Tag Archives: Single Parenting

The one where I’m unable to accept HELP.

My husband and I take part in a cooking team that makes meals for the Sunday service at our church. We only do it once a month, and it’s admittedly a lot of fun. But it’s also 4+ hours of hard work prepping, cooking, cleaning, setting up, serving, tearing down, cleaning more… You get the picture.

Our team consists of four members with random help on the side. But mostly, our group of four is responsible for seeing things through. We each took on a job to get the meal – nachos – done. I decided to take on the cheese sauce. And since I would be at the stove anyway, I’d take on browning the turkey too.

More than once, I was asked if I needed help. And every time I insisted I was fine. I was determined to get it done, to prove I could do it all.

I set about the kitchen, running back and forth to get the meat into the pan while the butter melted for the cheese sauce. I got the rue going, and then began adding milk. Then I rushed back to the meat to make sure it wasn’t burning. I finished adding the milk to the rue and stirred it.

And then I smelled it. Burnt.

Thing is, if I had asked for help, none of that would have happened. I had to bite back my pride and admit that the sauce was ruined. There was no more butter, so one of the guys had to go to the store to get some more. And when he came back, I asked him if he could be in charge of the sauce while I focused on the meat.

The story would be fine ending there. But it doesn’t.

After handing off the cheese sauce, my only job was to stir the two pans of meat in front of me. I could handle this, I got this. My pride was terribly wounded from the cheese sauce fiasco, but I was determined to get the meat cooking right. So when one of the girls came up to see if I could use some help, I told her NO. She started stirring one of the pans anyway.

“But this is my job,” I protested, as if I were a 5 year old guarding my mountain of blocks.

“But my job is done,” she cheerfully replied. So we stood together, all three of us surrounding this stove to finish cooking everything up.  At first I was terribly bothered. It was too crowded. And she was probably stepping in so I couldn’t screw this up too. I felt tied up in knots inside. But then, I decided to let it go. I took a deep breath and let it out. And then we all chatted the rest of the time. It was actually fun.

The meal was done, and we set it out to serve it. I stayed with the turkey while my husband poured the cheese sauce. The other guy offered to take over for me so I could eat, but I told him I was fine. When the line dispersed, I got my own plate. Then I served the stragglers in between bites.

Once everyone had eaten, it was time to start bagging things up. We all started putting things away. The cheese sauce had a ton leftover, so I started pouring it in bags so people could take some home. It was a messy job, and by the fifth bag I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be over.

“Here, I’ll hold this for you,” the girl said to me.

“I got it,” I said.

This time she didn’t fight me. And I saw myself in her eyes as she gave up and walked away.

grumpy girlI was selfish. I was unfriendly. I was a snob. I couldn’t find it in me to step down off my pedestal and accept that I NEEDED HELP.

What is wrong with me? I hate that I do this! The truth is, I can always use some help! I can’t do it on my own! And there’s nothing wrong with working together to get things done.

It might just be my single-mother syndrome. I spent all those years actually doing things on my own, and taking pride in that. Before that, I hadn’t been able to do anything on my own at all. I depended on everyone. But when I got on my feet and was able to provide for my kids without a husband, without my parents, without state money…it just felt good.

But now? Now I’ve got this chip in my shoulder that has me believing that accepting help is a sign of weakness, when it’s totally the opposite of that. There are strength in numbers. And we are here on this planet to build each other up.

I didn’t like that person I was on Sunday. I’m embarrassed at the way I acted. But maybe it needed to happen to drive the lesson home that it’s okay to receive help. We can all use help. It gets things done faster, and it builds connections.

I think this is going to be a hard lesson to forget.

Want more? Download “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows” – our Wine Country Mom stories about our former single-parent family life.

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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?

Merging families without marriage

Sound off: Is an unmarried merge of families setting a bad example for the kids?

Two weeks ago I wrote about moving in with my boyfriend, Mr. W.  This was a decision we did not take lightly in our 2 ½ years of being in a relationship with each other, and I’ll be moved out of my own place and into his by this weekend.  By moving in with each other, we are each giving up our total independence of having a space to call all our own – something that became very sacred in each of our single lives.  We’re giving up the separateness of our families as we combine them into something new.  But these are no longer sacrifices as we gain so much more – more time with each other, a shared life, a break in the financial obligations, and all the other perks of living with the one you love.

