Category Archives: Single Parenting

Single-parenting eBook – Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows

“It was two lifetimes ago when I left my husband, the father of my children.
The next lifetime was spent recovering from the aftermath. But it wasn’t until after that first year – when I woke up into my third lifetime – when I realized I could actually survive being a single mother.”

And so begins the book of stories from our single-parent family, “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows”.

Buy it on Amazon: amzn.to/13imM4s

The book chronicles the beginnings of our adventure – telling tales of moody tween days, healing childhood heartaches, single parent dating, and of course, watching as my child hits a golf ball with impressive accuracy at his grandparents’ dual paned window.

The stories were adapted from the tales I told in this blog. Because of the contract I agreed to with Amazon, you will no longer find those stories here in this blog. But the cost of this eBook is being kept super low so that it’s easy to buy.

And if you wait until Monday, July 29th to buy, you can actually download it for FREE.

It’s my way of saying Thank You for all your love and support in our many transitions in this single mom adventure.

For more on this book, visit my author page at crissilangwell.com.

One more thing, if you download and read the book, be sure to let me know what you think of it in the Amazon reviews. Thank you!

The fine art of being selfish (excerpt)

I’m currently in the process of taking old posts of mine and putting them together in a book.  Right now I’m working on posts I wrote in 2009 – the days when I was a single mom with two kids and had just met my Mr. Wonderful.  Today I edited one of my favorite inspirational posts, one with advice I have given many times over to lots of moms – whether single or not.

How to regain your sense of self instead of placing your whole identity in your kids.

(P.S. I just wrote an article for the newspaper on a mom, on a journey through fashion, who emphasized this truth as well.  Check it out HERE)

Look for this chapter in my upcoming book on single parenting!

THE FINE ART OF BEING SELFISH (excerpt)

When kids are young, we as moms become totally immersed in motherhood. Suddenly everything is about the kids. It’s our tendency to go from being totally involved in ourselves, our work, our marriage, and our friendships – to being involved solely in our kids. Upon the arrival of these little beings, our whole world suddenly revolves around them.

It’s hard to break away from that.

I was no exception. For most of my married life, I was a stay at home mom. I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool. I carted the kids every single place I needed to go. I gave up going out at night in favor of staying with the kids. I sacrificed my personal interests and dreams one by one as interests and dreams wrapping around them took their place.

I was a mom. That was my name, my identity, and my world.

Most days the kids were the only beings on earth that heard my voice. I’m not saying that this is how it is supposed to be in motherhood, or even that most moms suddenly mutate into this being that resembles more gray than any other color. But that’s what happened to me.

For me, it took a divorce to shake me out of the clutches of “hermitting” into motherhood. It was jarring when my kids spent their first weekend away from me with their dad. I knew that I was aching to have a break, to not have anyone to worry about other than myself. But once that happened, I had no idea what to do with myself. How did I survive before the kids came along? What did I do with myself and my time? Suddenly there were too many hours in the day, and the world was much too quiet. I knew I needed to do something with this gifted time, but what? I didn’t have a lot of friends, having let a lot of friendships go to the wayside as my focus changed. And I really hadn’t done much else but kids’ activities in the past several years.

I needed a plan.

End of excerpt. Read the rest in the eBook “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“.

 

Kid-free week

Right now my kids are a couple days into their visit with their dad. He doesn’t live close by, so their visits are mostly dedicated to longer weekends or vacation times. This means they don’t get to see him very much. Luckily, social alternatives like cell phones and Facebook have allowed for a constant communication between them. The other result of such few and far between visits is that I get pretty used to them being around. So when they aren’t, the house is pretty empty.

This time around, it’s a little different. It used to feel ultra lonely when they’d leave for their dad’s house and I was stuck in an empty apartment. There is only so much cleaning and straightening that can be done. And the quiet that was once so coveted starts to feel louder than the noise. Even taking advantage of being kid-free by going out still meant I was coming home to an empty house. This time, however, I’m not alone – Mr. W and his son are still around while my kids visit the other half of their life. But even with the added company, it’s hard to know what to do with myself when my whole identity is wrapped up in being a mother.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have definitely taken advantage of the reprieve from parenthood so far. I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve been moping around the house, because I haven’t. Even though my kids are older and don’t require a ton of assistance in whatever they are up to, I’ve found a ton more time on my hands to do things like read a book, relax in the sun, and even enjoyed a visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s pool in Geyserville (seriously a must for all you families!) without having to keep an eye on the kids to ensure they weren’t drowning or bugging anyone around them. A delicious Mai Tai even made it to my hand, thus enhancing my relaxed state. 🙂 

