Coping With Divorce: When Your Kids are With Your Ex and You’re Home Alone

coping with divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

If someone asked me what the hardest part of divorce was at the beginning, right after my ex moved out, I would say it was the nights my kids were with their dad. I would go to bed and wake up in an eerily quiet house and I hated it so much. Coping with divorce in this regard isn’t easy and it takes time.


I have a friend who is experiencing a new separation and is having a hard time coping with divorce. She called me crying the other day because her two little girls were at their dad’s house from Friday night through Monday morning.


“I have never been without them for this long,” she cried. “It hurts so much.”


I felt terrible for her and I was able to related 100%.


When I first got separated and my kids went to their dad’s, I started doing a couple of things. First, I started obsessively cleaning my house, and I’m talking to the extent of scrubbing the floors on my knees. That stopped after a few weeks.


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I also began drinking wine a lot, even when I was home alone. I would drink a couple glasses and then call my girlfriends and cry. It was awful, and I would tell anyone who is newly separated to be aware of how much you drink. Newly separated people are susceptible to addictions (including alcohol) because they are trying to numb pain, anxiety and fear. Anyhow, it took a few months, but the drinking stopped, too.


As time went on, coping with divorce got easier. I started getting used to the kids not being at my house on certain nights. Actually, I don’t think you ever really “get used to it,” but I started to be able to cope. Here are 6 pieces of advice for dealing with your kids sleeping at your ex’s house:

1.    Don’t think too much and stop the guilt


It’s easy for a newly separated person to start hating him or herself. “I chose to get divorced and now I have to be without my kids. God is punishing me. I’m a horrible person. Who doesn’t sleep in the same house with their young children every night?” Those are some thoughts that were going through my head when I was recently separated, and I now see how ridiculous they are.

You aren’t being punished! You did what was best for everyone by splitting up. And, if the divorce wasn’t your decision, you had no choice. Ask yourself this question. Would the kids be better off living in a household with two unhappy people whose marriage wasn’t working, where there is no love, only fighting and anger and deceit and resentment? Every case is unique, but I have to believe in most cases, the kids are better off in 2 loving homes than in one unhappy one.


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2.    Learn to enjoy the time alone.

When your kids were babies, how many times did you wish you could run away and do something for yourself? Now you can! Do a yoga class, work on doing your job better, see friends, go to a movie, read good books, take a bath. Life is too short to spend ANY time sitting around being miserable. We are put on this earth to enjoy ourselves. Please don’t waste precious time crying about something you have no control over.


3.    Don’t feel guilty about enjoying the time alone.

That’s just unproductive. And I bet if you asked your kids, they would want you to enjoy your time. Plus, when they come back, you will be refreshed and excited to see the kids and you’ll have this twinkle of happiness and they will see it.


 4.    Talk to your kids.

For years when my kids were little, they would ask, “Mom, what are you going to do while we’re at dad’s?” as if they are worried about leaving me home alone. I would answer them by rattling off a million things I had to do, or maybe friends I was seeing, which I think made them feel very relieved and happy. The burden isn’t on the kids. The worst thing you can do is show that unhappy face that lets your kids know you are sad that they are leaving. It’s actually selfish to do that, in my opinion.





5.    Be flexible with your ex about schedule changes.

Let’s say your ex has to go out of town and can’t have your kids on his scheduled night. What do you do? Say, “tough. Get a sitter?” No! Say, “No problem, I will have them that night.” Why? Because then, he or she will do the same for you when you need to make changes. And, if he or she doesn’t reciprocate, who cares? What have you lost by taking the high road? Nothing. You’ve gained good karma and you did what was best for your kids. Trust me, helping each other out is so good for coping with divorce, and your relationship with your ex. More importantly, it’s good for your kids.


 6.    Enjoy the time you have when your kids are home.

Think about parents who have long work hours, or people who travel a lot for their jobs. They are really in the same boat. You might have less time with your kids now, but you can make the time you have really fun, and enjoyable. So don’t focus on the times you are home alone, focus on what you are going to do when your kids are with you.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a day in the city at 2 museums, stores and out for dinner, or if it’s sitting in front of the fireplace watching iCarly. Looking at their little faces, scratching their backs, listening to their problems and enjoying every moment is what counts.

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I could have told my newly separated self.”


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

5 Responses to “Coping With Divorce: When Your Kids are With Your Ex and You’re Home Alone”

  1. edie butler

    Thanks. I know how it feels living in an empty house. with no kids with me. When silence is deafening, I agree that it’s important I keep my thoughts positive and uplifting. It IS better when the kids are in two happy households. I am cruel to make the kids feel worried or guilty about me being here alone. There are so many wonderful things I am now able to do, now that I have regained my independence!

  2. Melissa

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been separated/divorced for 4 years now and I still have a hard time when my kids are gone for long stretches. I’ve learned to fill my time with both busy activities, general getting stuff done, and recoup time for me.

  3. Brandi

    Can’t thank you enough. I’m bawling my eyes out on my first night alone and this is the first thing that got me to smile. Phew. Glad I’m capable of that. I was ready to call of my divorce. Thinking I’ll manage, at least for tonight. Thanks!

  4. Nithya Srivatsan

    I am in the same situation except here the kids dont come to me ..they are denied from meeting me. I am feeling awful..i chose to come out of the house becuase i was constantly being insulted for my affair which i had stopped a few years back…my kids started to ignore and disrespect me. Now they are not allowed to meet me..

  5. El

    I’m not attacking any of you. I don’t know your specific situations. And I have no doubt that you are in pain. But seriously, complaining about not seeing your kids for a weekend because they are with their dad? Really? Us fathers routinely have our children kept away from us by the mother for weeks or months during a divorce. And, in the end, after spending our life savings and going into debt fighting to just spend a little time with our kids – that’s all most of us want after all, and to move on and rebuild our lives – we are granted only every other weekend with them. Four to six nights a month. That’s it. And we are told to shut up an be happy about it. It’s humiliating and disheartening. Mostly, it’s sad for the children who need a father and man in their lives. And to add insult to injury, we are often ordered to pay exorbitant child support to the mother and possibly maintenance for the “privilege” of being a visitor to our children. It’s really hard to feel sympathy for any woman (who according to statistics initiates the divorce most of the time) because the kids are with their loving father for a couple of days. I’m not attacking women. I know it feels excruciating for you.. I’m not taking that away from you. But maybe this will help put things in perspective and bring some peace in your life during a difficult time. And, perhaps, understand your ex better for the benefit of your children.


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