There was plenty of discussion before we finally came to this stage of feeling confident enough (and out of shellshock from our previous divorces) to be able to live with someone we love once again, plus going through the complicated process of combining families.  We’re making a bunch of decisions that are solidifying the permanent status of our relationship – but without yet being married.

Understandably so, several readers took issue with this – questioning the example that is being set for the kids, as well as feeling that “it’s a slap in the face” to those who are married.  I had originally written this article as a story of hope for those just starting their single parent adventure, feeling pulled apart by the financial hardships and lack of time that go along with that role.  But I realized there is a whole other issue at hand that needs to be discussed –

Merging families without marriage.

According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 2007, 6.4 million couples chose to cohabitate before marriage – making up roughly 10% of all opposite sex coupled Americans, and rising almost 1.5 million since 2006.  And of that number, 45% of them had children living in the household that were related to at least one of the cohabitating adults.  And while past research showed a higher percentage of failed marriages in those who chose to live together before marriage, the present research shows there’s virtually no difference.

I have several friends who chose to live together before marriage.  One couple in particular just recently tied the knot, and is now in the final stages of an adoption process that will make their unified family complete.  Another couple, who has no children, is showing no interest in ever getting married.  And yet it’s unthinkable that they would ever split up despite their lack of marriage license.  My sister (also no kids) is in the process of planning a wedding with her fiancée while also living with him.  And one couple that swore off marriage yet raised a whole family together for 30+ years finally bit the bullet and exchanged rings a few years back – after their kids were raised, finished college, and making lives of their own.  Heck, even the royal couple, William and Kate, are setting their own cohabitation example for the world while in the spotlight by “living in sin”.  And another couple I know are raising their two children together and are unmarried.  In fact, they weren’t even allowed to marry until recently, being that they are also lesbian.

I have friends who did not move in together at all until their wedding night – planning a life together in separate homes, yet letting the reality of it be a mystery until they were legally joined. One I wrote about here, her marriage 6 months ago also symbolizing a sacred promise to her new husband.  My own parents just celebrated 34 years of marriage last week, starting their new life together on their wedding night.  And another couple I know who waited until marriage to cohabitate has been married for 40 years – yet are now living in, not only separate beds, but separate homes, just so that they can remain happily married without killing each other. 

And then there are my single mom friends who choose NOT to live with someone else while raising kids.  One in particular has only been divorced for 4 or so years, has a steady boyfriend, and promises she will never marry nor cohabitate again.  She enjoys her personal living space too much, and she’s adamant in her unwillingness to ever give it up – especially while raising her kids.  This same mom lived with her ex-husband before they got married and had children, and shared a wonderful marriage with him before they grew apart and divorced.  

So here’s your chance to sound off – no judgment.  I’d love to hear your point of view about living together before marriage in general.  Do you see a problem with it?  Does your view change if there are no kids involved?  Do you think relationships suffer from living together before marriage, or suffer if a couple does NOT live together before marriage?  Do you have a personal story to share?  Let me know.  And as always, anonymous comments are welcome, but mean comments are not.

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.

Single mom seeks help

Every now and then a reader emails me a question that I could not possibly give an unbiased answer to. And so, with her permission, I am passing her email off to all of you – hoping that you may have some advice for a single mom in quite a predicament.

—–

Hi Crissi,

I have been divorced from my sons’ father for 8 years. They are now 14 and 9. During our marriage, he was physically abusive to me and addicted to drugs and alcohol. After our divorce, he continued using drugs and abusing alcohol. The courts still mandated that we share legal and physical custody. It finally came to a head 4 years ago when he got drunk with the kids in his care, the police were involved, and he brandished a weapon on the cops. Needless to say, he was arrested. I was awarded full legal and physical custody, and he was not allowed visitation for 2 years. After that time was up, the kids were reintroduced to a relationship with their father through court-ordered supervised visitation, eventually turning back into unsupervised visitation. While I had my suspicions that he was still using, I had no proof. And it seemed like the kids were doing well in his care. It has been two years now since he re-entered the kids lives. Just two weeks ago, he got drunk again and attacked his own mother. He was arrested and is now in a yearlong rehab program. It was admitted that he never stopped using. And it’s apparent that he hasn’t changed, either.

