  I mentioned this before, but try your best to ensure they have their own space and things in your home. There's nothing more awkward than staying at the house of a parent and being forced to sleep on the couch or live out of a suitcase.  The ordeal of their parents separating and being isolated from their mom for no good reason has already been stressful enough.  They need to feel settled when they are with you.  And there's no better way to show your kids that you still have a space carved In your heart for them than to have a space carved out for them in your home. 

3.  This piece of advice I see every time divorce is mentioned with children.  Never bring them in the middle of it. They are already in an awkward position of having a part of their identity (you) stripped from them. Despite how difficult this has been for you, you should never allow yourself to pit them against their dad.  If they ask you about how certain aspects of the separation and custody battle played out in your words - answer them honestly, keeping in mind age level and ability to understand. But, never place blame.  They were not the soldiers in the custody battle - they were unfortunately innocent bystanders who know the war was about them.  More on the psychology of custody later. 

4.  Depending on time, see what things you can recreate that you missed.  Mother's Day is such a huge day for moms, and when your children can't be with you because of custody arrangements, it can make a sad holiday.  But if you can, schedule Mother's Day for you when they're with you.  Have your new partner or family member organize the day.  You can do this with Christmas, or any holiday.....who says you can't celebrate on a different day?  If it means that much to you, make it happen. And I bet your children would actually appreciate it (even if they thinks it's silly at first).

5. Do something that mimics taking care of them.  You were their mother, and mothers are typically very nurturing. It is in our blood to want to coddle our babies and make sure they are well-cared for.  Considering the circumstances, it can feel like you don't have the control to take care of them anymore. But, you can do little things. Use the time you have with them to take them school shopping.  Or make sure they have sports gear/uniforms that fits them properly. Find ways that you can fulfill that want to nurture them. 

6.  Build your own routine. You cannot really plan a routine before they arrive, but once they get settled in, find a routine that works well for all of you.  It can be easy to let them stay up late or eat meals at unusual times because of disorganization.  (Not saying you're disorganized - but the shift in family may uproot your routine).  Children thrive off of routine (even if they claim they don't have one with dad).  Routine will probably happen organically, but you have to let it.  Because, you need to eat and rest as much as they do.  You have an extra person or people in your home that are looking up to you to care for them and keep them entertained.  When you haven't had to do so for a while, you'd be surprised at how exhausting it can be. So, when you find a suitable bedtime, stick to it :).  Ask them what they do before bed, if any routine they have already exist.  That could give you an idea if you're having trouble. 

7.  Don't take things personally. Remember, they may not know the true details of what happened. They are living every day life with just one parent who is biased on one side of the story. It is very possible, considering the outcomes, that your children were fed only the one side of the story in a way that demeans you.  They could have been told nearly anything; so be prepared to hear your innocent angels call you names, make comments and fight discipline. They may retaliate against discipline (especially if you're more strict than dad, or your children were expecting to have free reign with you). Do not get mad, but when things settle down - make sure you tell them your side and correct them in an age appropriate way. They deserve to hear your side of things, but do so in a way that is not vindictive.  Facts are better than opinion when telling them. For example, if your child says "you broke up our family because you didn't love us". Respond with love and be honest about why you left - or correct them to remind them that daddy left (whichever way your story unfolded).  Just be prepared for this; many noncustodial parents aren't. 

This is such a happy experience for you and your children. They miss you and you miss them - and you want to be sure they do not regret coming to see you.  This is a fantastic time for you to get a glimpse of your children and see what you missed.  You'll feel joy you never thought possible when they're finally with you - but it will be bittersweet. Usually, soon enough, they'll have to go back home and you'll have to say goodbye again - a post for next time. In the meantime, enjoy your cherubs - you deserve to enjoy every second.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Getting Back to Your New Normal

Today may feel like "normal" is a faraway dream that you'll never be able to achieve. Besides, how can you feel "normal" when a part of your life just isn't there anymore. Parts of your soul are living life elsewhere without you.......how can you make that "normal"?

The truth is, you have to get back to normal. The sooner you get into a routine, the stronger you'll be for when you do have your children. It is essential for good mental health. And who knows....maybe the tables will turn and you'll have custody later on. But to keep yourself grounded and steady, try your best to find your groove for the daily grind. 

Here's how:

1. Keep working or keep busy.  If you do work, work your butt off. Continue to do your job well to the best of your ability. Even if you feel your home life is shaky, at least you'll have a grounded work environment. If you're unemployed, either look for work or find something meaningful to do with your time. Land that dream job or renovate/redecorate your home. Whatever it is, keep yourself busy!!

