Splitting up with a long-term partner is really shit. Whether it was her decision or his decision, on good terms or bad, it’s bound to be painful and upsetting. Throw a kid or two (or more) into the mix, and things become even more difficult. If you have a single mummy friend who has recently gone through a split from her husband or partner, here are some ways that you could be a good friend to her…
1. Let her know that she rocks
She will be feeling pretty crappy right now. Let her know that you love her and that she is fabulous, and strong, and generally awesome. Repeat. You cannot overstate this or say it too often. Don’t forget to continue to let her know how great she is over the coming months, too – not just in the first few days.
2. Be there, check in.
She might be finding life extra busy now, what with juggling everything solo, and she may disappear off the radar a little. Check in, once in a while, with a text or phone call, just to let her know you’re there – and don’t be offended if you don’t get too much back in return at the moment.
3. Look out for the particularly tricky days.
If you know when their wedding anniversary was, bear it in mind – she might be feeling extra sad or emotional around that date. Also other “hallmark” days – Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthdays. All days that previously would have been shared with her partner and therefore are bound to bring up memories and emotions – show her that whilst her partner isn’t around anymore to share those days with, she does have friends who love her and care about her.
4. Help out if you can.
Being a single parent is hard, especially at the beginning when everything is still so raw, yet there are these little people to look after. Getting used to the new rhythms and routines of everyday life – it takes a while to adjust to the new normal. If you can help your newly-single friend in any practical way, please do. She might not need or want to accept help, but knowing that she’s got someone she can call on to help out when needs must (school run emergency, illness, car breakdown), will be a big comfort.
5. Don’t forget about weekends.
When you’re a single parent, weekends can be tricky, especially at first. Whilst everyone else is having “family time” and fun days out, single parents are on their own – either with the kids, or completely on their own. The latter can be desperately-needed and much-appreciated, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t miss her children so much it hurts. The former can be feel a bit empty, and with all her friends tied up enjoying Daddy being off work, lonely. Imagine not having a single adult conversation from Friday afternoon (at work) until Monday morning (back at work). And big days out to Peppa Pig World or Legoland are difficult to achieve when you’re on your own with two toddlers who like to run in opposite directions and require a pack horse to carry the bags of spare clothes/snacks/drinks etc. Two solid days entertaining little ones when you’re already exhausted from a week at work and could really do with just half an hour in which to have a bath in peace…well that will have to wait until next weekend.
I’m not saying you should forego your family time to babysit your single friend (or her kids), but if you have a spare couple of hours whilst Dad is out playing football – why not suggest a playdate or a cuppa?
6. Wine, chocolate, cake.
7. Dating again – don’t judge.
There will come a time when your single friend decides she is ready to start over in the relationship stakes. This might be after a couple of months, or it might take a couple of years. Either way, don’t judge. Let her find out for herself whether it’s too soon and whether or not she’s really ready. And for goodness sake don’t keep pushing her to “get back on the horse”.
8. She needs you long term, not just now.
Your friend is probably a bloody amazing human being. You may well look at her and wonder how she does it, how she can be so strong and so capable at dealing with everything that life has thrown at her recently. And over time you’ll probably start to assume that she’s ok now, that she’s “over it”. Hopefully you’re right! But whilst the initial shock and heartbreak settles down in time, everyone appreciates a good friend by their side ALL the time – to rant at, to moan to, to share news with, and to have a giggle with. Never underestimate your importance!
The advice above: take it or leave it. Clearly not all of these things are going to apply to all people. I’m writing based on my own personal experience of both marriage break-up and of having my “wolf pack” of the most brilliant friends who got me through it. Hopefully what I’ve written is helpful to somebody out there who wants to help a friend who is going through a similarly tough time.