My question is, what do I do? My personal feelings are that I want him out of our lives forever. I’m angry that he lied over and over, and that he has never taken responsibility for his addictions. I’m angry that we all worked so hard for this reunification to work, and now my kids may have to go through it all over again. And I have no faith that the rehab will do him any good this time. He tried several different programs the last time around, and lied about his progress. And I’m afraid he’ll do it again But I understand that I need to separate my personal feelings from what is best for our kids. My 14 year old son wants nothing to do with him. My 9 year old son cries and misses his dad. I just want my kids to have a predictable life they can depend on without the rollercoaster their father keeps putting them through. But I’m having a hard time seeing past my own resentments to come up with a solution towards future visitation. He’s been in rehab for 2 weeks now, and is already calling to talk to the kids. And I haven’t been able to answer the phone because I don’t know what to say.

Help!

-Confused Single Mom

The age of the boomerang

Art by the talented Gina Boyett

I posed a question recently: “Would you move back in with your parents if you had to?” and I received several very emphatic answers on the SR Mom Facebook page:

“H*** NO!”

“Never!”

and my personal favorite…

“Rather my mom, than my in-laws!”

Almost 7 years ago, I was faced with the same decision. I was packing up all the belongings of my house and consolidating them in the smallest amount of boxes possible. My father came and loaded everything into a trailer and the van. And the kids and I took our seats and were driven to our new home – or rather, a home that was very familiar to us.

The home of my childhood was about to become theirs too.

We are in the age of the boomerang, when grown-up children are moving back in with their parents, mostly for economic reasons due to job loss, divorce, and myriad different situations beyond their control. It was definitely an economic choice on my part. Having spent the past year as a stay-at-home mom, I had no means to support myself or my kids now as a divorcing woman. My parents were more than willing to take the kid and me in, putting us up in the largest room of the house. They had cleared it out completely, making room for my King size bed and their bunk bed.

Moving home definitely made life easier at a time when life was at its hardest, and it just made sense. But in doing so, I had to bite back a lot of pride. Now don’t get me wrong, when I made the decision to move back home I pretty much had nothing left. Pride was the last thing on my list of worries. But as I settled in, it became embarrassing to admit, as a mid-twenties woman with two children, that I was living at home with my parents. There is a prejudgment that goes along with an adult who moves back home with his or her parents. I felt like a failure already because I wasn’t instantly capable of being the head of our household, and I needed my family’s help to make it. And I knew that without them, I would be homeless.

The second part of the equation is that while I love my parents immensely, living with them totally changed the dynamics of our relationship. Suddenly I was a child again, and my kids were also like their children. There were different rules to abide by, stricter than what would have been in my house. And it became my parents’ say that ruled over mine. Of course, being that it was their house, their rules should be the ones to follow. But it blurred the lines over who was the parent of my kids. And it left me feeling powerless, and much like a rebellious teen. Not only that, you can imagine the frustration on my parents’ part with having to share their home with three other people, two of them being noisy kids who tend to leave messes wherever they go. My parents had raised their kids. And suddenly here they were, parents all over again. All of this caused a lot of strife between the folks and me.

As I neared the time of independence, the need to stretch my legs and have a space of my own was overcoming me. That need became so overwhelming that after 2 years in their home, I finally made the jump to start looking for a place to live. 6 months later, the kids and I were on our way out the door, moving on to a life brand new to us. We didn’t have a lot, but we had enough thanks to wonderful friends and my family who made sure that we were set to start off on our own. As a housewarming gift, one of my friends painted me a picture that said “Home is where your story begins.” The “home” she spoke of was the home I was moving into, the very first place I had ever lived as the sole adult. But now when I look at that painting, I see something different. My story began long ago when I was a child. Home was where I was taken care of by the two people who would have done anything to ensure my comfort and safety. And later in my adult years, that devotion didn’t change. They took me and my two kids in so that we could heal from something very traumatic, and get back on our feet. My parents’ home will always be my first home, the place where my story began.

