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Monday, April 20, 2015

An Open Letter To My Blog Snitch


Dear Person Who Reads My Blog for the Sole Purpose of Starting Drama,

I have been wanting to write to you for a very long time.

First of all, thank you for being such a "loyal" follower of this blog. The speed with which you spread the news of my latest and greatest posts is astounding! I hope you will use that speed to do me a solid and help this post go viral as well! I would greatly appreciate it, and so would all the other people just like you.

To show my appreciation, I wanted to write and share some very key details about blogging with you that you may or may not be aware of as such a loyal reader. So pull up a chair, lean in close, and get that mass text ready to send out. This is going to be good.

*****

1. Blogging is a deeply personal way of writing. 

In my opinion, blogging is very different from most styles of writing. For the most part most bloggers utilize their blogs to share their stories. We share these stories as a way to connect with other people who might be walking in the same pair of shoes we are. Some bloggers write through a personal struggle with an illness; some bloggers write to connect with other parents: single or married; and some bloggers write because they share a common experience with their readers like military spouses who blog. In our overtly connected world, you can find a blog on anything your little heart desires! There are food blogs, fashion blogs, movie blogs, and blogs solely devouted to couponing. You name it there is probably someone out there blogging about it from their own unique experiences and point of view.

In my case, I blog about divorce and co-parenting: two things that have deeply affected and changed my life in a thousand different ways. I write about these things not out of spite or malic, but because I know from personal experience, there is not alot of information out there regarding these issues. There is such a stigma attached to divorce and coparenting in our society and I want to show people that it doesn't have to be that way. I want to offer encouragement and hope to anyone out there who may be walking through their own divorce/coparenting journey. Are we perfect? No. Do we struggle? Yes. And I think it's important for the people who are going through similar things to know and understand that it's okay and just like me, they too can survive this. One day at a time.

This blog is my way to tell my story. Over and over and over again. It's my way of living out the call that has been placed on my life to help other people-esepcially women-who are struggling with this reality every single day.

And you know what? It's working. I have a folder full of all the emails I have received from women who have been truly touched by what I have to say, and for that reason and that reason alone, I will never stop telling my story.

2. Anonymity isn't alway possible.

I know several bloggers who have these fantastic blogs where they blog about their families and their daily lives using only psuedo names. I know they do it to protect their families and their privacy and I respect that. I try really hard not to use real names in my blog anymore, but in my crusade for honesty and transparency, sometimes that gets overlooked. But, please note that I do try.

3. There are two sides to every story. 

As I mentioned in #1, blogging is my way to tell MY story-my own personal experience and thoughts on a particular event or situation. I write 100% from my point of view and only my point of view, because the last time I checked, I am only one person and my personal point of view is what I know the most about.

Do I sometimes misinterpret actions and conversations? Abso-freaking-lutely!

I am woman. Hear me roar. 

Do I often have to apologize for those misinterpretations? More than you know.

Most of the people who read my blog, do not know me personally, and the people who do happen to know me personally, but who are not close to me, also know where to find the other side of the story if they really want to hear it.

As for those who are closest to me, they know and they can testify to the fact that I have always been beyond fair with my situation and the experiences that I write about in this blog. Period

I'm pretty sure you won't find any tire tracks on anyone's back anytime soon.

As I have pointed out numerous times in numerous posts, I am not perfect. My divorce and my coparenting situation is a constant work in progress, and that's why I share and talk about our mistakes-my mistakes-because that's what the people I am writing for need to hear. They need to know that they aren't alone. That there really is this crazy girl out there who understands what they are going through and who is trying to find her way through her own mess just like them.

But, I'm sure you already knew all of this as such a loyal follower of my blog.

I digress. 

4. Most posts are longer than one or two paragraphs. 

I find it hard to believe that you don't already know this since you are such an avid follower of ALL my posts, but were you aware that I'm a little long-winded as a writer?

Because I really am.

When I get started on something, I tend to just go on and on and on!

So, sometimes to get the whole point of the whole story, you have to read the WHOLE ENTIRE blog post to put everything into context, because if you don't, sometimes things get a little confusing.

I know! Crazy, right?

Just a little tip for you.

5. Freedom of speech is a real thing. 

Here's a little fun fact for you: did you know that there is a whole part of the constitution that protects one's right to freedom of speech? Yep. It's really in there! Good old, Thomas Jefferson penned it almost 240 years ago. 

Isn't that crazy?!?!

 Weird, right?

*****

I want you to know that there are not words to truly express my gratitude to you! You have people stopping by to read my blog who never had an interest in my posts until you started pointing them my way! You have really aided in the increase of my blog traffic with the few, select people you are sure to make aware when I've posted something new.