Before the kids left I made it a point to spend an even better amount of quality time with them. The night before their departure, I dyed their hair the awful red color they had been begging me to ruin their do’s with (see photo). Actually, I kind of like it – if I can just perfect the application process. The day they were to leave I did every single bit of their laundry, including all the towels that had been dyed red. I had been up all night with stomach yuckiness – no doubt a result of nerves over my kids being gone for so long – and I hung out on the couch with my daughter as we folded laundry and watched chick flicks. And before we made the long drive to their grandfather (who would transport them the rest of the way), I bought us all smoothies at Juice Shack, which we happily slurped the whole way there.

Since they left, the kids haven’t called me once. And I haven’t expected them to. In fact, it’s a good sign they haven’t because it means they are having a good time. Their dad, on the other hand, has been wonderfully keeping me informed of what they are up to. He called me the day they arrived with their grandfather to let me know they were there safe, and to go over the details of Taz’ diet and videogame restrictions, and other such instructions my little mini-mom DQ gave him just to be on the same page. He called on Father’s Day to fill me in on the events of the day and what he had planned for the kids. And he even admitted today that the Taz stayed up all last night (and has been sleeping all day) when the Ex forgot to snag the video game controllers before they went to bed, sending me a photo of the little gamer.

It’s a huge difference from the tumultuous way we used to interact with each other in the first few years of our divorce.

There are a few more days left before the kids come back. It’s funny, when the kids are here I can think of a million things I’d love to do that require kid-free time – most ending up in some sort of beachy scenery with a tropical drink and next to no clothing. However, with the kids gone, I find that my time is pretty much the same as when they’re here – just quieter. I do miss the kids, and can’t wait to see them again. But at the same time I would hate to let this rare opportunity pass me by without taking advantage of the situation a little – thus missing it once it’s gone.

If you could snag a good amount of kid-free time, what would you be doing with it?

Letting go of the reins

The first few weeks of summer vacation are admittedly hard in our family. It’s not because the school year is finished. Quite the contrary, actually. I welcome three whole months (or at least 2 of those months before the kids kill each other in boredom) free from projects, homework, bagged lunches, the daily scramble to find kid clothes that are both clean and rip-free… But at the same time, the change from a school schedule to lack of a structured schedule always throws me for a loop. And when we still have things going on (baseball, dentist appointments, and more), it’s a bit of a learning curve as we get settled into the new way of doing things.

Making things a little more complicated is the fact that we moved out of town, and much of our life (and my job) still exists in Santa Rosa. This week alone I have 4 days of baseball games and practices where I have to juggle running back and forth between towns to get everyone where they need to be. Today is one of those baseball days, and is also a day when I have to be two places at once. When situations like this arise, I have no choice but to ask for help. On this day, my saviors would be my wonderful mom and dad who have graciously offered (read: accepted only after I begged and pleaded repeatedly) to take the Taz for two days and help me out in my predicament.

Let me explain a little something for those of you just tuning in to this blog. When it comes to my kids and their schedule, I am a little OCD.  I have their whole schedule in a calendar on my phone, and check it repeatedly to ensure that I’m not missing anything. I orchestrate every single day so that I know to the minute when I should leave Point A to get to Point B, lists of everything vital that must be taken care of, and which route I need to take if I have multiple stops. And I let this schedule roll around in my brain all day long in an exhausting way of guaranteeing nothing goes wrong. I own the schedule. The schedule is my…baby.

And letting anyone in on the schedule, i.e. helping me out, is very difficult for me.

I hate asking for help. In these past years as a single mom with 98% custody of the kids, I have definitely learned that help is necessary in parenting. But that doesn’t make letting go of the reins any easier. Even worse is when I have to ask for help and it involves a scheduling situation. It’s one thing to ask my parents to watch the kids while they hang out at the house. It’s an entirely different ballpark to ask them to watch the kids, get the Taz to baseball by 5pm, and make sure he has the snacks we bought for the team that must be passed out at the end of the game.

