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Getting energy back and adjusting to being a single parent again

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ProbableIceCream posted 8/19/2014 10:20 AM

Well, DD has been back for almost three days. I'm gradually (well.. gradually for some people, rapidly for me) getting my energy back. I think having her to myself instead of living with both her and my sister is teaching me a lot. Not that I didn't know the stuff before, but I'm approaching it with more of a 'clean slate' or 'beginner's mind.'

She's a goodhearted kid, but wow does she have a low tolerance for boredom. Yesterday I was filling out a form and had her sit down quietly for 5-10 minutes with nothing to do, and she just wouldn't or couldn't do it. I discussed it with her later and I let her know that her not doing what I said (repeatedly) stressed me out and made me feel a little embarrassed, but conversely I figured out that she just, at least right now, has a lot of trouble doing that even if she wants to. So next time I need her to sit quietly I'll make sure she has a quiet activity. She likes reading and drawing, for example, so those could work.

I am of course aware that kids can be motivated with positive and negative consequences, and I intend to continue incorporating those, but I am going to try to make adjustments that don't fundamentally go against the grain of who she is right now. (Yesterday I took away a privilege for her not listening to me, for example.) She is a bright kid and sometimes it's easy to forget that she's just eight years old...

I'll have to admit that I'm feeling a little frustrated and sad today, but they're just feelings and I'm going to let myself feel them and move on.

As to the other part of my topic, getting energy back.. the first day she was back it was about all I could do to take her home from the airport and later go to Target, and I hit my limit really fast. Second day.. I don't recall exactly, I think we did some errands and I showed her some interesting things close to home, from the car.

Third day was yesterday and we went and got a library card and she got a bunch of library books, we hung out in a park and read a bit, and I took her to a place that does drop in child care so I could fill out the aforementioned form, since I'm going to be doing an informal interview for a new position at the company where I work on Wednesday, so I'll be dropping her off for a couple hours. I also got her a little frozen yogurt as a treat (this was the first thing we did, before the sit-quietly incident).

As an aside, I'm addressing the unhealthy eating issue I talked about in a previous post by basically giving her a variety of healthy foods for her meals and severely limiting the amount of junk food that she has access to by not having it at home. I don't think it's going to be productive to try to force her to eat any one food, but fortunately she is interested in enough variety of healthy foods so far that things are going well in that department.

BTW, I don't know if it matters, but I am straightforward with her in my reasons for doing things, and I try to let her know what to expect, and I believe I communicate my feelings reasonably well (not like 'oh i'm feeling depressed today' or anything like that, but more like hey when you did this action, I felt X). She seems to respond well to structure and reason for most things--and if she doesn't know what to expect she is very persistent at asking until she knows either what or why.

As another aside, I'm finding that I am doing much better as I do my liquid antidepressant taper--I am less numb, have wider range of feelings, and don't get the awful head pounding or shortness of breath that I was getting. Once I hit 150 mg (I started at 200 mg) I'm taking two weeks off from any med changes to see how things are going. Anyway, the reason I brought this up is that I am able to feel a lot of the stuff regarding my daughter, whether it's a 'good' or 'bad' emotion, better, and I prefer it that way. Being so numb that I had trouble experiencing my feelings towards her was frustrating and (ironically) sad. So this is an improvement. It's not like the feelings don't exist when I can't feel them, either--I believe they're still there, just more unconscious, which makes it harder for me to deal with them.

This is not to knock antidepressants... I think that at the very least I was simply on too high of a dose, and potentially in my case I'm ready to fully come off it, but we'll see.

She and I still have about a couple weeks left before any sort of work or school might start and I will continue getting out and doing fun stuff with her.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading... being a single parent in the purest sense of the word is a new thing for me. I think I leaned on my sister a lot before. She really helped me through a lot of the bad stuff post D-Day. She moved in with me and XW shortly after D-Day happened in mid 2012 and stayed with me until I moved out of state around Jul 1 2014. Conversely, I gave her a place to stay for the first few months as she gradually found part time and then full time work. She's been very fair about paying her share of the bills, except for the first couple months when she was job hunting and during that time she did an amazing amount of work around the place we lived. At the time she wasn't doing so well--she was living with my parents which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and now she's doing much much better and actually seems happy.

GotPlayed posted 8/19/2014 10:53 AM


I wish I had better news, but having poor energy is going to be a constant more or less for a little while. Get used to it.

