Slummy Single Mummy: Splitting up? Here’s how to make sure you put kids first #PutKidsFirst
Parenting blogger Jo, also known as The Slummy Single Mummy shares her experience of separation with OnePlusOne, and discusses how the online service for separating parents, Splitting Up? Put Kids First can help other mums and dads going through a similar situation.
2014 was a year of massive change for me and my children. I separated from my partner of four years, we moved house, changed school, and I met someone new. To say it was a little stressful would be putting it mildly.
What I did notice though, as the changes unfolded, was that they prompted me to reevaluate my life in terms of the decisions that have led me to where I am now. Change seems to inspire reflection, and it got me thinking about similarly difficult situations I have found myself in in the past and how I might have dealt with them, if not better, then at least differently, more positively perhaps.
I have two daughters, aged 12 and 19, each with different fathers. This situation is complex enough, but the separation from my youngest daughter’s father wasn’t an easy one for any of us and it threw up all manner of issues. One difficulty I felt keenly at the time was how to separate my own feelings about him from the desire to do the best for my daughter. If you’ve gone through a divorce or separation then I’m sure this will sound only too familiar.
One tool I’ve been exploring recently, and which I wish had been around at the time of my break-up, is the parenting plan tool from UK research charity OnePlusOne. The online service, called Splitting Up? Putting Kids First, is totally free to use and acts essentially as an objective third party, helping you to distance yourself from your own hurt and resentment and instead focus on creating a plan that puts your children first.
The site first asks you to think about how you feel right now about the situation. Do any of these ring true for you? My break up may not have been a recent one but many of the examples given still feel fresh for me.
Once you have picked the statements that feel most relevant to you, the #PutKidsFirst tool helps you build a parenting plan that’s tailored to you and your family’s individual circumstances.
This includes things like finances, social activities and living arrangements and within each area you can include as much or as little information as you need. It can then be emailed to your ex-partner. What you end up with may not be legally binding, but it can provide a hugely useful starting point from which to work towards creating a stable and stress free environment for your children.
One thing I particularly liked about the site was that while acknowledging the hurt and distress you are going through after separation, the focus is very much on you being the grown-up. I know from my own experience how easy it is to get caught in a cycle of arguments and bitterness, but how does this help your children? It doesn’t.
One of the tips the #PutKidsFirst service gives it to ‘be prepared to see things differently’. This sounds so simple and yet when you are in the midst of a breakup it is one of the hardest things to do. You become focussed on who is right (you of course) and who is wrong (the other person) and it takes a massive amount of maturity to admit that there may be a different way of looking at something that is just as valid as your own point of view. This is definitely something that time has taught me.
If you are currently going through a separation or divorce, please do check out the #PutKidsFirst parenting plan tool. I know how bad you are feeling right now but I can also say, from my own experience and with the benefit of hindsight, how important it is to try and rise above your own distress and put your kids first.