I kid you not, I almost had a panic attack as I dropped the Taz off.

The ridiculous part is that my parents have done this before. My sisters and I were so loaded up with activities that sometimes it seemed my mom’s head was spinning. We had 4-H, ice skating, cheerleading, track, social events, community service, and a need to be at all of them at the same time. At the time, we loudly wondered why my mom was complaining about taking us places when she didn’t even have a job. Later on, I bit my tongue over and over when I had my own stint as a stay-at-home mom and realized it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world.

At any rate, my parents are more than capable of getting the Taz to his game. And I reminded myself of this as I wished my dad luck, giving him a few more instructions about that evening’s game. He insisted they’d be fine, with a chuckle. And I left before I could find another tidbit of advice to give on how to raise a kid – only to turn right back around and race in the house. The Taz was right where I left him, watching TV as I chatted about all his needs and scheduling requirements…where I left him without even saying goodbye even though I wouldn’t see him for two whole days.

Hey, just because I’m all whacko over the schedule doesn’t make me most attentive mom of the year….

The kids leave for their dad’s house next week for 10 whole days and I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself. Think I’m crazy now? You haven’t seen anything yet.

P.S.  Hey all you dads!  Don’t miss out on showing off your genetic good looks.  Enter the Father-Son Look-alike contest and you could win a $300 photo shoot!

Goodbye single mom home.

So Mr. W and I are planning on shacking up in the next couple of weeks.  We’ve been working out the details for several months now.  Mapped out are how the kids will be going to school, how the finances will be split up, who gets to park where in the driveway, and calendars coordinated to include a merged family’s daily schedule.   Each kid has their own room, and they’ve selected colors to paint the walls and make their space more personal (DQ has a lovely shade of brown, the Taz chose a wild shade of bright golden yellow after I put my foot down over “Startling Orange”.  Trust me, it was definitely startling). And Mr. W’s son gets a brand new room that we’ve had built just for him.

Every day I’ve been setting time aside to go through the corners of each room, separating my items into ones I want to keep and ones I want to give away.  It’s not a fast process, placing my hands on things I haven’t seen for years, bringing memories of the past several years flooding back in.  There’s my diary that I kept from the very beginning, chronicling every triumph and mistake I’ve made in my dating life after divorce (oh, the juicy shame in that little book!).  There’s the box of art that contains a Mother’s Day card that turned into an “I’m Sorry” card when the kids spent the morning fighting while I waited for their promised breakfast in bed.  There are the clothes I no longer fit into when I took a stand and decided to lose the weight I’d put on and take pride in my appearance.  There are the blue flowered plates I coveted so long that now sit in my cupboard.  And there are cabinets upon cabinets of kitchen supplies I’ve collected over the years when all I started out with was a drawer full of borrowed silverware, $2 ugly dishes, a few dented baking sheets, and a pan I used for everything.  All of it is now to be divided up, bit by bit.  And while it’s freeing to be rid of some of the clutter and exciting to be moving into a new life, it’s a little melancholy as well.  For in those boxes, I’ve divided different compartments of me – deciding what of myself I’m keeping and what I’ll be saying goodbye to.

I moved in here a scared single mom.  I had never lived on my own, and frankly, I had doubts about what I was capable of.  Could I afford to feed my kids and pay my bills all at the same time?  Would the landlord kick me out once she realized I was just a silly girl playing make-believe house?    Would my mom say “I told you so” when it proved to be too hard and I needed to move back home?  All we had in the house was a kitchen table and our beds.  But it was after a few friends made the house a home by furnishing the rest with donated items that I realized it.  This was home.  And I was determined to succeed.  I became a wizard with my money, making it work each month even when I wasn’t exactly sure how it happened.  I watched every penny, and my landlord never had to worry about when my rent was going to come to her.  I went from a stay-at-home housewife to a full time worker, to where I finally am now in the desk I’ve always wanted to sit in.  We graduated from a timid family just barely scraping by to a seasoned one that knew the ins and outs of being a one parent household…and having that be no big thing. 

Frankly, we made it. 