2. Find something of your own.  An extension of #1, but more personal. Find a hobby you enjoy. If you like crafting, get crafting. Watch a new TV show or movie. Start a new fitness regimen. Whatever you choose, make this all about you. It is yours to use to help you heal. 

3. Get help if you need to. Never feel you're inadequate if you are unable to get over your circumstances. Your situation would send anyone into the emotional spiral of depression. Many parents that lose custody experience depression at some point. Especially when you're not at fault and you're constantly worrying about your children. Ask your doctor for recommendations for local counsellors. Or ask your human resources department at your place of employment if they have an EAP(Employee Assistance Program). It is better to get help sooner rather than later. 

4. Find friends/champions. I cannot stress how much finding friends or family to be your champion(s). Not only will they provide comfort and diversions, they will also play a key role in assessing hour mental health. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know if your emotions and reactions are normal. They will also help you get back to normal by providing support (ears and shoulders) so you won't feel so overwhelmed. 

5. Get and stay healthy. Chances are, your mind and body took a major back seat during proceedings. Now that the decision has been made, now is the time to get back to eating well and exercising. It can be strange cooking for one, but you'll have plenty of leftovers (looking at the bright side). Enlist the help of your champions (have meals with them when you're feeling lonely). Busy? I highly recommend getting a crockpot :). Also make sure you're fitting in exercise. Vegging out on the couch won't do you favors, so pull out that yoga mat or put on those running shoes. 

6. Make space for them.  This is the hardest part I found getting back to normal. You'll possibly have to move out of the family home if you haven't already. But you do need to make sure you have space dedicated to your children. Just because they don't live with you doesn't mean they won't visit. And when they do visit, they need to know that they have space in your life and home. Just like they had at home, get a nice room together for them with as many things they'd like as you can. Don't opt for a blow up mattress or pull out sofa bed (unless you have to). Try your best to get proper bed complete with bedspreads. Make sure they have things to interest them with you whether it be toys, video game consoles, books, etc.  You want them to be comfortable physically so they'll be comfortable emotionally when they are with you.  They deserve to know they have a place in your life, especially because there's a chance they're being told otherwise. 

7. Practice mindfulness/gratefulness. This is hard to do, but something so simple can go a very long way to find your place in your new world. The strongest people can look around themselves and find at least one thing they're thankful for. It could be something simple today, like the clothes on your back.  You'll want to spend as much time thinking positive - even though it'll feel forced in the beginning. 

One day, hopefully soon, you'll find a new routine that works for you.  You'll need to be in the best shape emotionally for your children.  No matter how distressed you are, take comfort in knowing this won't last forever.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Holidays Without

Holidays can be tricky no matter what you do.  Most people dread holidays for one reason or another - some reasons more valid than others. The hustle and bustle of making things perfect can be anxiety inducing for anyone - but one thing they have in common - they take having their family around for granted. But parents enjoy spending countless hours filling those plastic eggs together for a hunt at Easter or making special heart-shaped treats for Valentine's Day. The amount of money and hours dressing up the house for Christmas is enjoyed by many to see the joy it brings the family.  Fourth of July wouldn't be the same without ketchup stained shirts to accompany those smiling faces marveling at sparklers and fireworks. 

No parent imagines spending any holiday without their childfen. It certainly isn't the same without them. No adult party pairs in the excitement children bring to any special day. For a mum who used to make any holiday memorable, it can be very wearisome not being able to do those things any longer. Here's a few ideas to help make it easier:

1. Do something for them - sure you aren't able to see them for the celebrations, but you can do something for them.  Send a valentine with a poem. Make a small Easter basket from you. Send favorite candies at Halloween (sure beats getting a pile of candy they don't like trick or treating). Send them special messages so they know you're thinking of them.  These small things help bridge the distance you may be experiencing. And it keeps you close to them the best way possible. 

2. Do not log onto Facebook.  Of course, I'm being cheeky. But, you will see photos of everyone else celebrating normally. The rest of the world can't stop because of your circumstances. Therefore, the best course would be to limit your exposure if you feel that will trigger sadness. Your family and friends won't understand - and it can be difficult to see everyone enjoying the day you wish you had. 

3. Be with friends, preferably childless ones.  Find a group of people you can can be yourself with - without being a mum. The more you are able to keep yourself busy the better. Having a good support system is also key to managing your emotions. 

4. If you must be with your family (without your children), tread with caution. If you have nieces and nephews, this makes for a very sad time, indeed. Especially holidays where presents and excitement are involved. It will be extremely difficult to watch the children in your family have normal festivities while you miss your own.  If you feel you cannot be apart of the celebrations as a result, do not feel obliged. Many may not understand, but in the end, you don't want your sadness to overshadow the joy of the rest of your family. It is exclusively up to you you to know what you can handle and your family and friends should respect your feelings. 

