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My close friend has two children under 4 yrs of age and is currently going through a divorce that was not amicable. She is coping relatively well with some family support and has the children 50% of the time. She is spending a lot of time out and about after being a stay at home mum for nearly 4 years and while this might seem positive, I’m concerned that she might be avoiding the enormity of this transition for herself and her boys.
Any suggestions as to how best to support her?
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It must have been very tough for your friend. She is facing huge challenges on multiple fronts. As a wife she is reviving from an emotional trauma, as mother she has to support her kids and make this change smooth, at the same time from a stay at home mom she has to transition into a financially independent person.
It is quite understandable that she might be feeling overwhelmed. Healing and regaining emotional stability takes time. It is good that she is, seemingly, coming out of it strong. If her kids stay with her 50% of time and they spend quality time together than it is fine.
In given circumstances, it is crucial that kids and mother both learn to stay away from each other, as they are away 50% of the time. If they are managing their separation anxiety comfortably and learning to stay emotionally connected while physically at a distance, I think it is a part of healing process.
Keeping herself busy in work and other activities might be your friend’s coping strategy. As long as you do not observe any signs of avoidance or emotional disconnect, best you can do as a good friend is to be in touch with her. Assure her that she always have you by her side and become a part of her successful transition into a life quite new for her.
Best wishes for your friend.
Your concern for your friend is admirable and I can see why your friend's behavior might cause you some concern. I do not know how long you have known one another, but it is possible that you are used to seeing her in the role of wife and mother and her newfound "freedom" is causing you some discomfort as it might seem as if she is avoiding the realities and responsibilities of life as a single parent.
There is a very good chance that you friend is at the stage where she is redefining who she is as a single woman with two children. She may be taking her alone time to appreciate the opportunity to let her hair down and relax without having to be concerned about her children's wellbeing or a spouses expectations - rediscovering the things outside of a relationship that bring her joy. For many women, being married means they lose a lot of their power, especially when it comes to finances and decision making and if this is the case for your friend, her current behavior may be her way of celebrating her own empowerment.
My advice would be for you to be there for her as she goes through this period of self-discovery, but do verbalise any concerns you might have, especially if you think she is placing herself in harms way or engaging in worrying behavior (such as spending money she doesn't have). Be a safe space where she can talk about her day to day life and the concerns she might have, but also someone she can talk to about the ways in which she is coping with her new reality.
Divorce is always complicated, whether it's amicable or not, because of the children. In a perfect world, we would not want to go through this process not only for our kids but also for ourselves. There will be a lot of questions in your friend's mind, especially now that she has to face parenting her kids and living her life without her husband.
You can only do so much as a friend. More than any help you can give, your presence will be significant for your friend. You need not be by her side but knowing that she has you will make her feel that she is not alone. Just let her be, there might be some resistance on her part, after all, what she is going through is really huge for her and her kids.
Just as much as you want to tell your friend to hang in there, I'd also want to tell you the same thing. Hang in there and always be available for a quick meet-up or a short talk. Your friend will be needing someone who can validate her feelings and be with her during this very difficult situation.