Would I move back home now? “H*** NO!” Well, that’s not entirely true. I love my parents very much, but we get along much better when we have our own separate places to go home to. I can say with assurance that they agree with this sentiment. But there is no shame in biting back pride and boomeranging back into your parents’ home. For me, if the only choice were homelessness (after I had exhausted every single option – such as applying as a live-in deckhand on a cargo ship that bent the child labor laws), then yes, I would move back home again and share one cramped bedroom with my two tween kids.

As you can imagine, this has forced me to be extra, extra careful with paying all of my bills and rent on time.

How about you?  Would you move back in with your parents if you had to?  Has this decision already become a reality for you?  How’s it going?

Post-divorce families

‘He is eating to fill the hole in his life you created when you left him fatherless (except for two weeks a year).’

This was only part of the comment that sat in my inbox all night long regarding a blog that had nothing to do with divorce. And while the comment was completely off-base in what they considered the gospel truth (my kids being fatherless, only seeing their dad two weeks out of the year, screwed up family life…), I found issue with it – that someone would look at the tiny window I have posted about my life and make such an unfair judgment of it. I considered deleting the comment, but then I decided it was better not to. And I thought that maybe this was a good time to say a thing or two about marriage, and about divorce.

A marriage is meant to unite two people for life. It’s something that must be worked at every single day with all your heart to ensure that it stays strong. It’s not a covenant made with the stipulation that if things don’t work out, you can just break it. It’s a promise that two people make when they have found their future in another person. And it’s what those same two people count on as they create a life together, create children together, plan a future together. So when the cookie cutter dream of growing old together doesn’t work out as planned, the result is something more than painful. No one goes into marriage planning their demise (and if they are, maybe the marriage should be seriously thought through some more). But life happens. People change. Situations arise.

Thing is, I get what the poster is saying about divorce. I am also of the belief that if divorce can be avoided, it should. But sometimes divorce is the answer, and there is no way around it. Sometimes things are so toxic that to NOT divorce would be cruel to not only the parents, but to the kids as well. If I’d done things over again, I never would have allowed divorce to be a part of my life. Divorce was, hands down, the worst thing that ever happened to me – and I’ve gone through some pretty traumatic experiences. But the only way I could have avoided divorcing was by never meeting my ex in the first place. And that would mean there would be no DQ, and there would be no Taz.

My kids’ dad and I were never what you would consider compatible. We, in all honesty, should never have married. But we were young and in love. And a year and a half into our relationship, we were pregnant. When DQ was 18 months old, we married in a beautiful and quiet ceremony in my parents’ backyard. 18 more months, and DQ was a big sister. And a year later, we were pregnant with our third. But that pregnancy ended 7 months in. We, for the first time, came face to face with mortality as we picked up the pieces of our lives after our son’s stillbirth.

We didn’t handle it well.

There are too many other personal events that happened in our relationship before and during our marriage that I will fail in mentioning out of respect for my family and my ex. The stillbirth was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the demise of our marriage. The simple truth is, we became toxic. And our home was no place to raise a healthy family. And so we ended our marriage, and went through the very long process of putting our lives back together.

Let me tell you what happens when you get a divorce. Your souls, that were intertwined when you made that covenant together, are ripped apart. Unlike a clean cut, it is a jagged edge. Some pieces of their soul still reside with yours, and some pieces of your soul still reside with theirs. It is so much more than the dividing of property, money, and time with the children. It is setting fire to all your hopes and dreams that were once a for sure thing, and watching it go up in smoke. Mourning a divorce is much like mourning the death of a loved one. And that is exactly what is happening. That person, whose eyes you saw your whole life in, has died. And the person that is left is someone strange who you just don’t know anymore. They look different. They sound different. They even smell different.

The person you loved is gone.