If your kid responds well to structure, sometimes the junk food thing is done because it's so damn accessible. You've done well by limiting the amount of it in your house, but you don't want to create cravings, so you may want to provide alternatives instead, and alternatives that are as easy to access as the bags of junk food. That will cut the habit.

What I've found works well, both to deal with the poor energy (less work throughout the week) and to make sure the kids eat right is to create snack bins in the fridge and pre-make snack bags (as an alternative to a bag of chips), in the fridge for my own DD8/DD10.

I used the instructions here -

I pre-assemble the salads (just wait to add the dressing), the bags of crunchy veggie snacks, and the lunch+dinner meals for the week, in servings that are appropriate for them. They can themselves be taught to grab something from the fridge and microwave it. If you want a sit-down meal, you just microwave two sets. It also cuts on the dishwashing.

I do something similar for the sandwiches. I'm still observing her as she does it, but she makes her own sandwich now - by "dosing" the ham+cheese (or whatever) in snack bags and the bread in ziplock bags and having it all together I minimize the effort for her. She has taken to it like a fish to water. She loves it. It also gives her a sense of control over her life.

It's a few hours of preparation on Sunday (and I'm exhausted by the time it's over, as I cook for the week and split everything Sundays), but it saves more hours throughout the week than it takes on the weekend. Those hours you can use to play and bond with her, which will be healing for both of you, and help with her boredom.

[This message edited by GotPlayed at 10:58 AM, August 19th, 2014 (Tuesday)]

ProbableIceCream posted 8/19/2014 11:00 AM

Thanks for the tips. I'll take a close look at that site.

The poor energy thing.. I'm curious as to why you think it will persist for a while and then presumably get better. I agree with you, but what is your reasoning?

(And unfortunately I am very used to poor energy, but I believe I am making changes in my life that will help me a lot with it.)

GotPlayed posted 8/19/2014 11:28 AM

For me, I think some of it is still spending mental cycles on the A and aftermath (I'm still under 12 months out of D-Day). I depress over what I might have done wrong in the M, if doing X would have helped, what have you. Because there's no solution, no loop to close, it's a lot of mental and emotional energy that doesn't have a reward at the end, so nothing goes back to you. Also I don't know about you but as a guy I'm not that great at multitasking.

I'm an optimist at heart, I've never been on antidepressants (though I do see a psychologist twice a month and have since this thing started - so does DD8), and I heal rapidly, so I have noticed it getting better. It's not consistent - you go forward and then backwards again. But it's always a bit more forward than backwards. If I feel it's backwards more days than forwards for a period, I talk to IC to try to find out why.

In my case, I also have a child with severe autism, and my level of energy goes up and down depending on how he is doing and how many of his behaviors the family ends up having to deal with.

Also remember a kid on late summer vacation is bored and edgy - misses her friends, and things aren't "right" with her, even in the best of circumstances. Many a parent has said that they are relieved the kids are back in school. I also got a library card for my DD8. She loves doing trips there and she's quiet enough that I can let her roam around by herself, so it gives me a few minutes of peace, too.

A lot of it is getting the confidence, having a break from her being back at school (and then distracted with homework) and getting some "semi-automation" of your household going as I mentioned before. Clean slate - and beginner's mind - helps. It's helped me to get and read about household tips and apply them, always keeping in mind how much time they save you versus how much effort they are. While you're in beginner's mind you're like a sponge, and some things that your parents or spouse or sister never did will speak to you. This stuff is a lot of work but it's essentially simple (it's just a lot of it).

No12turn2 posted 8/19/2014 13:34 PM

Not just energy....MOTIVATION! How difficult is it now to look at the tasks that used to be done by 2 people and think "I'm on my own"? I know how difficult it is. It's all a mind game. You'll soon find that you are the only one cleaning and doing laundry and cooking, but there is LESS of it to do. My dishwasher hardly ever gets used now days, I wash clothes once a week, and we are hardly home to mess up the house.

ProbableIceCream posted 8/19/2014 13:51 PM

Also I think xw back when I lived with her in 2012 was generating more housework than she was clearing.

GotPlayed posted 8/19/2014 14:17 PM

Also I think xw back when I lived with her in 2012 was generating more housework than she was clearing

There, so then it's actually less work when it's all said and done.

Kajem posted 8/19/2014 19:53 PM

My kids therapist praised me explaining why I didn't give permissions or punished my kids. She said it helped them to see past the immediate gratification to consequences of actions in the future. And since my divorce was so contentious, it helped the kids understand that my declining a request, was not about their father.

It just made sense to me.

Good luck,


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