I may have to put out a few fires every now and then, but it's no big deal! Because like you, people aren't often aware of tip #4. I don't mind to take one for the team every now and then, because of all the "good" you are doing and the people you are "helping". 

Why aren't there more people like you in the world? Seriously.

You know? It's too bad that more blogs don't have loyal followers who are just like you. They're really missing out. 

Sincerely,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Open Letter To My Daughter On The Last Day of Being 5


My Dear Emma,

Today we went to the swing set at the park near our apartment.

It's probably you're most favorite thing in the whole world.

As I pushed you, I was amazed at how a year ago you used to be so afraid of the "big swings". I would try and try to coax you onto them, but the baby swings were always more up your alley, and you have always blossomed in the "safe".

Until you turned 5.

This past year, I have watched you evolve from the sweet, timid baby you once were to the independent little girl you have become. You have traded in your Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Frozen, your blankies for American Girl dolls and their endless clothing choices, and the days of allowing me to dress you like a child straight out of Baby Gap have been replaced by your own keen fashion sense that reminds me daily that skirts, your Super Girl costume, or tiaras are acceptable attire for every occasion.

Your vocabulary has grown so much in the last year, and I find myself being able to have real conversations with you that are full of your incredible sense of humor. I can't even begin to count the number of times you have made me laugh out loud! You are silly and playful just like your Dad, and I love watching that side of you mold your personality. I hope you keep that part of you always and that because of it you will always remember to never take life too seriously unlike your Mom.

Your heart has seemed to grow bigger over the last year. Your compassion and sensitivity to others never fails to amaze me. You are always quick to tell me when someone at school got hurt or to save you Subway bags and McDonald's toys for Grandma's shoe boxes that she send to kids in other countries who don't have anything. You are gentle with everyone around you, and you try to always be the peacemaker. Your heart has been able to weather all the changes you have been subjected too over the last three years, and you have walked away from all of it with your pure and forgiving spirit still intact. This year, your heart also made room for your new stepmother in the most beautiful way. I have loved watching you come to love her as she becomes your soft place to land when you are at your Daddy's. It has been the answer to one of my most fervent prayers, and I have learned so much from you and your gentle acceptance of her place in your life. May I always follow your lead when it comes to understanding how to love people.

Your horizon has widened over the past year. I have watched you try out your wings as you tackle the adventures of kindergarten, sleepovers, making new friends, and finally being tall enough to ride most of the rides. It saddens me to know that as the years go by your wings will take you farther and farther from me towards the woman that God is molding you to be and the future I know that He has for you, but something tells me that no matter where He takes you that you will always find a way to return home to place where you began.

I can hear the adventure of 6 calling your name, and I am thrilled for everyday that God allows me to be apart of it. I hope that you continue to explore and grow, but that you know that no matter where this life takes you, I will always be here loving you, cheering for you, and ready to be your haven from every storm or bad day.

I want you to know that being your mother is and always will be my greatest accomplishment and my most outstanding achievement.

You are my "well done, good and faithful servant". The biggest jewel in my crown.

And for that I am grateful.

So incredibly grateful.

Happy early birthday, sweet girl.

Today is the last day you will ever be 5, and so far, I think 5 has been my absolute favorite.

But in my heart, I am ready for 6, and I know you are too.

So, here's my hand. We will go there together.

Love always, Mommy

Monday, March 30, 2015

Life After Divorce: Meet Alyssa


The next brave soul to participate in my interview series is one of my best friends, Alyssa. I have known Alyssa for almost 4 years, and we have been inseparable from the moment her dad set us up on a "blind lunch date". She played a huge role in my support system after my divorce as she guided me through the process with her strength and her wisdom. I honestly don't know what I would of done without her.

When I got ready to do this interview series, she was the first person who came to mind. While Alyssa does not have any children, she still has plenty of advice about how to find yourself after your divorce and how to seek out your forward. I am so excited for you to meet her today, and for her to share her story.

