Being a single parent, Pagan or not, comes with endless challenges. When a woman gets pregnant the thought typically isn't that you'll be parenting without a mate beside you. Soon to be fathers don't think they'll need to see their children from a distance. But, things happen, relationships end and both parents find themselves trying to navigate the world of single parenthood.
Parents see this amazing child in front of them. Someone they will love and even lay down their life for in an instant, but at the same time feel so many negative emotions swirling around within them regarding the other parent no longer there. The emotions that immediately come to mind are anger, frustration, confusion, blame/guilt, inadequacy, jealousy and even hatred.
Many parents, mothers and fathers alike, feel an intense need to punish the other for the hurts and disappointments from the past relationship. Some can feel these emotions and work through them, for others however, it can become so consuming that it's all they can think about. There really isn't a right or wrong way to feel these emotions. They are yours and you'll feel them in the way you need to, but your actions are completely under your control regardless of your present emotions or actions of others.
This is where some parents have a problem. Your actions DO NOT have to mirror your emotions - and YOU CAN change your emotions from negative to positive. As hard or impossible as this seems at times, it can be done. However, we are also all human beings and some of our most valuable learning opportunities are through the mistakes we make in our lives.
It can be extremely difficult to see your own part in the ending of a relationship, but it does take two. Have you ever just stopped long enough to meditate on your past relationship and the emotions you are currently having? What comes up for you? Can you find your own pattern in the relationships you've had previously that didn't work out?
This step can take time and real effort on your part. But the more you see how you both projected your feelings and emotions into the starting of and ending of the relationship the easier it is to let go of what was and concentrate on what is.
In the mean time, you're still dealing with a lot of hurt feelings and negative emotions. A very typical response seen over and over again is one parent limiting or cutting off access to the children in order to 'teach the other parent a lesson'. But let's be frank about this - it doesn't work. Yes, it hurts the other parent but it also pisses them off. Not a good way to get them to work with you on co-parenting your children. Let's face it, it may feel great in the moment but karma has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. Don't mix your bad karma with your children's lives. The children are the ones that get the brunt of the punishments in these petty arguments.
Here are a few other areas to try and stay clear of:
- Continuous arguing. Whether its done in front of the children or not, they feel it. The spats back and forth do nothing to make the situation better and only keep both parents in a very negative place regarding each other and inevitably - the children. Children can begin to feel like they need to take sides; betraying one of their parents for the other. Do you really want your kids to feel this way? These arguments are what makes it impossible to come to a compromise on the important issues with the children, and can inevitably wind up as long drawn out court battles.
- Snotty remarks. Making snotty remarks and constantly trying to test the others patience in texts, emails or verbally is not only childish, but counter-productive. We, as Pagan parents, understand the Law of Attraction (or the Laws of Nature) very well. We know that what we put out there will be returned to us. So if you want your child's other parent to make similar remarks to you causing you more stress, anger and frustration - go for it. But honestly, not very many of us really want that. So as hard as it may seem, treat them how you want to be treated. It's the only way to get what you want.
- Allowing others to cut down the other parent. It may seem natural that your parents, friends or even co-workers know all the hideous details of the ending of the relationship and of course side with you on everything. They want all the juicy details from each interaction and you're probably more than happy to comply. This however is not what you want to do. The more you talk about all of the things you don't want, the more you'll wind up getting them. If they ask, just let them know that the two of you are trying your best towards working things out and you just don't want to talk about it. This is just one more way to keep yourself in a negative place. So don't do it.
- Saying negative things in front of or to the kids about the other parent. It's been seen way too many times in the courts - one parent telling the kids horrible things about the other parent in the hopes of scaring them into not wanted to go on visitations or sleep-overs, or to just make the other parent look bad. Any parent who would be willing to put their own child through distress to hurt the other parent seriously needs to get their priorities checked. It's not as if you can't say these things. If they're just ready to burst from you step away from the kids, out of earshot, and yell it out loud, write it out and burn it. Just keep the remarks and opinions away from the kids.
- Continue talking about what is going on. Why, if you put yourself into a negative place every time you mention your ex, do you continue to talk about each and every little thing that happens to anyone who will listen? Really? What is the point? Every time you delve into your relationship with your ex you're taking yourself back to hurt feelings, anger, disappointment and depression. Yeah, that's a fun place to be. If you really need to discuss these things try talking to a counselor who can help you release these negative feelings. We don't need well meaning friends and family enabling us in a destructive pattern of negativity. Once you're able to step away emotionally from what happened, from personal experience, you'll be able to discuss your past relationship without the emotional baggage.
When we have children, our relationship with the other parent never ends, it just restructures itself into a different kind of relationship. In good times and bad, we will need to interact with the other parent on issues involving our children at least until they are legal adults - it's just a fact of having children. It can be difficult and emotional but we really can turn things around in order to get along with the other parent. We don't need to try for a warm fuzzy friendship (unless that's what you really want) but at the very least you can be cordial to them. The less drama you bring to this restructured relationship the less you'll get in return.
This is not a competition. Your children's relationship with their other parent is not the same one you had with them. They love both of their parents and do not (nor should they be) put in the middle of a power struggle between the two of you.
