For some, divorce seems like the end of the family unit. But for Harriet, it became the starting point for a closer, stronger and much more rewarding relationship with her children
When I ended my marriage, I didn't think for a minute what single parenting would be like.
All I knew was that the marriage had become desperately unhappy.
It was clear that my children, my ex - and I - would be happier as two families. It was an emotional decision that has proved to be 110% correct; we are all genuinely so much happier now.
So, what is being a single parent actually like? It's beautiful, rewarding, exhausting, claustrophobic, and pressured - plus, it makes you become a creative mastermind when it comes to childcare and backup plans.
In the beginning, I found the emotional side of being alone the hardest. No one asked me 'how my day was' on a regular basis and some adult conversation became something I craved. No one noticed that I was looking tired, or annoyed, or happy and no one asked why. Knowing I had no-one to back me up was hard.
Sunday nights were my lowest point; I had no one to chill out on the sofa with, debrief from the week just passed or plan the week ahead. If I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a break or wanted a co-pilot to come up with and hold the boundaries on discipline and reward strategies together, I was on my own. To be honest, some days I just wanted someone else to unload the dishwasher or do the early shift after a late night!
A few years down the line, the emotional bit is much smoother; I have deepened and broadened my support network of girlfriends and my parents are closer than ever. But most importantly, I have become really good at letting others in and asking someone to listen.
The challenges I face are now more practical, especially as I run my own coaching business from home. Largely, I have it sorted - but sometimes things don't go to plan - i.e. someone is sick, sleep is in short supply or I'm running late and I can't get to school on time for pickup.
It's become essential to think ahead and plan pre-emptively. I now have a live-in au pair who rivals my 'black belt' in being flexible. I have developed a network of other mums locally I can call on if I need to when I'm running late, just as they can call on me. Keeping tabs on the normal day-to-day practicalities has become a 'list on the fridge' way of life.
I've transformed my formerly low Sunday nights into a high point. We've created a new family ritual that involves a sleepover party with camp beds in my room, and we all read stories, laugh and cuddle together before we sleep. The week, it ends - and then starts again full of love, happiness and togetherness.
And the answer to the missing out on the daily updates or someone to ask how I am? I eat supper with the children every day - no matter how busy work is - and we go around the table and each answer the question 'how was your day?' We all hear about the highs and lows, the challenges, playground fun and fights, the exciting things that happened in science class or whatever else is important.
It's a beautiful moment and the boys now take far more interest in me and each other than they used to. It also helps me to be fully present and aware of how the boys are on a day-to-day basis - something that I realised early on would be vital once there wasn't another person around to also notice the nuances of daily life.
One of the greatest rewards is allowing myself to feel proud of how much I am accomplishing on my own. I'm the one that holds it all together, knows the boys best, empowers them with cool tools to handle their emotions or tricky situations as they grow, and hugs them goodnight.
And the greatest single parenting upside? If I'm the only one that makes the rules, I can decide spontaneously if we're all going to break them. So, ice cream on the sofa before homework because we've all had a tough day? Let's do it, and have seconds, too!
Harriet Waley-Cohen, Coach and Founder, Get The Wellness Edge