*****

  1. Before your first marriage, what red flags were you most likely ignoring? I was so blinded by thinking I was “in love” I didn’t think about the forever part or the part of really getting to know someone. I didn’t think about how old I really was or that I had all the time in the world to just date and figure out who I really was. We didn’t even talk about what our dreams and goals were for the future.
  2. During your first marriage, what were some things that your relationship lacked? COMMUNICATION. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we didn’t know how to really talk to each other. Since we got married so young, we started growing farther and farther apart as we got older. 
  3. Do you think that placed unrealistic expectations on your first spouse? If so, in what way?  Yes it did. As we got older, we started having different dreams and we didn’t talk about them because we didn’t want to fight. 
  4. In hindsight, what did that teach you about realistic expectations from another person?No one is perfect. Finding the imperfections in your partner and loving that person anyway is a real partnership. I believe that loving everything about your other half and learning how to communicate and compromise with that person is what makes up a healthy relationship.
  5. What kind of unrealistic expectations were placed on you by your first spouse?   First of all, as a young girl growing up in the South, the expectations of getting married and planning a big wedding is something you spend your whole life dreaming about. You don't really think about how it will affect the rest of your life. It’s not all romantic fairy tale after marriage and that puts a lot of stress on a couple who expects it to be that way.
  6. When you and your first spouse finally separated, what was your first thought? I think I was in shock. We both made mistakes and our marriage was over so quickly. We gave up without a fight which was the easy way out. Marriage is not easy, but we never communicated about anything, so by the time the divorce was mentioned in our minds there was nothing left worth fighting for. 
  7. What was the hardest thing about being on your own for the first time in years? The hardest thing was not knowing HOW to become independent, because I had NEVER been out on my own. I went through a really hard time, and wasted a lot of time trying to find who I was as a person. I was not only suffering from the depression of going through a divorce, but I was also struggling with the emotional part of being alone and not knowing what to do next.
  8. Who made up your primary support system? How did those people help you the most? I was actually all over the place. I didn’t live near my family, so I decided partying and staying busy all the time was the answer. I felt lost and depressed for a year. After moving to Missouri, I was still going through the motions of trying to find who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. After a while, I slowly started going back to school and trying to figure out who I was.
  9. What are your thoughts on dating after divorce? I don’t think anyone should date for at least a year after their divorce. I know that sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but I wish I would of waited. I was so lonely and looking for any kind of attention I could get. I dated way too much. I either ended up hurting people or allowing myself to get hurt. I believe that the first year should be about being alone, and getting some counseling that will heal you to heal properly. Since you are already an emotional wreck from my divorce, when you try to add dating to the mix it usually turns out not being a good way to start to your new beginning.
  10. How did that change in the months and years to come?  I didn’t actually feel happy and content with who I was, or where I was headed in my life until about 4 years later. I was looking for happiness and closure in all the wrong places. In the beginning, I wasn’t looking to God or accepting proper guidance from my family. If I would of done those things, I think I would have been happier a lot sooner. 
  11. Tell me about the moment you meant your current spouse/fiancé for the first time? Meeting Jonathan was at the perfect time, but it was also the wrong time. God put him in my life right when I needed him the most. We went through so many struggles in the beginning of our relationship. We were both trying to find ourselves as individuals, but at the same time we knew that the love we had was real. I wouldn’t want to change those struggles, because they made us the stronger, Christian couple we were meant to be. God made him for me, and I have no doubt in that. The struggles that I endured before him were baggage in our relationship, but they also made me a stronger partner. I don’t take the little things for granted. I cherish every moment, and I have come to respect the value we place on faithfulness and communication in our relationship.
  12. When did you know that they were the right one for you? I honestly knew that Jonathan was the one for me during the first month we met. I've never met someone like him shares the same values, dreams, and religious beliefs as I do and who respects the way we were both raised as much as he does. 
  13. What is something you admire most about your current spouse/fiancé? I admire so much about Jonathan. I admire his compassion, the love he has for me and his family, his outlook on life, and how positive he is in every situation. He is so outgoing, and laid back about things. He always puts other first and loves to learn new things.
  14. How did your previous marriage help to prepare you for your current marriage? I am not even close to the same person I use to be. It prepared me to be more cautious, more selective, and rely more on God. It's helped me to open up and communicate with my partner. It has taught me how to appreciate the small things, and to compromise with the wants and needs that my partner has. 
  15. If you have children, let’s talk co-parenting. How do you feel the transition has affected your children the most?  We don’t have kids, but we have talked a lot about it. We know it will change our whole world, and becoming a team instead of enemies is so important. We have the same family values and Christian values, and we want the same things for our kids.
  16. If you could define your life after your divorce in one word what would it be and why? STRONGER. The struggles become a part of the person you are today. It affects your personality, your dreams, your outlook in life, and even the choices you make with your current partner.
  17. If you could go back to the first time and tell your young newly engaged self one thing, what would it be? WAIT. Find yourself first. Go to school, have fun, date around, and figure out the things you like and don’t like.

*****

Both Alyssa and I come from areas where society teaches us to get married and have babies very young. If you aren't married, and have at least two kids by the time you are 21, you are living outside the "norm". There is very little encouragement to wait, finish college, and figure out who you really are before you make such a huge commitment.

According to divorce statistics:

  • 27.6% of divorced women are under 20 years old. 
  • 36.6% of divorced women are between the ages of 20 to 24 years old.
  • 16.4% of divorced women are between the ages of 25 to 29 years old. 
  • The numbers greatly reduce after 30 years old. 