I think I needed to prove this to myself more than anything, that I really was capable of anything even when I wasn’t coupled in a marriage.  I created my own white picket fence reality.  It may not have been perfect to everyone, but dammit, it was mine.  Being a single mom didn’t diminish who I was, it made me more.  And I take pride in that as I leave my single mom house behind and join into one of a partnership with Mr. W.  Yes, I’m saying goodbye to my complete independence, my very own bed, bills and schedules that are dealt with in my own way, and dinners on my own terms.  But in exchange, I’m gaining space I’ll share with my best friend, another son, a partner in parenting three fantastic kids, waking up to the man I love every morning, someone to help me clean and cook, help with the bills…  I’m gaining a co-conspirator in life.  And knowing that I could do it all on my own, that I did, what I’m gaining now means that much more.

Low-Income Soccer Snacks

I wrote this back in 2007. At that time I was making about $1200 a month. There was no child support. There was no second income. There was just me, supporting two kids all by myself. Could you even imagine making $1200 a month, paying rent, paying utilities and gas, paying daycare costs, and still having enough left over to feed your family? And that is still more than some low-income households are bringing in. I did not receive Cash Aid – I made too much money for that. But I did receive Food Aid from the state, something I was grateful for since we wouldn’t have been able to eat without it.

Thankfully, things are much different for my family now. I no longer have to rely on any kind of aid to make ends meet. But the experience has placed a soft spot in my heart for struggling single mothers and hard-working low-income families. Poor isn’t generally a choice. But for many, especially in this economy, it’s a reality. And I’m including this post due to some flack I’ve received at my blog and read in various different places on the web regarding those who are using aid, and about the recent cuts being proposed for the state and national budget – how we should cut all these programs and force the poor to fend for themselves. A percentage of the population seems to have a vendetta against the poor. But there are real faces behind these statistics. And trust me, many of those holding that yellow Electronic Benefits Card would rather not be.

Soccer Snacks
October 14th, 2007 by Wine Country Mom

I hate the way he is looking at me. Just moments ago he was chatting easily with me. I’ve just gotten off work. My hair is loose, slightly wavy from the rain that is drizzling outside. I am wearing black slacks and a crocheted sweater. My make-up is still neatly applied, according to when I last checked. And I am spending the few moments I have before picking up my son from daycare and my daughter from her grandparents to buy the soccer snacks for his soccer team for a game that may or may not happen due to this sporadic rain. On the grocery belt are bottles of Gatorade, packages of Wheat Thins, and two packages of Halloween cookies with orange and purple frosting to help celebrate the upcoming holiday and the fact that this is their last game of the season. The cashier had been laughing with me, the soccer mom in the heart of the wine country, guessing what the snacks were for, and hoping right alongside me that the rain would cease soon so these snacks wouldn’t be bought in vain. His smile was genuine and kind, and he told me the total. $40. For soccer snacks. And I smiled without flinching as if $40 was a normal amount to spend on snacks for a bunch of kids that would ignore everything but the cookies. And I swiped my yellow card and punched in my pin. And when he looked at the screen to see how to process his payment, his smile wavered and left his eyes completely, and I could see he wasn’t expecting this. The smile nearly disappeared completely when he asked if I was using cash aid or food stamps. And I held my head high though I was mortified, and told him, “Food stamps, please.” He punched a few buttons, processed the payment, then handed me my receipt, thanking me by my name which he mispronounced anyway. I refused the help he offered and picked up my bags of soccer snacks and left the store.

I knew what he was thinking. I knew he couldn’t believe I was spending food stamps on soccer snacks. Believe me, I could think of so many better ways to spend those precious food stamps. Milk. Eggs. Bread. Cereal. Not Gatorade and cookies and little packages of Wheat Thins. It killed me to spend that much of my family’s food money for the month on an entire soccer team. And how would the team feel if they knew that the food their kids would be eating was bought with state money? Would they treat it as if the food were tainted, as if I were poisoning their kids with poor people food?

The thing that the cashier didn’t understand is poor people have their kids in soccer too. And they have the responsibility of being snack mom too. And sometimes being snack mom is an extreme hardship. You have the choice of totally embarrassing yourself among a bunch of well off stay-at-home wine country mothers who are married to successful business men by telling them you cannot afford bringing snacks for a bunch of hungry boys who end up throwing the grapes you bring at each other rather than eating them, or you can buck up and just buy the stupid snacks and smile as they complain about being tired of chilled orange slices. Again. The thing that the cashier didn’t understand is that I didn’t want food stamps, that it was embarrassing to pull that yellow card out even when I tried to do so with a slight of hand so nobody would see. But the only way I could pay rent and the bills was to work. And the only way I could work was to pay for my son to go to daycare. And the only way I could pay for my son to go to daycare on a single income was to have my food paid for by the state.