It's very difficult when you don't know every detail of what is going on with your children when they are with the other parent, but they really are okay. Yes, they will have different toys and play different games but this does not mean they love one of you more than the other. Children are just trying to find their place in this new restructured relationship. The better you are at communicating and working with the other parent the better you're children will feel about the changes that have happened. Another benefit - children are master manipulators when they want something, by having the skills to co-parent effectively you won't have issues with your children trying to play one parent off the other.
Stop concentrating on everything your ex did or did not do. You are probably not going to get all the answers you want regarding your break-up. These questions are just going to have to be laid to rest. A very difficult concept for so many parents to wrap their heads around is that it just doesn't matter any longer. You want answers, you want to understand what on earth was going on in your ex's head. But, you are no longer a couple. Couples need to communicate and discuss their actions and words. This is no longer the case. Neither of you are required to justify anything you said or did from your past together. Now, you are only parents. And what would be the point of it - really? The priority is the children, not your past relationship.
So what can we do to help us get through the negative emotions swirling around? Look at your children. Watch their happiness and joy at being able to see both parents regularly, at seeing both parents communicating and handling all the adult stuff that they don't need to be concerned with. Watch how happy they are when they get to see the other parent and listen about the fun times they had. Yes - there may be some jealousy creeping in at first, but just keep the attention on your kids. Your kids continued happiness will keep you in alignment. This alone could be the very thing that breaks the chain of negativity within you. They may have been horrible as a spouse or lover, but they seem to be a pretty damn good parent, even with all of their flaws.
Use the experiences as learning opportunities. As Pagan parents there are so many ways to use our own powers to let go of the drama and baggage and reconnect with the priorities that really matter - our children.
- Talking things out with your HP or other clergy could be a good start.
- Design a ritual to release negativity towards your ex.
- Meditate more.
- Celebrate the times you get to be alone, with peace and quiet. As parents we see that time so infrequently. Rejoice in it.
- Perform a re-birthing ritual for yourself into this new life transition. You are only responsible for your happiness, and as long as that is your goal everyone else around you will benefit from it.
- Design a spell or ritual to keep the negativity away from your children during this transition.
These are only a few examples. Do what feels right to you. If you're part of a Coven, ask for their assistance in these matters. Pooling everyone's energies together can be of great benefit to you and the children.
When your children ask questions. Okay, it's going to happen at some point. Your children will start asking questions about the changes going on. What do you tell them? The answer to that is much simpler than you think. Tell them the truth. Age appropriate, but the truth. But also, only the truth regarding YOUR feelings and actions. You can't answer for the other parent, they need to be the one to do that. So it really is okay to say 'I don't know. You'll need to ask mommy/daddy.' And then let the other parent know what questions have been asked so they can be prepared to answer them. Some questions that may come up:
- Why don't I have a daddy/mommy? Your daddy/mommy doesn't know how to be a good daddy/mommy, he/she still has to learn how to do that. But if they do learn, then they will be able to be in our lives. You deserve the best kind of daddy/mommy.
- Why aren't mommies and daddies together? Mommies and daddies love each other very much, and they are also the very best of friends. Sometimes mommies and daddies can't seem to figure out how to be best friends any more. Then they sometimes argue a lot and no one likes that. So they decide to live in separate homes so they don't argue and fight any more. The mommies and daddies feel better and now the children get to have 2 homes to live in. This means 2 rooms, 2 sets of toys, 2 holiday celebrations. It's like double the fun for the kids.
- Is mommy/daddy ever coming home? (If you aren't considering a reconciliation, don't give them false hope.) Probably not. We are much happier living in separate homes. We don't want to argue any more, and this makes sure we can both be there for you. We love you so much that even though these changes are hard right now, we know we'll all be much happier this way. We just can't be best friends any more but everything is going to be alright.
- Why does mommy/daddy have another family? (This is a very emotional question, but hang in there.) Because they wanted to be a part of your family. Your mommy/daddy met someone who they could be best friends with and love very much. They decided to join your family because they love and care for you too. They don't have a new family, they just added to the family you already have.
- Don't you love mommy/daddy any more? (Again, no false hopes if a reconciliation isn't a possibility.) I will always love them because they helped me bring you into this world. But I don't love them the same way I did when we were best friends and that probably isn't going to change.
These are only a small sampling of the kinds of questions children typically ask there parents when a separation occurs. It's important that children understand the truth of what is going on without all the drama and highly emotional details that go along with separations. Our children don't need to know the dirty details of it, just that both parents are happier apart and can continue to love and support them in every way. We don't need to make up stories or give false hope and we don't have to answer questions that are better answered by the other parent. The only job we have is to take care of ourselves and our happiness so we can take care of our children to the best of our abilities.
Separations and divorces are very emotional for everyone involved. Even though a relationship has ended, that doesn't mean that you as parents aren't going to be able to raise your children together. You get from any relationship what you put into it and this is one of the most important relationships you will ever have. Whether a reconciliation is foreseeable in the future or not your jobs are to parent your children to the very best of your abilities. If you need to carry a picture of your children on you at all times so when/if you start to feel overly negative about your ex you can pull it out and look at their smiling faces - do it. They are what matters, they are the priority. We as parents have the hardest jobs in the world but also the most rewarding when we can see the joy and happiness that we have helped bring into our children's lives. Keep that as your focus and you'll be able to make it through the storm of separation.