Now before you get your panties in a wad, I'm not saying that every young marriage is doomed for divorce. However, I am saying that I know a lot of women in my generation who have signed up for marriage, because they got caught up in the wedding dreams without considering how that decision would affect the rest of their lives-just like Alyssa and I.

If you are young and newly engaged, I hope that you will consider Alyssa's wisdom and take her words to heart. Marriage is HARD work, and it's something that you have to be committed to fight for long after the beauty and excitement of your wedding day fades away.

To all of my young friends who are under age 25 and feel like they need to be in a hurry to get married and have children: Stop and take a breath. You're life is not escaping you, and you have plenty of time for all of that. Embrace your journey. Take some time to discover who you truly are and what you truly want in the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Trust me, you don't find out who you truly are until your late 20's and from what I hear, your 30's are the best years yet.

To all my lady friends who have been there and walked the well worn valley of divorce: may we remember what is was like and be a beacon to all those young women who look up to us. May we encourage them to wait and to take the time to find themselves before they make a mistake, and endure a lesson that is incredibly painful and hard to learn. May we encourage all the young married ladies around us. May we lift them up in prayer, and point them to the Truth. May we help them find their strength to fight for their commitments when the going gets tough and they feel like they don't have any fight left in them. May we never promote divorce as an option or a "way out". May we never sing the "praises" of divorce, but use the lessons we have learned for good-never harm.

You know? I adore the maturity you can hear in Alyssa's voice in this interview. She is a woman who has walked a difficult road, endured the fires, and walked away from them purer, stronger, and ready for the future.

What about you?

What's your story?

(If you are divorced and you would like to be considered for an interview in my Life After Divorce series, please feel free to email me at mymotherhoodinterrupted@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life After Divorce: Meet Bethany


Divorce is one of the most devastating things you could ever put yourself or your family through. The devastating effects and the toll it takes on you and the people closest to you leaves you emotionally, financially, and physically drained and grasping for what your next move should be.

In the beginning, starting a new life can seem hopeless-futile. You know you should pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward, but most of the time you are left wondering what exactly does forward look like?

I have been blessed to be surrounded with some of the most amazing people on my journey. People who have loved and supported me from day 1. Some of the greatest support I have received has come from a few women who are just like me, and whom I have the joy of calling some of my best friends. These women have walked through the fire of divorce and lived to tell about it. I am constantly inspired by their strength, their wisdom, and their willingness to help me find my forward.

Today I am starting a new blog series entitled Life After Divorce. Through this series, I will introduce these amazing women to you and share their stories through a series of interview questions. These questions reflect questions I think anyone who is going or who has gone through a divorce has asked.

My goal is to encourage any woman out their who may have just started a journey through divorce, or who may have reached a place in her life where she can't seem to find which direction is her forward. I hope you hear each one of the stories of these women, and I hope that you take some of their wisdom from their well-worn journey with you just as I have.

There is life after divorce. There is a forward. Trust us.

*****

Meet my dear friend, Bethany*. 

Bethany is a beautiful, amazing single mom to an adorable vibrant, outgoing second grade boy. When I think of the word "survivor", a picture of her always forms in my mind. I have known Bethany for many years, and when I first began my divorce journey she was the number one person from whom I drew strength and encouragement. Bethany and I have both walked in very similar shoes, and on my really, really bad co-parenting days she is the one I turn to and say things like, "Please tell me I'm not being crazy!". She is an incredible human being who has overcome so much, and I am so excited to share her wisdom with you today. 

