After a divorce or separation one of the most challenging adjustments for people with kids is suddenly not seeing your kids every day. It takes time, effort, and compromise to adjust to new schedules and divided parenting time for the parents as well as the children. However, my own divorce taught me that there are important reasons to appreciate having time to yourself. In addition to changing the way you spend time with your kids, you are also rebuilding your own life, whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent. Since many parenting-time schedules include alternating weekends, here are some things you can take the time for on weekends that you don’t have parenting time:
- Dating! That’s right, get back in the saddle. It might take some time to feel ready, but those weekends without the kids are the perfect time to get out there and start meeting people. It might start as a group and a blind date, or it may be someone you met on a dating app. You will most likely know ahead of time which weekends you won’t have the kids with you, so take advantage of that to make plans. You may go on lots of first dates, meet a new love, or end up making a great friend. Beginning to date again after a divorce or separation is a different experience for everyone, but the parenting schedule allows some freedom to explore that part of your life again.
- Set up your new space. Whether you moved out of the marital home or your ex-spouse did, the space you are in needs to be either set up or re-set up. If you moved out, finding a place that has space for your children is important. Depending on the age of your kids, tasks such as unpacking, buying furniture, painting, and cleaning might be easier things to do when they are not around. Save setting up the kids’ rooms for when they are with you, so they can help make their new space their own. But for the rest of your dwelling, these weekends alone are a great time to get organized, build your IKEA furniture, and make those extra runs to the Home Depot. If you are the partner that remained in the shared home, you may want to utilize spaces differently than when you lived with your ex. Again, the time you have without the children can be a great time to work on those projects.
- See your friends/make new friends. When first divorced, there is often a grieving period. Spend your weekends without your kids meeting up with friends to get support and keep those connections strong. It is also a good time to make new friends. Whether you were recently divorced/separated or you’ve been divorced for some time, going out and meeting other adults is always a good way to spend time. As your child/children start school or continue on to middle school and high school, so much time will be spent with other parents. Weekends without the kids, unless you are at football games and school plays, are perfect for meeting some people who you connect with on a different level, purely for yourself.
- Catching up on work and projects unrelated to your kids when they are spending time with their other parent can also allow you to spend more time with the kids when you have them. If you are taking care of your own space or a demanding job, “free” time often ends up being not so free. If you can, get ahead of work and taking care of your errands and housework when you do not have the kids, freeing you up to spend carefree time with them when you have parenting time. Having to work during the time you should be going to the park or helping your kids with homework is the worst. Work late and schedule meetings when you know you do not have the kids for parenting time. If you have a shift job, it is a great idea to work with your child’s other parent to make sure you are scheduling parenting time when you know you will not be working.
- Spend some time by yourself. Yes, many people find it hard to be alone, and the instinct to fill up your alone time with chores and tasks might take over. But it’s a good idea to try and find a few moments when you do not have parenting time to do something just because you enjoy it, like read a book, make yourself a nice dinner, or go for a walk. Taking this time for yourself, of only a few minutes, allows you to decompress so you’re ready to focus completely on your children when you have your parenting time. Find that time, because it is not going to appear out of nowhere. As a custodial parent, this personal time will help you take care of your mind and body, when you otherwise have the kids most of the time and might struggle to find these moments.
These are a few suggestions among the many possible things you can do on the days or weekends that you don’t have parenting time. This time by yourself is definitely an opportunity to catch up and plan so that you can get the most out of the time you do have with your kids.