Just to make it sting a little more, the games ended up being cancelled for the weekend. Saturday came in with the sunshine, a promising glorious day. In fact, it was warmer than it had been for this month of October. But the fields were soggy from rain, and wine country children do not play soccer in the mud. I had spent $40 of my monthly food income on food I would never buy for the household on a game that never happened and would not be made up.

So I did what any single mother would do in this situation.

The kids and I sat around the table playing poker, sipping Gatorade, and ate orange and purple cookies until our tummies ached. And I think our neighbors could hear our laughter as my hand of 4 Kings beat my son’s Full House in the last play of the night. Because single mothers in the wine country don’t let their children win. They teach them to earn those chips that they win, and to lose with a smile.

I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

Single Mom in Control

I need to get up.

This was my primary thought as I lay in bed in the fetal position this past Valentine’s Day, sick to my stomach over a very rich Love Day lunch that my stomach was rejecting in the most painful way possible. I had 30 minutes to pull myself together and pick my son up from school, and I could barely even open my eyes because it hurt so badly. I was dying….or at least it felt like it. But if I didn’t get up and drive myself to my son’s school, he would be left abandoned on the side of the playground, wondering where his mom was while all the other kids disappeared with their parents one by one.

It’s funny how simple thoughts can become full blown panic attacks when you are sick. I had delusional worries rotating through my mind on a rolodex* of stresses I’ve been placing on the backburner to deal with on a different day.

What am I doing, being a single mom? Am I fooling myself into believing I can actually hold down a job, get my kids to school, pay the rent and bills, feed my family, and not have it all blow up and fail as a parent on my own? What happens if I do lose my job? Who will the kids rely on? And what if I were to get sicker than this? How would the kids get to school, eat dinner, and have clean clothes to wear? Could they manage without me? Do I want them to manage without me? And what about when we move in with Mr. W in a few months? Is it ok to expect him to pick up the slack if I’m under the weather? Am I even ready for this next step of living with another human being, relying on him while he relies on me? I’ve spent so long relying on myself, doing for myself, making it all happen on my own step by step….

Was I ready to let go a little and allow someone to walk beside me in this thing called life, to give my kids someone else to rely on if I was under the weather or incapable of fulfilling whatever needed to be done?

*side note: I actually forgot the word for “rolodex” while writing this, and had to ask around about what that thing was that people used to use to record their phone numbers and addresses. I almost got a dictionary** thrown at me by someone who still had a rolodex on their desk.
**dictionary: a large book with words that people used before Google and Dictionary.com

When my sister was visiting from San Diego, she asked if she could pick the kids up from school so she could spend more time with them. As I mapped out the directions of the exact place she needed to be so that the Taz could find her, where to park so that DQ could locate her, and gave her detailed instructions on the best way to drive to get there, my stomach tied all up in knots. As I write this, my stomach is tying up in knots. I am a control freak when it comes to my kids, and it seriously gives me panic attacks to let someone else take over for me when I have perfected their schedule to the tiniest detail. To let someone else do it for me is putting a wrinkle in the system. They might not do it right. They might even get lost. My kids will get that feeling of hopelessness when they aren’t picked up on time, believing they’ve been forgotten. I almost scrapped the whole thing and just told my sister to meet me at a mutual spot after I’d picked up the kids for her.

“This is ridiculous,” my sister told me, refusing my offer and insisting she would be fine. And she was. She picked up each kid and then texted their anal mom to let me know they were safe and sound in her car.

And on Valentine’s Day, as I lay hunched over in bed, I forced myself to dial my father’s phone number to pick my son up from school, knowing full well that I needed help – and there was no other choice but to ask for it. My son was home 30 minutes later, and I lay in bed with a few more delusional stresses before I magically woke up out of it and was alive once again.