*****
  1. Before your first marriage, what red flags were you most likely ignoring? The way he would hide everything. He had lots of secrets, and he was very controlling. There were always other girls around and things that were left from these other girls. There was also the warnings from my family and friends.
  2. During your first marriage, what were some things that your relationship lacked? Compassion and trust
  3. Do you think that you placed unrealistic expectations on your first spouse? If so, in what way? No, I don't. 
  4. What kind of unrealistic expectations were placed on you by your first spouse? To be accepting of him being with other girls, his partying, the lies, and allowing him have control of everything. In his mind, I was to be left at home and I was expected be the perfect wife who kept the perfect home and who raised the perfect child. I was not to say a word when he came home smelling of another girls perfume, otherwise there would be hell to pay and the screaming, yelling, and name calling would commence. To him, I was always the bitch that ruined his life. In fact, I still hear that, but I just don't let it get to me now. 
  5. When you and your first spouse finally separated, what was your first thought?  I thought my life would end. I felt like it was all my fault, because that was what I was being told by him, and at that point I was still allowing him have control over me. I got very depressed and had thoughts of suicide. I even wrote a separate note to all of my loved ones. As I finished the letter to my little boy, I was in full out tears. I couldn't bring myself to consider what his life would be like without me there, and in that moment, I decided I had to pull myself together and make things the best I could for him. I ripped up all letters and sat there weeping until the early morning hours. I knew in my heart that I could not leave him alone. 
  6. What was the hardest thing about being on your own for the first time in years? The hardest thing for me about being by myself for the first time in years was the public perception of my life.  I hated to watch all the whispers and knowing that people were talking behind my back. I knew what they were talking about and who they were talking about, and it just killed me that I was at the center of their gossip. All I wanted was to be the perfect, normal me that I was before, and having people talk about me was not something I had ever experienced up until that point. 
  7. Who made up your primary support system? How did those people help you the most? My mom, my sister, and all of my friends including all of my girlfriends. There were also those friends that I was not allowed to have contact with throughout my marriage. After my separation, I went and found those people again. They were really kind, and proved to be a rock for me to lean against during my separation and divorce.  
  8. What was your initial thought about dating after your divorce? I did not want to date again afterwards. I was so worried about being played again, and my whole goal was to not let anyone into my life.  In my mind, I wanted to be the person to play or hurt someone else, and it was so weird to me that I felt that way. Plus I also thought that no guy would ever want to be with me. My self-esteem was so far down, and I didn't think there would ever be another person for me in this world who would think I was pretty. 
  9. How did that change in the months and years to come? I ended up meeting the man who is now going to become my husband. He had also married young, and was going through a rough time too. We were able to talk to each other about what was going on in our lives. He made me feel very loved and wanted. It was like I had finally found someone who would actually like me for who I am and who truly cared about me. 
  10. Tell me about the moment you met your current spouse/fiance for the first time?  I'd actually known him for a long time because we went to school together. But the moment I really noticed him was when we had some friends that were leaving and we were both there to tell them goodbye. It was like even though we had always been acquaintances, we suddenly had an instant connection and it seems like from that moment on we were inseparable.
  11. When did you know that they were the right one for you?  I knew that he was right for me because of how completely in sync we are together, and how we like to do the same things and we want to do them together. I could also tell that everything was going to be the way it should be when I saw how he is with my son. He treats him like he is his own, and that means the world to me. 
  12. What is something you admire most about your current spouse/fiance? I probably love his compassion, love, and understanding for other people the most. He is totally the type of person who gives 100% to others, and always puts everyone else first. 
  13. How did your previous marriage help to prepare you for your current marriage? Basically the way my previous marriage prepared me for my upcoming re-marriage, is that it taught me how I did not want to be treated, and it made me want to wait until I found the perfect person to treat me the way I had learned that I deserved to be treated.
  14.  If you have children, let’s talk co-parenting. How do you feel the transition has affected your children the most? I sometimes feel that the transition has affected my child negatively. He is very worried about what everybody else thinks/ feels. He has come to the point where he lives from one side to the other, so that he can make everyone happy. I feel like he has reached the point where he does this instead of worrying about himself and what makes him happy. An example of this is that at his dad's house they expect him to call his new stepmother, "Mom", and they expect him to call me by my first name. I find this to be crazy and very disrespectful. However, I also don't want to put him in the position where he feels like he has to chose sides by either upsetting me or upsetting them. I hate that he feels like he needs to call me by my real name when he is over there-in fact I think this is really over the top. I feel that this should be controlled, but his dad and his new wife don't seem to think so. It really wears very heavily on him, and it's a hard thing for us to deal with, especially when I'm trying to co-parent him with them, and teach him what I think is respectful and right, and how to be a good person. I hate to see the way his father is controlling him, but unfortunately I know that this is not something I can control. 
  15. What are some things you do every day to effectively co-parent your child with your ex-spouse? I try to be very open with my ex about everything that is going on with our child, and tell him about all the events that are coming up and what he is going to be doing. I try to respect what he wants for him. We have very different views on things such as extracurricular activities. He believes that he really shouldn't do any extracurricular activities, but I believe that he should. I believe he should do whatever he wants, as long as he's not overloaded. I also want him to follow through with those commitments and I expect him to finish them. There are lots of things he wants to do, but when I ask his Dad the answer is always a, "No.". I feel really bad for him sometimes, and I struggle with how to respect what his Dad wants, but still give him the life that I think he should have.  In my opinion, I don't think his Dad should be able have all the control over everything in his life, so a lot of times I just let him do things on my days. This is very frustrating, because then all the days he is with me, he is always busy doing something and I don't want it to be that way, but I also want to give him the best childhood I can. It's hard to find that balance.  
  16. What is one piece of advice you would give anyone who is just beginning their co-parenting journey after divorce? To remember that it is not about the two of you-it is about the children or the child. Try to always love and respect that person as the other parent to your child even though they may say that they hate you and you are tortured by that.
  17.  No matter what, I hope that my child ____________________________(Fill in the blank). I hope that my child knows how much I love him and how I would do anything in this world for him to make it the best it can be. He's an amazing little boy and he deserves nothing, but the best from everyone. I hope he always reaches for the stars, but that he knows that if he falls, mom will be right here. 
  18. If you could define your life after your divorce in one word what would it be and why?  Struggle. Co-parenting is the hardest thing, and sometimes I think it would just be so much easier if I just had full custody of him and his Dad wasn't around, or that I was from a divorce where there were no children involved. But then I sit back and remind myself that he is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me, and if that means that I have to have the struggle and put up with his father then it is worth it. That boy deserves everything in the world, and I believe that every child deserves to have both parents active in their life. 
  19. If you could go back to the first time and tell your young newly engaged self one thing, what would it be?  Listen to the people around you. Listen to those who care about you, and who love you the most. Your family is only telling you these things because they love you, and they want what's best for you. Trust me, they aren't giving you the advice just to be jerks. They're giving it to you, because they're worried about you and they want what's best for you. I have a lot of days that I wish I would've listened to my sister when she was sitting there with me on my wedding day making a plan for me to escape, so that I did not have to get married. I was so mad at her that day, and I couldn't believe she was doing it, but now I wish I would've listened and just ran like the wind right out the door.

