The Players: Me, 48, super responsible, divorced (by the grace of God), chronically exhausted working mom of two children who hasn’t had a chance to travel out of the country since 2000. My father, seventies, super duper responsible, self-made hard worker, … Continue reading
A leadership and time management class offered at work.
First thought: Excellent, I need that, BAD.
Second thought: Oh shit, it’s going to take up three days, and I can never fall that far behind.
And so it goes, the life of a single working mom with nearly 75 percent custody. A mom with two children playing on multiple sports teams and other activities, at a school where every other parent seems to be able to drop everything and show up – all the time. A homeowner, a dating mom, someone who likes to spend a lot of time with other friends, a bit of a runner and a bit of a yogi, a cook and a cleaner and a bill payer, a single mom who doles out discipline and hugs and hopefully some important values and life lessons along the way.
But it’s okay. It has to be. Because if I can’t embrace the craziness of this, I’ll miss the joy of these years.
So, everything gets stripped back. If my kids don’t send thank-you notes (I know – it’s bad – sorry!), if we’re late to practice, if I can’t attend evening work events, if I don’t make it to Girl Scouts (EVER), if I don’t change the oil in my car on time, if we don’t make it to church (almost ever), if I bring my kids out for pizza (AGAIN), if I am last on carpool line, if I can’t remember anyone’s names – it’s going to have to be okay.
But moms like me need to take care of themselves, because if I’m not in good shape, I cannot be a good mom to my kids. And they need me. So here are the things I am going to make necessities going forward: doctors appointments, hot yoga even if it’s at night when my kids are home, running, coffees with old friends to catch up, time with the person I’m dating, hair appointments (yes, I meant that!), a little bit of meditation, and a lot of home improvements since my home is my biggest financial asset.
And FUN. Fun with my two children who are growing up so fast that it takes my breath away. Because one day they will no longer want to hang out with me, and I never want to look back and regret missing this time with them. That would be the ultimate cruelty: the divorced mom who missing out on the joy because she’s scrambling so fast just to keep up.
I’m tired of writing about myself. Once a week for the next six weeks, I’m going to interview a recently divorced woman. All of them have struggled, and all of them have found the strength to push through to the other side. I’ll ask them all the same questions.
First up, Emily. Emily reached out to me immediately after my separation. She accurately predicated that I was going to be in for a long haul, like her. And boy, was she right. Here is a piece of Emily’s story, in her own words.
43 years old, North Carolina
Two children, 9 and 12
Separated 2010, divorced 2012
Reasons for divorce: Infidelity
Fill in the Blank: Courage is . . .
Doing what must be done, every day, because … just because. Choosing to go it alone even when the idea of it is overwhelming.
What role has courage played in your divorce?
After willingly giving up control of my life, my financial future, and my career, I had to forcibly wrest all of it back and stand up for myself, my children, and my financial future while in the midst of a mind numbing trauma.
What was your biggest immediate challenge after the Separation?
Financial insecurity. My ex emptied the bank account and stopped sending financial support of any amount. I had been a SAHM for 10 years. I had a small amount of retirement that I cashed out with penalty. I began searching for work of any kind during the greatest recession of our lifetime with no immediate experience. All of this was while dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and stalking by my ex.
Did you ever feel like you wouldn’t make it?
Yes. I did not know if I would find work. I was afraid I would be a single mom living with my parents. Or worse, I would be murdered at the hands of my ex. The anxiety was debilitating.
What inspires you when you’re feeling scared or uncertain?
The knowledge that I must set the tone for my children. They are only as secure as they see me. I had to act “as if” so that they would believe me when I said, “it will be okay.”
How are your children doing now?
My children are doing very well. They are less trusting and “easy” in their happiness than they used to be. But I have been told they are exceptionally well adjusted. I have a very solid relationship with them. They are bright and successful at school and socially. Both have had anxiety issues (overeating and nightmares) but overall, they are doing beautifully, and I am very, very proud of that fact. They are mostly indifferent to their father, which makes me sad, but is in fact, a healthy response to his behavior and treatment of them.
How are YOU doing now?
I am doing better than I ever imagined! I have a teaching career. I am well respected at work and in my community. I am successful as a parent. I have a home, and I am financially stable. I do not have to rely on the inconsistent child support. I have dated, and survived dating in my 40’s. I like who I am.
I am happiest when . . .
I am in my home. It is a peaceful place.
What are three good things about being divorced?
Only three? There are thousands of things.
- Knowing my financial situation and being in control of the budget.
- Parenting without interference
- Peace in my home.
What are three difficult things about being divorced?
- My children feel conflicted about me, their father, and loyalty.
- Having my children spend holidays away from me and experience vacations/travel without me.
- Court. I hate going to court, seeing my name on court documents, and realizing that the “system” does not protect the “good guys” from someone who just doesn’t care to play by the rules. I have had to accept there is no real JUSTICE in the world.
Is there anything that you would do differently?
I would not have hired an attorney. I think I could have done a better job fighting for myself. Certainly I could have done it cheaper.
Do you feel like you will ever fall in love again?
No. I don’t trust myself or others enough for this to happen. I can be happy and be “with” someone without loving them. I love my children.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that has gotten you through the day?
“Just keep swimming… just keep swimming” Dora