If you’re a parent getting divorced and you have ill health, you don’t need me to tell you that you have a lot on your plate. In this blog we look at how to manage the triple demands of parenting, getting your divorce done and managing your health.
Who is looking after you?
When you are ill, you simply can’t keep going at the same pace. Something has to give. In a moment I’ll share how the ‘project management triangle’ can help you make decisions on what to let go of.
But first, think about your situation: you are the expert in your life, not me. What and who do you have in place to support you as you manage your health, your divorce and your children? Because a team around you is vital.
Who’s in your team is up to you. It might require you to be proactive in asking for help. Friends and family might have held back, not wanting to step on your toes. But, all of us like to feel helpful. Let your loved ones know that you need them. And be specific – what exactly can they help you with?
If you’re working, have you let your work know about your situation? If your health is poor they may be able to make reasonable adjustments to make your work life easier to manage. And they may be able to offer flexibility in other ways to help you cope with the burden of divorce on top of everything else.
Would speaking to a professional be helpful? Are there therapies or helplines you can make use of, to help you navigate this difficult time? Explore which campaigning and support organisations are around with specific knowledge of your condition. For example, Macmillan has a wealth of information on how cancer impacts a whole range of life issues, and also has a helpline.
Are there people who can pick up some of the tasks involved with your divorce? If your finances are complicated, can you work with a financial advisor? Can you instruct a legal team to represent you?
Can you get extra support with looking after the children? Let their schools know what is happening – it might be they can offer extra pastoral care or after school activities. They might be able to help with school drop offs and collection, or put you in touch with people who can.
The project management triangle
The project management triangle is a tool often used in businesses for decision-making. But it can apply to all sorts of things. The idea is there are three main factors at play:
And you can only have two of them. Think of it in terms of paying for a new kitchen. What are your priorities? You can get it quickly and cheaply, in which case it won’t be the highest quality. You can have the highest spec, and get to the front of the queue, in which case it won’t be cheap. Or you can have it cheaply, and of good quality, but it will take longer.
This decision-making triangle holds true for most situations. And once you can accept that, it’s actually quite liberating. Especially if you’re struggling with your health. It gives you permission to let some things go.
You may have been holding yourself to unrealistic expectations. Think about the ‘quality’ side of the triangle. And really take the time to explore for yourself – what have you been trying to do to the highest quality, when ‘good enough’ really is good enough? It’s fine if the children have microwave or freezer meals sometimes. It’s fine if the house is a little messy.
Now think about the time aspect. Sometimes, especially when you have a lot on, and especially when your health is less than optimal, you will need longer. This is a fact, and once you surrender to it life becomes less of a struggle. The key to this is communication. Let people know what your needs and constraints (or possible constraints if you have good and bad days are). Solicitors and the court system need to know that you will need more time, and may need other adjustments too.
FInally, let’s think about cost. We all need to prioritise where we spend our money. And, for some of us, there isn’t enough money to go around, which forces our decision-making – we either have to be flexible about time or quality. If you do have access to money, think about where it can save you time, or get you a better quality of support. It’s possible to spend money strategically. For example, I’ve written at length about why it’s (usually) a waste of money to instruct a solicitor straight away. You can read about that here.
Support your children
It’s a valuable lesson for children that families are a team, and look after each other. Sometimes members of the team need to do a bit extra to help each other. But if your health is putting significant extra responsibilities on your children, it’s important to seek help for them.
It may be that your circumstances mean that your children need to do more practical things than you’d ideally like. Maybe they need to help you get dressed, or reach things. In itself, this isn’t a problem. The key is to make sure the burden of responsibility doesn’t become too heavy. And to ensure they have time and space to be care-free too.
Children are considered to be ‘young carers’ if they need to support someone in their family who is ill or disabled. There are a number of services around to support children in this position. Put your local council and ‘young carers’ into Google and see what support is available locally. Barnardo’s also has a range of services across the UK to help families where children have a caring role.
Let your children know you are still there for them. It doesn’t matter whether you aren’t able to do the same range of activities as some other parents, you are there for them to talk to. You love them unconditionally, and can support them with their struggles – either directly or by contacting others who can.
Develop your support network
Looking after your health needs, managing your divorce and supporting your children is a LOT to handle. Don’t do it alone. Surround yourself with people who can be there for you. People who can help you practically. People who get it and won’t judge. People with whom you can be honest.
You can find all that, PLUS the inside track on getting divorced your way in The Absolute Academy.
The Absolute Academy is a community of women who want to take charge of their divorce. Yes it’s hard, confusing and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. The Absolute Academy has the divorce toolkits and guidance to take the strain out of your divorce. The knowledge you’ll gain is likely to save you thousands in solicitor’s bills. And, even more important than that, the confidence and community you’ll discover will be with you well beyond getting your Final Order (or Decree Absolute).
Don’t do it alone.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com