I received an email from my sons’ school one day, asking if it would be OK if they sent Snack Packs home with my kids. At first, I was confused. I knew what the program was; we have them at my school.
Each Friday, we send home snacks and food with certain kids. Kids whose families are struggling. Kids whose parents may be out of work, or kids whose families struggle to provide enough to eat. My kids are not those kids.
I immediately made mental stock of what’s in our fridge…carrots, fruit, four kinds of yogurt, juice, milk, both regular and chocolate. I was confused and somewhat humiliated. What had prompted them to think my kids needed extra food? Were their lunches not healthy enough? Had my children commented about not having food at our house? Had someone misinterpreted something I had said?
When I asked the school how we qualified for this program, the woman with whom I spoke assured me that there was no real reason they were offering this program to us, but that she knew my situation, and thought it might help.
My situation. The one where my marriage was ending. The one where we took 15 years of a life together, and tried to divide it equally. The one where we were shuffling our children back and forth; trying to navigate the very new, very unsteady, waters of co-parenting. While completely unnecessary, the gesture of kindness was not lost on me.
Those first few months, I declined several social invitations, mostly because I didn’t want other people to feel uncomfortable around me. People didn’t know what to say. Or how to act.
Almost two years into my “situation,” I’d like to offer some friendly do’s and don’ts that may help you navigate friendships with someone like me.
Do: Listen. Just….listen. Separation and divorce suck. There is no other way to say it. And it sucks for everyone. I needed friends to listen. Not to comment, or try to get me to see some silver lining.
Don’t: Say means or nasty things about my ex. I can do that. But I need you to keep your opinions to yourself. Because when you say mean things about him, I still take them personally. I chose him, after all. And when you say mean things about him, by extension you are also saying them about me and our kids.
Do: Invite me to do things. With my kids, without my kids. With your partner, without your partner. Don’t assume I’m only down for a girls night now that I’m single again.
Don’t: Get frustrated with me when I refuse to get a sitter if it’s my time to have my children. I don’t get to see them every day, and I’m not likely to give up the time I do have. And please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT tell me that you’re jealous of the fact that I don’t have my kids all the time. Because it sucks. And I hate it. And you would, too.
Do: Tell me all about your happy marriage/life. Because you are my friend, I want you to be so happy, and I want to hear about all the good and wonderful things that are happening for you and your family.
Don’t: Assume that because my marriage didn’t work out as we had hoped, that I hate all men and will revel in any opportunity to bash them.
Do: Love me and my kids, and yes, even my ex. Because at the end of the day, he is still the father of my children, and I still need him to be the best he can be. He needs support and love as much as I do.
Don’t: Pity me. Please… don’t pity me.
Everyone’s situation is different; and while my words may not ring true for every person navigating a separation or divorce, they are good rules to follow.
Major life changes are trying and difficult. Your separated/divorced friend will need you now, more than ever.