5. Ask for photos/phone calls. Ask the other parent or guardian if you can have photos of your children doing the normal stuff if you think you want to see. Or see if you can hold a Skype or phone call. It may be the closest way to include them in your day and they'll feel that you've made the best effort. 

7. Celebrate holidays at odd times. Who says you can't have Christmas in July?  And wouldn't it be cool to have a treasure hunt in September?  If you feel you cannot miss the joys certain holidays bring, make up the holiday when they're with you. I promise, your children will not dislike it. They make think you're silly, but it won't go unappreciated. 

8. Make up your own holidays. Get your creative juices flowing and think of something that's special to you and your family. Miss birthdays when they're away? Make up a "half-birthday" complete with cake, candles and presents. Or simply have a pop-up party (I have a box filled with random party items from the dollar store).  The idea is, you open the box at random and have a party "for no good reason". No one dislikes a party :)

I hope these suggestions are helpful for anyone who needs it. Children grow up too quickly - so try to make the little time you have with them very meaningful. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

You just got the ruling.....now what?

After a long and grueling custody proceedings, the hammer slams down.  Your children are still alive and well, but you're grieving. Many emotions are flashing in your mind. How could this have happened??  How could I have lost custody??  

No matter how awesome of a parent you are - sometimes judges rule based on ideals. And if you have a far richer ex-spouse battling against you or has been secretly vindictive and covertly manipulative - it's a recipe for ultimate disaster in the court room. Personally, I found it harder adjusting to life without them than I did when they arrived home as newborns. 

Here's what helped me survive the aftermath. 

1. You know the truth. Do not let your child's father, either lawyer, bystanders or the judge tell you otherwise.  You are here because of unfortunate events and sifting through the facts YOU know can help you come to terms with what happened. Knowing these truths will also make you very angry. 

2. Do not let that anger make you into a horrible person.  Anger is a very natural feeling when you feel you've been manipulated to this degree. You'll want to hurt those involved. But don't - to retain any integrity and dignity you have left (perceived or real) leave the anger behind closed doors. You can scream all you want at home and punch pillows, but do not make a show of yourself publicly. This includes social media (especially social media).  The more you are angry and unable to keep your cool in public, the less people around you will take you seriously (they'll assume your anger is why you lost your children - they won't see that losing your children made you angry). If you must vent......

3. Find a champion.  This could be a relative, very close friend, or religious leader of your local church, etc.  This MUST be someone you trust unconditionally. A small group of friends works, too...but keep the number small.  You'll want to tell anyone who will listen, but not everyone is your friend.  If this person happens to be friends with your ex, they'll be playing sides - and it may not be your side. 

4. Breathe. And take care of yourself. If your experience was anything like mine, I took it very difficultly. I was living alone and fell into a deep depression. I had a hard time taking care of my basic needs.  Make sure you eat, drink water and take a bath.  You won't realize how much the sadness overtakes you. The hours tick into days and you realize you hadn't eaten in 48 hours. If you can stay with someone (your champion, if possible) they can be sure you get back on track. 

5. See if you can take time off from work. Granted, no one has passed away, but your reactions and emotions will reflect that you have. It can be very difficult to concentrate on working when you're so angry and saddened by the recent events. You have a new life to prepare for, and you're on the losing end of a crappy deal. It'll take time to come to terms with it.

6. Find little things that make you happy. It may seem stupid at first, but it'll help you get over the initial bandaid rip. It could be as simple as a cup of tea, the touch of a blanket, or a favorite television show. This will be extremely personal, but will be crucial to managing the first few days and weeks. 

7. Tell the family what happened. You'll want to take a moment to consider what you will say. Again, this isn't time to let your anger pour forth (unless your family also happens to be your champion(s). But they deserve to know the truth as they probably didn't expect the outcome as much as you did. 

If you notice, none of these suggestions consider the outside world. Most likely, the outside world will be too daunting initially. Before you manage the outside world, take a few moments to grasp the magnitude of living without them and find some inner peace. 

Personally, I found prayer very helpful. I took some time alone and reflected on the outcome.  I was able to find strength, joy and inner peace by bringing my pain to the Lord. My mum spent time with me and we enjoyed "girl time" together. I honestly had the best of time with her then. Once I got myself on a schedule, I added yoga to keep my mind and body healthier. You just have to find your own niche. 

Best, 
Belle 

Enjoy Every Second - There's Only So Much Time

If you are lucky enough to have significant visitation time with your babies, you'll want to be certain that they're having the best...