If something were to happen to me, I have people around to help. My family, my friends….and Mr. W. In fact, one of the things that drew me to him most was how capable he was in life. If he can handle the daily stresses of daily life as a single father and all that goes with it while also juggling the very same things I’m juggling in my own life, I’m pretty certain he can handle dropping my kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon if I happen to be too sick to do it on my own.

I just need to learn to give up control and ask for help when I need it.

10 secrets about your kids and divorce

My sister shared with me this little bit of advice when I was first going through my divorce: “There are two sides of every divorce – yours and sh**head’s.” On that, there are two kinds of divorces out there. The really ugly ones, and the ones that are just pretty bad. Ok, there are ones that are completely friendly and even resemble something like a friendship. It’s rare, but it does happen (i.e. Mr. W and his ex. Yes, he’s perfect. Yes, it’s sickening). But for the most part, divorces are not what you would call pretty. And I think it’s safe to say no divorce feels good. Let’s put it this way:  the person you once loved more than anyone in the whole world, who knows every single thing about you – from what makes you tick, to what your biggest pet peeves are, to what pushed buttons will set you off – has now become your biggest nemesis. And they hold all those gifts you once trusted to them as their own personal weapons to bring you down. And it’s not like you’re the innocent here, either. You have all the same weapons at your disposal to hurl at them with full force. Fueling the fire are a whirlwind of hurts and broken promises, as well as the knowledge that all hopes and dreams made together are suffering a painful death alongside a marriage that was supposed to be forever. Add in the reasons for the divorce in the first place, and you have a tiny World War 3 unfolding in a courtroom.

And I haven’t even mentioned the kids yet.

I have seen countless marriages crumble to the ground, the former husband and wife battling it out against each other, forgetting there are innocent bystanders standing in the crossfire. And every single insult or retort they put in the holster of their broken hearted gun and fire, they are nicking the very beings they claim they’re doing their best to protect, and who the battle is supposedly for in the first place.

It’s not like I’m free from guilt here.

In the beginning of my divorce, I had a really hard time remembering the very person I felt betrayed by was also my kids’ father. The way I viewed him was completely different from the way they saw him through their eyes. And I had to teach myself ways to keep my own personal opinions about him to myself.

The best way I could do this was to separate the person that was my ex from the person that was my kids’ father.  And it also meant that when it came to speaking about him in front of my kids, I could only speak FACT. If any sentence wasn’t something that could be printed in an Encyclopedia, it was better kept for times when they were out of earshot, or never spoken aloud at all.

And no, “Your father is a jerk” cannot be considered a biographical fact.

Let me divulge several secrets.

First secret – Your children have two parents. And they love both of them. Their father may have cheated on you. He may have lied to you up and down. Your wife may have spent every penny you had, or never gave you any sign of appreciation. That is not your children’s concern. That is YOURS.

Second secret – Your children do not share the same kind of relationship with your ex as you do. Even if he was the worst husband in the world, or she was the worst wife in the world, that person is still your children’s other parent. And even if your marriage is ending, the fact that they have another parent does not change.

Third secret – The relationship your children have with each parent will affect the adult they will one day become. If they have a bad relationship with their father, the kind of man your daughter chooses or man your son will grow up to be will be affected negatively. If they have a bad relationship with their mother, your son and daughter may also suffer in their life choices. But if they have a good relationship with their father and mother, it affects their adult choices positively. It’s actually best to encourage a healthy relationship between your children and their other parent.

Fourth secret – If you keep your children away from their other parent, they will resent YOU. Let me state that this does not apply to dangerous situations with another parent. But in normal divorces, a child MUST have access to each parent whenever possible. After all, it was YOUR divorce, not theirs.

Fifth secret – if there is some sort of character flaw in your ex-spouse, your children will figure it out on their own. They do not need your help finding it. First of all, if you are telling them what is wrong with their mother, they will defend her to the death. Second, you will have taken away their ability to form their own conclusion. Not only that, disparaging your children’s other parent will actually have the opposite effect – they won’t hate them, they’ll hate YOU. Kids are smart. And they see through a lot of the bull we tend to be blind to.

Sixth secret – Your children are wonderful. Every single part of them. After all, they’re made up of parts of you. But they are also made up of parts of their other parent. When you disregard their other parent, you are disregarding a part of them. And it will make them question if you really love them, or only the parts that remind you of yourself. How fair is that?