I think we can all take something away from Bethany's interview and learn from her daily struggle no matter where we are in our lives. I admire the way that she strives to give her son the best life possible-a life that is filled with so many opportunities to learn and grow as human being-despite the adversity she faces. I believe this is something that any of us who are divorced with kids should strive towards, no matter what obstacles might be in our way. Bethany inspires me daily as a mother, and I hope she inspires you too. 

Stay tuned for more Life After Divorce posts that will be coming your way soon!

Happy Wednesday!

(If you are divorced and you would like to be considered for an interview in my Life After Divorce series, please feel free to email me at mymotherhoodinterrupted@gmail.com.)

*All names have been changed

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Co-Parenting Diaries: How To Not "Kill" Your Ex On The Bad Days


I had been sick...like hellaciously sick...for almost a week.

I finally caved and forced myself to ask the doctor for antibiotics last Monday, and she graciously obliged. Thankfully, I have been on the mend ever since.

However, up until last Monday I felt the worst I have felt in a very, very long time. My poor daughter barely survived my mood swings, my whining, and all the ranting that was a result of an extremely busy mommy being forced to "take it easy".

She was a complete angel during my down time, even though I probably didn't deserve such good behavior when mine was anything but angelic. She played quietly, watched movies, and we read or did a few puzzles when I felt up to it, but that was about it. Our normal routine was completely disrupted by the fact that I couldn't go longer than 30 seconds without being hit with a dizzy spell, a coughing fit, or the urgent need to blow my nose.

I mostly laid in bed and sulked until last Sunday when she had to go back to her dad's-leaving me alone and feeling completely guilty that I spent our entire weekend being sick and acting like a total, raging b*tch about it most of the time.

Doesn't my body know that motherhood is hard enough without throwing sickness into the mix?!

Anyway, needless to say, we got nothing done in the form of our normal routine things last week. I just did not have the energy for things like homework, laundry, appropriate dinner menu items, and remembering the 15 different things that had to go back to her dad's house on Sunday.

I was literally in single, sick mom survival mode.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I received this on Tuesday via text message from my daughter's father:

"Did you just forget to do her homework last week?"

Excuse me.

I re-read the text.

This could be interpreted as a harmless question if he wouldn't of known that I had been sick, BUT he did.

Because you see, last Saturday in the midst of my worst day, he had come by to pick our daughter up to take her to the St. Patrick's Day parade for a few hours. I agreed to let her go-thankful for the respite and for the fact that she wouldn't have to sit around the house with me reminding me how bored she was.

He came by about an hour later to pick her up.

It was in this moment that I-once again-found myself overtly impressed with his almost super natural ability to predict my current health condition based on the fact that my hair had built a nest on top of my head, that I was still in my pajamas at noon (which in his book is a HUGE no-no), and that my nose was as red as a canned beet.

"Are you sick?"

<insert eye roll here>

Nope. I'm fine. Feeling grand.

Ugh.

Get out of my house. 

He wrinkled his nose, hurried our daughter along, and managed to not make eye contact with me the entire 5 minutes he was in my house.

I think that's a new record. 

Seriously.

So, you're telling me that based on your keen observation of me over the weekend, you thought I actually had time to or felt up to doing homework?

