When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, 'Things Fall Apart' she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves. This week, she reflects on life post-divorce and how bank holidays (and long weekends) can expose the loneliness of single parenting
The last bank holiday I can remember was not great. It was back at the start of the summer. Things got off on the wrong foot on the Friday morning when I went on Instagram and got mired in what felt like an endless flood of images about plans for the weekend, which then meant I disappeared down a tunnel of feeling like everyone else was having the 2.4 family weekend of dreams.
I had yet to make plans and so felt unprotected from such a glut of images of family BBQs and walks in the park.
Bank holidays were still then a crack in my armour. Just that bit too much at-a-loose-endedness.
After a divorce, weekends can be tricky for a time. They expose you too much.
The difficulty of finding the balance between wanting to plan every moment so you’re not suddenly hit in the face by loneliness because you’ve left too many gaps where it can creep in, but then not wanting to plan everything because… well, that’s exhausting and you don’t know how you might feel in the moment.
You know you’re doing well when you can not plan an entire weekend; instead, go with the flow, and enjoy it. But bank holidays tipped the scale from manageable, to swamped. And that one, in early summer, sent me off into a spin of sadness that lasted for days. Fine one day, the next looking at my life through a fug of unhappiness, trying to get back to enjoying it, but unable to.
This bank holiday, five months on, couldn’t have been more different.
Like a friend
I’m not being creepy, or people think we’re sisterish, or she’s my best friend-y, I say to my brother, but Herself is the person I share my life with, in the way you do your girlfriend. When you dig into that as a single parent, rather than struggle against your own circumstances, endlessly comparing yourself to other families, it becomes so much easier.
For now, I hasten to add, because no one wants to be the mother who writes a column about her daughter being the love of her life hereby leaving said-child to feel awkward when it’s time to move out. 'You okay mum?'
(Yes, as it happens, I’ll be off doing long weekends with the School BF and the Work Wife. We already talk about the trips we’ll take and the things we’ll do when our kids are older).
"I’m lying on the couch on my own"
It’s more to say that when you match your pace to theirs, rather than struggle with what you do not have right now, life can be so satisfying. We did a bedtime that was on the late-side for her and the early for me, which meant she slept in and I got 12 hours sleep. Winning all around.
We discussed in great detail each meal we would take, and ignored the golden weather to hang around at home together, then went to hang out for a day with friends whose family happens to contain a best friend for both of us.
Herself went out with her father, and I lay on the couch pretending to myself I would start work shortly (instead, eating my way through a pack of Wispas, half watching Morse on mute and reading my book). A day all to myself, which months ago might have daunted me, felt blissful. "Are you free for a chat or in the middle of a family day?" A friend said when she called. "Nope, I’m lying on the couch on my own". Heaven, we agreed.
How far you've come
The book I’m reading was is The Most Fun We Ever Had, and if you’re in a book club with me (which is quite possible, I’m in three), expect to have it pushed upon you sometime soon. In it, one of the character’s is about to become a single mother. She’s scared, and her parents are sad, and the whole thing is presented as a sort of oncoming doom. Apprehensive sadness.
It’s the kind of thing that would once have pushed all kinds of buttons for me. Now I could read it with an almost academic interest. "Yep," I thought, "that’s really difficult where she’s at, and will be for a while, and then it won’t be. It will be fine".
When you’re in the middle of something difficult, you know that things will feel easier someday. You know because it’s logical, and because people tell you so.
But you don’t really know it in a way that you can enjoy (beyond gritting your teeth and telling yourself this will pass), because you can’t quite make the leap of faith to imagine that whole different self. And also because in the middle of it, you don’t really realise quite how difficult things are right now; you won’t until you’re beyond it.
And then you look back and remember the last bank holiday, or you see a description of yourself in a book, and see how far you’ve come.
Photo: Magdalena Smolnicka
Read more: Things Fall Apart: Families can be any number of people
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Read more: Starting over: How to put your life back together after divorce