And once the smoke settles and all is said and done, a divorced person must pick themselves up and get on with their lives. Life doesn’t end with divorce, even when it feels like it. For some people it’s a stop on the path they are traveling. For a few, it’s a fork in the road. And for others, like me, it’s when the journey truly begins.

And what about the kids? I can’t speak for everyone’s children regarding divorce. I can only speak for mine. And in the beginning stages of the divorce, my kids were understandably devastated. Regardless of what our family life looked like, it’s what they knew. They loved (love) their dad. And they loved (love) me. And they wanted all of us in one house under one roof creating one life together. And if we had done that, my kids would have used our poisonous marriage as a model for their own relationships. They would have taken on the venomous way that we spoke to each other. Their future would have been bleak as they absorbed the ghosts of mine and their dad’s downfalls.

But what about today? Today, having two single parent homes is a way of life for the kids, their reality. And they accept it because it has become their norm. Today my ex and I are able to carry a conversation. We are able to discuss different things regarding parenting our children. We are able to team up when something is going on with either of the kids, and talk about it with them together. This last year my kids were with their father every single weekend. And during the summer they were with him just about every other week. He was there at many of our son’s baseball games, and will be there for many of our daughter’s soccer games this fall. Are things perfect? No. There are times when bitterness rises up in either one of us. But do we yell at each other or talk poorly about each other to our kids? Absolutely not. After 6 years of being divorced, both of us have matured enough to honor the relationship our kids have with the other parent. And I can honestly say that we promote that wholeheartedly. 

And finally, dating after divorce – ‘I will bet if you offer him this “i’ll give up dating and only focus on you untill your 18.” You may find he would be willing to exercise more and might be able to give up eating to fill a hole in his life for love.’ (from said blog) There are so many different aspects to post-divorce dating that I couldn’t possibly do it justice in one paragraph. Would the kids be better off if their mom or dad never dated again after divorce? Sure. Then they don’t have to deal with change, or another person entering the family dynamic. Of course, they would also be happy if you never had any kids after them, never moved to a different house or had them change schools, they never went through puberty, and the weather always stayed perfectly spring-like every single day. But life happens. And so does change. And kids are much more resilient than us stubborn old adults are. And while some people do choose to wait to date until after their kids have left the house, and my hat goes off to them for making that sacrifice, I just don’t believe that this is required of a parent. We are human. We have needs too. I’m not just talking physical needs, though those are important too. I’m talking the need to have someone accountable to every single day of our life. We want that person to create a life together with. We want companionship, someone to hold our hand in the times that are tough and to laugh with us when life is good. We want someone to go to sleep with every night and to wake up to every morning. We want someone to grow old with, who will be there once the kids do move away. Basically, we want that dream back that we let go of when, through divorce, we severed the toxicity that was overtaking our vitality. And more than our own needs, I truly believe it’s vital for a kid to see their parent taking care of their own needs while they are taking care of the kid.  After all, wouldn’t we want the same for our children?  We are still our children’s role models, and taking care of ourselves is just one of many lessons we can offer our kids.

Note:  With that said, a parent shouldn’t introduce a date until they are sure that this person has a future with them. That means that first, second, tenth dates should happen away from the house. The biggest reason for this, besides getting to know the person well enough to ensure they aren’t a child molester, is to avoid your child growing attached to this person only to force them to say goodbye. A child’s heart is not a revolving door.  End note.

Finally, post-divorce relationships, and sometimes, eventually, second marriages, can be a godsend to children of divorce. They have the opportunity (hopefully) to witness what a healthy relationship looks like. And they have something to model their own future relationships after. This is one of my joys with Mr. W – my kids get to see what a loving relationship looks like. Not only that, here is this man who has accepted my children, and loves them for who they are. He is not their father – they already have a dad. But when they enter his home, they are treated no differently than his own son. We are still two separate families. We are still families that are restructuring our lives after divorce. But we are now cautiously including each other’s families in that plan.

So, I’m sorry to disappoint this dear poster who is insistent that my family is going down the drain because of my divorce and my insistence to carry on a relationship with a wonderful man (going on 2 years come September!). My more educated opinion to my life is that we’re only getting better every single day.