PARENTING AFTER DIVORCE: "Perfect Parent" Pressures & Confidence Issues Can be a Challenge


Parenting after divorce can be challenging for a lot of newly divorced parents but then again, parenting is challenging no matter what. Just ask Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. She is not divorced and so she has no parenting-after-divorce pressures but the other day, I read that the Duchess of Cambridge had made a comment about parenting that intrigued me. Apparently she said something to the effect that while parenting is rewarding, it can be overwhelming, exhausting and filled with worry. This sounded so incredibly familiar and normal! Here is an excerpt from the Telegraph about what the Duchess actually said:

“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said.

“However, at times it has also been a huge challenge – even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.

“Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother.

“It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together.  Your fundamental identity changes overnight.

Could the same be true of divorced mothers (and fathers!)? Parenting after divorce must be exactly the same types of pressures that Kate describes, right? Many recently divorced parents are challenged in a similar way to new mothers like the Duchess. This new and sudden change in their marital status can leave parents reeling, not really knowing or understanding how to wear the new role as “single parent.”

The idea is that their identity as a married parent has changed overnight and the pressure to be “perfect” for fear of literally losing their kids to an ex or to a court system that for many peoples seems set up to destroy families rather than help families can get to be too much. And then when you add the side issues they are dealing with (like, for example, maybe the divorce is very high conflict and there are many trips back to court; maybe they are having trouble collecting court ordered financial support; maybe they are challenged with trying to find work) suddenly “exhaustion” is not even the half of it.

What could be more depressing and exhausting than constantly having to watch out not to make a parenting mistake for fear that someone will literally take your children away? What could be worse than that?

The thing is that many of these mothers and fathers who suddenly find themselves single parents after a divorce suffer in silence just like the subset of women who are young mothers that Kate Middleton refers to when she said:

Many of these women also suffer in silence, overwhelmed by negative feelings, but also afraid to admit to the struggles they are facing due to the fear or shame of what others might think if they “aren’t coping”.

Coping as a parent is hard, period. It is true that depending on your situation, it can be less difficult or more difficult. Whether you are a single mother who never married, or a single father recently divorced or a married first time parent, parenting is a tough job.

The Duchess has launched the Best Beginnings Project in conjunction with the Duke of Cambridge as well as Prince Harry. This initiative is aimed at helping parents who are suffering mental issues on account of having young children. She advocates talking about problems and getting support from others and basically taking care of one self as a parent in order to be there for one’s children:

The Duchess said: “If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor.

“Getting help with our mental health is no different – our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.

“Conversations are crucial for mental wellbeing and they should be part of everyday family life. Talking about a problem with a friend or another trusted person can be the beginning of getting better.

The Duchess’ advice is sage and should be adopted by all parents including those who are recently divorced because they also suffer pressure to be “perfect” and they also suffer issues with “confidence” after divorce. Perhaps a similar organization such as the one started by the Duchess needs to be created for recently divorce parents who also feel overwhelmed by these new pressures.