Going through a divorce was one of the hardest things I have ever done, emotionally, legally, and financially. It seriously helped to have family and friends in my corner. There are so many things you can do for a mom going through a divorce, to make the experience less painful and to help her emerge from the experience healthier and happier.
When I left my now ex-husband, I didn't know where to begin. This was uncharted territory for me, and I knew only a few people who had been through divorce. Then again, I was lucky. I had amazing people in my life who were willing to listen, give objective advice (when I was so not capable of being objective) and even give me a place to stay and help with child care, as I slowly put my life back together.
Although fairly common, divorce is still looked down on in our culture and people who divorce, especially moms, are seen as selfish and bad parents. The truth of the matter is, of course, that divorce can actually be the best thing you can do for yourself and your family, especially when staying married would be catastrophic.
How can you support a mom going through a divorce? Listen and validate her feelings. If you can, offer your thoughts and support from an outside perspective. Refer her to experts for information about issues related to legal, matters like custody and domestic violence, where bad advice can be dangerous. Lastly, help with practical and logistical needs, like school drop-offs and child care and even bringing the girls' night to her so she doesn't have to find a sitter.
There are so many things you can do to make her life easier. Here are some things that really helped me.
If You Are Divorced, Commiserate
Listen Without Judgment
This is so hard to do, especially when we see someone making bad choices or making different choices than we would make. Remember, it's not about you. Life is relative and freaking complicated. There's so much that you probably can't know or understand from outside of their relationship. Simply listen and validate her emotions, even if you don't always like her choices.
Support Her Choices
Again, this is freaking hard. Remember, she is an expert in her own life and she has to live with the consequences, not you. The most powerful words are often, "I support you no matter what," even when they are accompanied by, "I'm concerned about you."
Tell Her She Is A Good Parent
Getting divorced doesn't make you a bad mom. In fact, sometimes it's the best thing you can do for your kids and yourself. She deserves to hear that.
Spend Time With Her
It's so lonely to go through a divorce, especially when you are used to having someone other than your toddler and baby to talk with after work and to watch the latest show on Netflix after the kids go to bed. My mom and dad and BFFs made it a point to schedule time with me every week. It helped to not feel alone.
Offer To Babysit
It's freaking hard to go from co-parent to single parent and to not have someone you can tag in when you need a break. This was key to my mental health and made all the difference.
As much as we would like to think that our friendship with our friend's soon-to-be ex has nothing to do with them, it can seriously hurt to see your ex like your friends' posts on social media or make plans with your old crowd. It's OK to choose sides. We aren't in high school anymore.
Bring girls' night to your mom friend, when she can't find a sitter. Get her drunk on tequila shots and sleep over so that you can be there for her kids if they wake up. When she's ready, help her make a silly online dating profile and then laugh at the responses. Gift her some normalcy and help her relax.
Give Her Objective Advice
When you are going through a separation or divorce, it's often difficult to see the reality of how bad your relationship is. Things can be so hard after you leave that you decide to go back, even when your partner was horrible to you, abusive, or not good for you or your kids. It helps to hear these things from someone on the outside. It allows you to remember the bad times and start to imagine a different life, even when your partner is begging you to come back or trying to convince you to stay.
Encourage Her To Get Legal Help
There are things that you can do as a friend, and areas that you should definitely leave up to professionals. Divorce is complicated and the law might vary by state, county, or even an individual's situation. To make matters more fuzzy, her partner might try to convince her to sign forms or keep things out of court, to save money or try to get their way. It's OK to tell her that you don't think her ex is being honest, but no matter what, don't try to give your friend legal advice if you aren't their attorney. Encourage them to consult professionals for advice related to divorce, property, custody, visitation, child abuse, and domestic violence, where good advice and information can make a huge difference.