06 Sep Co-Parenting and Depression: Managing “The Time Between”
By the time my husband and I decided to separate in 2014, I had already been battling depression for 25 years. I was a tortured kid to say the least. I never felt liked, or loved, or worth it. At age 10, I turned to anorexia to bring order to all the demons in my head. But when I met my husband at 24—and had my first beautiful son seven years later—I felt a new foundation begin to set. It was hard to focus on my depression or body issues when I had a family who loved me—and needed me—so much.
Fast forward nine years, and I was living a different story. When we separated, I no longer had the reassurance of knowing at least one man in the world thought I was smart and beautiful. But even worse for me was “the time between.” It was the time my kids (now two sons) were with their father, and I no longer had their hands reaching for me, making me realize I was loved and needed. “The time between” ripped away my solid identity as a mom. It left me void of purpose via my children’s grounding presence. It left me face to face with (gasp) myself, and all the sadness I’d been able to bury for so long.
What I’ve learned, to keep my depression from rearing its head in “the time between,” is that I need to stop seeking value from others, and start finding it within myself. That seems easy enough, right? Not quite! But the following are a few things that have helped me find new strength in those moments of sadness and loneliness while working through the challenges of co-parenting and divorce.
Reaching out. We need to admit our pain. Joining a group like Celebrate Recovery allows us to share our feelings without judgment. Sometimes honestly spilling our guts about our sadness is all it takes to feel better.
Building a new identity. I know—that sounds over-whelming. But what I mean is that we must stop thinking about ourselves as worthy because of our roles as parents, and realize we are valuable for many other reasons—our friendships, work, volunteering, etc. Yes, parenting is important. But it isn’t the only thing that makes us who we are.
Accepting life as it is. Co-parenting is hard! We have disagreements—er, raging arguments—weird living arrangements, awkward schedules, and friends who often don’t understand how challenging it really is to manage those things sanely. We need to acknowledge it. Accept it. Know it’s OK to feel sad about what we’ve lost, but it’s also OK to be excited about looking forward.
Enjoying my free time. At first, it was difficult to find my place in “the time between.” But I promise it’s possible to love it—or at least enjoy it for what it is—the chance to explore our own interests, find new love, and do the inner work that can keep us happy and healthy for our children moving forward.
Managing depression is hard. Managing it during a divorce or in times of co-parenting can be even harder. But our kids need us well! They need us healthy. They need us to know—as they do—that we are loved, needed, and valued beyond measure. And those are things that will never change in “the time between.”