Are you comfortable with your own company? I mean really comfortable?
The truth is that you probably won’t know until you spend a considerable amount of time on your own. And that’s the lot for the newly single parent – when the children are with the other parent, all of a sudden you have a lot of time to yourself and fewer demands on that time.
I’ve spent my entire life living with other people; parents, University housemates, girlfriend, wife, children… and now, I’ve found myself living on my own, age 31, learning to cook again, and learning to enjoy/endure my own company.
Our setup is one of co-parenting, in that the children live with me 6 nights out of 14; 2 nights midweek, and alternate weekends. That equates to a maximum period of 5/6 days of my own company (excluding that of my esteemed work colleagues, train-friends, the Tesco delivery guy, and assorted Starbucks employees.
The first thing that struck me was the silence. The absence of noise from the TV in the other room, the children playing/fighting/chattering non-stop whilst exploring their place in time, space, and the continuum. The radio quickly became my go-to for avoiding the echo of my own thoughts… and quickly stopped when my choice became apparently bickering politicians on Radio 4 or the same eight songs on loop on the local commercial station.
Sky TV with Sky+ is a blessing, enabling me to record programmes of interest throughout the week and then watch them at my own convenience. The ability to pause and pick-up again without leaving someone complaining the TV is stopped/broken is a small silver lining. Sky+ also enables endless recordings of Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine, City of Friends (“the nee-naw programme”) and Ben and Holly – which, come to the days when the kids are over ensures a stressless breakfast time.
Cooking has become a renewed passion, and one that will be covered off in a separate post – suffice to say in this context that the iPad is the new shiny kitchen accessory with the daily TED talk, or recipe guidance from Jamie’s 15 minute meals app/Great British Chefs/et al.
Actually you probably have lots of friends and family or maybe even a small family far away and just one or two friends fear not quality not quantity. So what is this feeling all about?
1 Feeling alone as you realise that you have ultimate responsibility for the children and yourself
2 Realising that as marvellous as your friends are the truth is you just don’t quite understand if you haven’t been there
3 Feeling as though you are not anyone’s number 1 .
4 Or just that you don’t want to spend another Friday night in on your own when the rest of the world is out having fun
So do any of these ring true for you? Is it a realisation of responsibility? A feeling of isolation due to the lack of shared experiences with your friends? Or a feeling of being left out?
The best advice I can offer is to rediscover all the things you used to do, all the hobbies and interests that were on your ‘rainy day’ to-do list. Re-connect with old friends… the true friendships you’ll find you can pick up easily (although don’t spend the whole time seeking pity or telling your story over and over… they are friends not counsellors).
Finding yourself waking up on a Saturday morning without a small child sat on your head, bouncing on your bed, or telling you how hungry/wet/excited they are, is a very strange experience. Knowing that you are master of your own time for that day… master of the objectives for that day. Take some time to relax into this new life and to spend some time indulging in doing as little as you want.
Make that list of things you’ve longed to do, places you wanted to visit, and people you want to spend time with again. Have a long list of things you could do in case you need an activity to fill your time or distract you. But then try and spend some time doing low priority tasks; things that take time to do but allow for a varied level of brain engagement. This will allow you some time to become acclimitised to your own company whilst keeping you busy enough that time passes whilst being productive!
It also gets the ironing done.