Seventh secret – The majority of your opinion about your ex-spouse is influenced by the anger you feel towards them. After all, they were once wonderful enough to make children with. Remember this if you ever need to speak about your children’s other parent in front of your kids.

Eighth secret – Your ex will move on. And your children may love this new person. And they may hate her. That is not for you to decide. Your marriage to their father is over. If your ex chooses to have a new partner in their life, your child should be allowed to develop a relationship with her without you interfering.  Again, this is only in regards to the most normal of situations, and not one that is dangerous.

Ninth secret – Your children are not your spouse. I know that sounds weird, so let me explain. They are not the keeper of your secrets. They are not to be confided in over worries or fears regarding the other parent, being single, or any other adult feelings that they are too young to absorb. Your children are your CHILDREN. It’s not fair to burden them with anything that will keep them up at night.

Tenth secret – YOU WILL BE FINE. So will your kids. Divorce is not the end of the world. Your kids will survive. You will survive. Sure, it’s not the path you chose when you first started out. But it does mean that a new path has been realized. Rather than standing in one spot, looking back at what was just given up, start looking forward to how to make things good. This is the BEST way for your child to grow up healthy – by seeing their parent pick themselves up in times of adversity and keep on going.

The ghosts that haunt

My ex is not my favorite person in the world. In fact, while I no longer harbor resentments against him in any regards towards the demise of our marriage, I also do not sit here and think friendly, loving thoughts towards him. I am not sitting here putting daggers in the voodoo doll of his memory either. I just don’t give him a thought at all. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

I divorced him for a reason, and I am very happy not being married to him.

I also do not speak much about him, neither here nor in my real life. He is my kids’ father, and I respect that. And when he is mentioned, it is because my kids have brought him up and want to talk about him – about their excitement to visit him, about missing him when they can’t see each other, or about an issue they’re having, etc. I have separated the lines between his role as my ex-husband and his role as my kids’ father. As far as I’m concerned, my ex-husband is dead. Yup, it was awful – by some flesh eating bacteria that rendered him pretty much unrecognizable. My kids’ father is alive and well, and a very real part of my kids’ lives. I can deal with my kids’ father. But my ex-husband is decaying in the ground as we speak, and every now and then I go and dance on his grave.

However, just when I think that I’m rid of the body his ghost comes back and haunts me, affecting me in ways of letting me know that maybe I do harbor some residual effects from being in a bad marriage. And just the simplest forms of animosity between us send me in a tailspin, mixed with emotions of fear, anger, loathing and resentment. And I find myself sick to my stomach over someone who isn’t even a part of my personal life anymore, but who will be a part of my life one way or another through our children – for the rest of our lives. And above all, it makes me upset to know that even when I have physically moved on with my life – through love, career, and picking up the pieces that were shattered in the beginning – I will never be free from the hurt and pain and every other negative feeling that comes from a bad marriage.

I will never be free from him.

Our conversation the other night didn’t go well. Or I should say, it didn’t end well when I found myself on the end of a phone with a dial tone, his last word given before he hung up and prevented any further words from me. It came without warning, no tense conversation to precede it. He had been done talking, and so I should have been too. And I don’t know about you, but for me being hung up on is by far the worst way to gain my favor. It made my blood boil. And in that moment, I hated every single part of him in an anger that only he can bring out in me. And the fact that he had that much power over me and my emotions only made me angrier.

And yet, even while fuming mad at my ex, I had to somehow address the infractions the kids had committed while at his house. Part of me felt like letting it lie. After all, whatever wrongs they did were at his house, not mine. From what he told me, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. And besides, I didn’t call him whenever something went wrong here. I just dealt with it. So why did I have to deal with these things when they were at his house, when his complaints felt more like tattling than an effort to deal with it together?

“While at my house, YOUR kids did this….”

And truth be told, a big part of me felt like “GOOD, glad to hear our kids are paying you back for every time you have been a jerk to me.” And being that he had just hung up on me, that feeling was a bit overwhelming. But on the other hand, since I am the primary parent, I am the main guardian in charge of molding these kids into the adults they are to become. And this is where separating my ex from their father had to take place.