<insert another eye roll here>

I apologized and asked him to catch her up as far as he could, and I would finish the rest on Wednesday night with her. He agreed to do that, and I thought the conversation was over.

Until, last Wednesday when I sat down to do homework with her and I realized that instead of catching her up as far as he could, and letting me do last week's homework, he decided to leave "my days" of homework blank. Yep. Just Wednesday's and Thursday's homework of the last two weeks were completely blank and right next to "my days" were giant red x's from our daughter's teacher marking them incomplete.

Are you kidding me?

No. Seriously.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!

I instantly grabbed my phone and proceeded to text furiously-spouting off all of the garbage I wanted to shove down his throat in that moment.

But, I didn't.

I deleted the text, sat my phone down, and thought long and hard about this man and the fact that this was about to be the first of many fights we were probably going to have about homework over the next 12 years.

Even though I didn't want to, I decided against it.

Because of all the things we have to fight about-this just wasn't worth it.

The truth was that this particular fight was futile and that it was most likely his way of trying to get under my skin as he is always so good at doing.

The man should have a Ph.D. in how to piss me off. Seriously. 

I went ahead and did the missed homework with her, finished the current week's homework, and wrote the teacher a note explaining the confusion hoping that our daughter would still get credit.

I also explained to our daughter that homework is homework, and no matter if she is at mine or dad's house ALL of the homework needs to be completed. I apologized for not helping her with my days and assured her I would try harder in the future.

*****

In the past-almost-3 years, I have had many, many, MANY days that I have wanted to "kill" my daughter's father.

Not literally, of course. 

But, you get what I'm saying.

I cannot even begin to count the number of weeks I have picked her up on Wednesday and none of her homework for the week  has been done yet, but we go ahead and tackle it anyway.

And don't even get me started on how many times I have been the only one to complete the monthly reading list with her or the fact that everything I send to his house that was once white never seems to come back quite that color.

The point is: I try every single day to pick my battles with my daughter's dad. I know deep down that no matter how much these things drive me crazy, they are not worth the fight. 

I also know that if I were to nitpick and make huge battles out of every single "small" thing, he would never take me seriously on the "big" things which matter more than homework, or forgotten tennis shoes, or the thousandth pair of misplaced gloves that were supposed to stay in the backpack. 

Is it hard? Yep. 

Do I sometimes let my blind rage get the best of me? Of course. I'm human. 

But, I always try to apologize when that does happen, and I always try to keep the mutual end that we are both working toward in sight.

I have been blessed that for the most part we agree on how to raise our daughter. Even when our opinions differ, we are usually able to work out a compromise.

Are we experts at this? No. 

And I don't think we ever will be.

But, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that he loves our daughter, and I know that she is probably the most loved and wanted little girl on the face of the planet.

I know that no matter what all that we both want for her is the absolute best, and I know that part of giving her the absolute best is to pick my battles and refrain from hopping aboard the crazy train.

I also know that just like me, he is human. And sometimes our pure human-ness gets the best of both of us.

We are two people who don't really like each other and who couldn't make a marriage work, but who are trying to co-parent a little girl. And at times that is a recipe for problems that go way deeper than the real issue at hand.

However, I know that it is our job to keep that in check, and to not allow momentary anger to disrupt the calm surface we know that she needs from us over an issue that most likely is being fueled by a much deeper issue we haven't quite resolved.

There is a lot of hurt in our relationship.

Hurt that will probably be there for a very long time.

But, somehow we have to manage to look past it everyday and not continue to punish her with choices that are being made as a result of that hurt.

*****

I have said it before and I will probably say it 1,000 more times: co-parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. 

But, despite everything, we are making it work- one month, one week, one day, and one petty homework battle at a time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

April's Story

April knew it was coming.

She always knew when it was coming. 

Like arthritic joints that ache when a storm is near, her hands would start to shake when her body could feel it coming. 

He'd been "out" again with his friends- a habit that he'd developed shortly after their daughter was born three years ago. 

It was late and she had put Evie to bed hours ago, but she had learned a long time ago that he expected her to wait up for him. 

And so she did.

She hoped that this time he'd come home and go straight to bed. She didn't want him to wake Ellie with his yelling like he did a few nights ago. 

But, something told her that his coming home text that she had received a few minutes earlier held more meaning to it than what was on the screen. 

The TV was on, but she wasn't watching.  She just needed the noise. Quiet would make the shaking worse. 

The computer screen glowed with Facebook and all the happy faces of people she knew were having perfectly normal Saturday nights. She scrolled through her newsfeed absentmindedly. Not really paying attention, but not wanting to look away. She envied them and their lives. She would give anything to be anywhere, but here tonight. 

