24/01/2012 11:13 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Semi-Detached Parent: What Would Oprah Do?

The Semi-Detached Parent: What would Oprah do? Getty

So, you know how much I love a self-help book (you don't? I've written about it before, here).

This week, Adele Theron's Naked Divorce For Women arrived on my desk, and I delved in, despite not being divorced (or indeed, naked).

It describes itself as a 21-day program for your new life – and yes, it does seem very American in format (although the author lives in London according to the blurb) but it's undeniably fun and accessible and I found myself drawn in.

I'll be honest, I have not read it all - it's a BOOK and I'm all about the Kindle these days. But the bits I have read I've really enjoyed and I think it's a good advice/get you thinking type info for all sorts of heartache type situations, not just divorce.

It's divided into various chapter headings covering everything from accepting your relationship is over, overcoming bitterness and anger, looking after your emotional and physical health, (re-balancing your hormones even!) dealing with work, blah blah blah. All good, salient, head-noddy in agreement type stuff. And there are exercises and tips at the end of each section, which was where, on page 72, I found this little gem, which, at first glance had me roaring with laughter then thinking, yes, I could try that...

"Channel Your Hero for the Day
Spend one day walking around as if you are your hero. For example, if you chose Oprah, practice being her for a day. Think about how she would approach the situation you are in, what she would say, what she would do. This exercise is so much fun and you will learn magical things in that day. Whenever you feel empowered, try and channel your hero for a day."

It was just SO deliciously bonkers an idea that I found myself thinking about it all day. Only trouble was, I couldn't come up with a hero. I don't think I have ever watched Oprah (apart from seeing clips of that awful excruciating Tom Cruise love-professing-sofa-surfing moment).

When I was a teenager I had a bit of an Oscar Wilde obsession, but now, as a 38-year-old single mum, I can't imagine that the Naked Divorce's author would ever have him in mind as a tool of empowerment. And it would probably earn me odder looks than usual if I turned up at the school gate sporting a carnation in my button hole, talking in aphorisms and parading a pale, haughty Oxford undergraduate on my arm.

But I didn't want to abandon it as an idea altogether, so I instead thought about what my triggers for dis-empowerment were. Turn it on it's head, and once I'd listed those, I'd go back to the hero sourcing.

Well, the latter was easy. There is really only one thing about being a single-parent that I feel dis-empowered by: lack of control.


I often feel like I am dealt the pooey end of the stick in my situation when it comes to childcare – we both work full-time, yet my ex's work or holiday or leisure commitments always seem to take priority over mine.


This is something that despite endless rational (and not so rational) conversations about, we just cannot seem to iron out. It's the only thing we really argue over, and yet we both know WHAT the answer is, yet are both seemingly too proud, busy, riled, whatever, to sort it out.

Simply, we need, and have needed for a very long time, reliable, regular childcare. But we had lost sight of that in our power struggle to not be the one who backs down. Sigh...

So this week I regained the control and hired a childminder. Yes, it has cost me money, yes I will have to increase my workload to pay for her, but I have regained the control over the situation.

I do not have to ask my ex to take our son when I need to be out at meetings or events, and I subsequently do not have to get stressed and angry over his refusals. And our son can be looked after at home without being ferried around to other people (which is something I know he hates and I feel awful about).

And this very small thing has taken a huge weight off my shoulders (so who knows, perhaps my childminder will become my hero).

So I'd definitely recommend having a dip in and out of this book just to make you THINK about stuff if you are newly separated or divorced.


I can't really believe I have let something which has proved SO easy to solve fester as a 'resentment' issue for so long, and allowed it to be used as something to argue and pull rank and trade insults over.


(And, as an aside, Oscar Wilde had two kids. He MUST have had childcare issues. Perhaps my What Would Oscar Have Done channelling WOULD have worked. Next time there is an issue I shall try it.)