Of course, it had to wait until I had put some time and space between the phone call, as well as a bit of time to talk smack out of the kids’ earshot. But once done, I sat each of the kids down and we went over behaviors they should be exhibiting with a parent, or any adult for that matter. And then I kissed each of them goodnight, turned off the lights, and retreated to my room where I pulled out a little tiny voodoo doll and tortured it a little before I fell asleep.

Being frugal

As a single mom, money is on the top of my list of things to think about on a daily basis. You could say that I obsess about it. I balance my checkbook every day, and am never off in my money assessment. I know how much free money I have, and how much I am not allowed to touch so that my responsibilities are taken care of throughout the month. I wish it were different, that I could spend money without abandon and never have to worry about what I will have to give up from my grocery shopping list if I buy a cheap pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. But it’s also a reality. Do I consider myself unfortunate? Hardly. I am lucky to have a home to live in, money to buy groceries, the ability to afford my bills, and enough leftover at the end of the month to add to my savings. There are many families out there that have way less. But our household does live on a tight budget to make things work, and I wish to pass some of the tips we’ve learned your way.

1. Know your balance. I’m not just talking about what your bank account says you have, I’m talking about what your true balance is. Write down every single thing that comes out of your checking account as soon as you spend it. At the end of every week (or more often, if need be), cross check your expenses with what has cleared through the bank. This will help you catch any expenses you may have forgotten to include in your balance. It will also help you be aware of everything you are spending money on.

2. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Paying with a credit card because you do not have the cash on hand does not get you out of paying the bill. You just have to pay it later, with additional interest applied. In the long run, paying with credit is actually more expensive. And it also opens up the possibility of never being able to pay it, ruining your credit. I do not own a credit card. I live solely on the money I currently have, and that’s it. If you find yourself whipping out the card to buy yourself a new pair of jeans, question whether it really matters if you buy them now, or wait until you have the money in hand.

3. Map out your bills. My job pays me twice a month. The paycheck I get in the middle of the month is dedicated to all of my bills, grocery and gas money for the entire month, and a little to put in savings. The paycheck at the end of the month is dedicated to the next month’s rent. Before I allow myself any “free” money, I subtract all of the bills I have to pay with that paycheck. That way, if I’m ever “broke”, I at least know that my bills will be paid.

4. Savings. You’ll notice that I keep referring to my savings. I cannot stress this enough – save your money! Instead of eating out, buying coffee, or enhancing your wardrobe, throw your extra money into your savings account. I have gotten so that putting money in my savings feels just like spending it on something fun. I know the money is there if an emergency comes up. It’s also good for expensive events that are coming around the corner – like birthdays and the holidays.

5. Pack your lunch, and make your coffee at home. Sure, that $6 lunch or that $3 coffee isn’t very much to spend in one sitting. But if you’re doing this on a daily basis, how much is it costing you? About $200 a month! It’s so much cheaper just to keep a steady supply of coffee beans and lunch meat at home for your daily food needs than it is to indulge in a bite out to eat. Plus, the lessened caloric intake from a brown bag lunch will go easier on your waistband.

6. Make dinner, and lots of it! Eating out at night is even more expensive than lunches during the day. It costs so much less to just make sure that your fridge is always properly stocked. And if you create larger meals, you can have dinner for the next two or three nights. Our family loves the Crockpot for this very reason. It’s easy to create a large meal with very little prep involved. Dinner is ready when you get home from work. And there’s enough to stretch the meal over several dinners. Get your family used to leftovers, or just learn how to creatively disguise leftovers so it seems like something different every night.

7. Find alternatives to fun. Want to go to the movies? Rent a movie instead. In desperate need of a manicure? Do it yourself at home with your girlfriends. Need some new clothes? Consider consignment or thrift shops (btw, I totally scored on a cute skirt and shirt outfit for a total of $6 the other day, and no one was the wiser that it was secondhand). Itching for a gym membership? Spring Lake has some awesome hills that will work those quads in no time. Just because you are pinching pennies does not mean you have to give up on having fun. You just have to be frugally creative about it.

8. Nix the bills that you don’t really need. PG&E is a must, so you can’t give that one up. But there are other bills you should think over about whether they are really necessary or not. For us, we decided against a cable bill. Sure, it sucks sometimes not having a TV to tune out with. But it was the least important of all our needs, so we live without it. Is there a bill you are paying for something you could live without?

What are some ways that you are being frugal to stretch your income?