When you go to get a divorce, you are given ENDLESS documents and paperwork. Everything is in writing, and in the words of Stevie Wonder, “Signed, sealed, delivered… I’M YOURS!” Well, technically you end up as no one’s, but you see the point. If you choose to get some therapy, which I sincerely hope you do, there are articles and quizzes aplenty. There is so much information on the technicalities of divorce, but there is no handbook on what happens after. Situations and life that occur post divorce have been a winding road, and truly a rollercoaster.
Divorce bullets are things that are said by people about you being divorced, and they come when you least expect it. You have two choices — dodge ’em or take it. I have become a master bullet taker; I wear a bulletproof vest most days. On more than one occasion, I have been hit without warning. A drive by of sorts. In several instances, I’ve had someone asking where my husband is, why am I not married, and why would I choose to have kids and no husband. The sting of strangers in Disney World asking in pure shock, “Are you here with the two kids ALL ALONE?!” I’ve had complete strangers ask me why I got divorced. Pro Tip: It is none of your business why someone is divorced unless they offer that information to you. Other moments entail me firing my own bullets in my direction. The times where you know you “should” be doing something as a traditional family vs. the single parent. Eventually the bullets become minimal, or you just become tougher than you imagine and you hardly notice.
The Kids Are Alright…
The transition on children after divorce is one that I can truly say is heartbreaking. My tiny humans were/are young, and I did not know what to expect, but I was not prepared for it. One of my kids acted out. I couldn’t take a poop without something getting ruined or wrecked. My frustration level was at an all-time high. I was dealing with my own feelings about being a single parent, and she was dealing with hers about no longer having her mom and dad together. It was a time I like to try and forget, but it’s forever engraved in my memory. Everyone tells you how resilient kids are, but they don’t tell you how they get to the point of moving on. Not one person told me that my own kids would be throwing “divorce bullets” at me. Unaware that I would field questions from schools, teachers and parents of kids in their class. In the midst of my own emotions, I had to put the kids first. Let me tell you this, we are good now. They are resilient, but damn, it hurts to break your kids’ heart. Be kind to yourself, you’re doing the best you can. Their hearts will heal — and so will yours.
I Hate Dating
I thought for a brief moment of time that dating would be fun. That, because I was in my thirties, it would be easier, the games wouldn’t be played. Potential suitors would be wiser, smarter and have their lives together. I was so VERY wrong. Dating gives me anxiety. Even just meeting someone worth the date is hard enough. Then setting up a date with kids’ schedules to think of, even harder. Finding someone who has their life together? The HARDEST. I’m still waiting on people to send me their amazing single dad friends, seriously… SEND ME YOUR SINGLE DAD FRIENDS! If you get lucky to find the person you want to date exclusively, then you deal with the idea of when do my kids meet this person. I subscribe to the concept that no one should meet the kids unless it’s serious, and you and your partner feel that what you have has a future. I’ve personally been down this road. There’s a part of the road no one warns you about — like what if there is a breakup. You worry about yourself dealing with heartbreak, but you have tiny humans who potentially feel it, as well. I speak with full honesty right now, and it hurts. There is the possibility that everyone is hurt more than the divorce. Trying to get your kids through another moment where they need to show their resilience, while you go hide in a closet to have a breakdown, hurt. Your kids (and you) may have thought this person was a forever for them, and now they’re gone. It’s moments like this when I question everything. Find what you want in another person, and do NOT change those expectations. Do not falter on your gut instincts. You can use this time to find the right person, the person who won’t give you or your kids anything to be anxious about. The one that lasts, the one that you can look at in 50 years and say, “This was all worth it.” That’s the hope that keeps me going.
Guilt on Guilt on Guilt
You don’t know the ever-astounding mom guilt until you are a single parent. I tell married friends all the time when they feel guilty about a parenting move they made, something I did worse or the same, and the kids are alright. Want to feel better about something you did? Ask me, and I will let you know to put on a blue sparkly dress, and “LET IT GO!” As a single parent, you have to change your way of running a household and raising your kids. You have no choice but to do this. You learn that you can’t feel bad about giving your kids a bowl of cereal for dinner — fact of the matter is that they ate. You fed them, great job! You left laundry unfolded in the dryer for four days? Big deal, run it again real quick and get the wrinkles out. Buy a robot vacuum and stop worrying about when you vacuumed last. Say no to things you just don’t feel like going to, limit the extra-curricular activities, and there is no harm in having a dinner in front of the TV with a movie playing because you need a mental break. I save my REAL mom guilt for the moments that they don’t have their parents together when others do. For the moments they look around and see both a mom and a dad with their kids. Times they cry because they’re heartbroken and upset that they just wanted a family and not a single mom.
Every day I learn something new — not always good, not always bad. I hope that my experiences can help others just starting out in the post-divorce journey, as more seasoned single parents have helped me. Challenges, goals and heartbreak all in this together. Moving forward on the rollercoaster and hoping it leads to a more beautiful life.