Her eyes shot forward as she heard the hum of his pickup as it pulled into the driveway. She quickly slammed the laptop shut and hurriedly set it in it's place on the coffee table. She tucked her legs up underneath her and pretended to watch the Friends re-run that she had turned on for noise.

The door creaked open, and she turned her head slightly to greet him-as was expected, "Hey, babe. Did you guys have fun?" 

He grunted and sat at the dining room to take off his boots. She did her best to control her rapid breathing. Her fear was oozing out of her, and she knew he could sense it.

He could sense fear like a shark that smells blood in water:quickly and with a insatiable hunger.

But he didn't say a word.

At first, all she could hear was the sound of one boot hitting the floor, and then the other. Then she heard him stand and walk up behind the couch. His hands gentle-at first-as they moved from her shoulders and down her bare arms. He bent down-his breathing heavy as he kissed her neck and said,

"Don't you want to come to bed with me, baby?"

She knew what that meant and she knew the consequences if she refused. "Why couldn't he have just passed out at Sam's house like last week?" She thought.

She felt the weight of the words that were about to roll of her tongue before she spoke them, "I want to finish this episode, babe, and then I'll be in. Why don't you go lay down without me?"

She heard his breath catch in his throat. His lips still inches from her ear. She knew exactly what she had done, but sometimes her defiance got the best of her.

She was not built by weak women and she often struggled with how to play the part he expected of her. 

His hands tightened on her arms like vices being tightened by a handle. Slow and steady. Tighter and tighter.

"Just come to bed, April. Don't make me ask again."

She could feel the shaking in her hands traveling through the rest of her body, but she stood firm.

 "I just want to finish this show. 15 more minutes."

In a flash, his right hand reached for the remote, while his left hand remained firmly on her arm-its grasp still getting tighter and tighter. The TV clicked off and silence enveloped the room.

She hated the quiet. 

He pushed his body upright. His left hand never leaving her arm.

"Stand up and come to bed."

It was no longer a question, but a demand. A firm one.

He was so much better at demands. Asking wasn't his forte. 

She still didn't move. Her legs still tucked up beneath her. Her arm throbbing from his grasp. It would bruise tomorrow-a purple and blue tattoo that would only remind her of her mistakes.

He released her arm and began to walk around the couch. She tensed and made eye contact with him. She could feel the definace leaking out of her.

Why couldn't she just force her body to cooperate? 

"Get up!"

She sat as still as the shaking would allow her too. Her eyes never leaving his.

"GET. UP!!!"

His voice boomed this time-startling her. She blinked, but didn't move.

No matter how many times she had played out this exact same scene, she could never get used to way his voice sounded when he was angry.

Loud. Menacing. Terrifying.

The storm was now raging in full force. The shaking had enveloped her body.

She didn't have time to think before he lunged toward her-grabbing her pony tail in a tight fist with his right hand. He yanked and she shot forward-landing sideways on the carpet-her head throbbing just like her arm. His other hand came from the left and grabbed her face-squeezing her cheeks hard as he tilted her eyes up towards him.

"Why do you make me do this to you, April? Why can't you just listen the first time?"

His voice was low. His breath was hard. She could smell the booze and it made her want to vomit. She fought back tears as she starred into his eyes that seemed to have gone black, and she wondered if she'd wake up again this time when it was over, or if she had finally met her end.

She thought of Evie. She thought of what it would mean to leave her alone in this place with no mother to fight for her. Would she remember her?

 She thought of her family. The ones who wondered why she never came around anymore. The ones who didn't know how hard she tried to hide her bruises. Would they feel bad for not trying to help her?

He let go of her face, and turned her body with the fist that was still wrapped through her pony tail. He pulled her forward-dragging her out of the living room and down the hall.

She wanted to fight and scream, but she didn't want to wake Evie.

She thought about begging, but she knew it wouldn't do any good.

She was going to have to ride this storm out.

After all, she knew it was coming.

She just wondered how much more of it she could take.

*****
April's story may be a work of "fiction", but her story represents the faces of so many women who experience this type of violence every single day.

According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline,
  • Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
If you are reading this, and like April, you are being victimized by domestic abuse, please know that I hear you and there is hope. 

I promise. 

There are several great organizations that have the resources to help you, and some communities have centers designed to help remove you from a bad situation and put you on the path to great situation. 

I know how much courage it takes to walk away. I know how scared you are. I know that you have been told for years that you are not worth it and you can't survive without your partner.

But, I am here to let you know that you can. 

Trust me. 

The abuse is NOT your fault. The worthlessness you feel right now in this very moment is NOT the truth about who you are. All the lies that you have been told are NOT the definition of your future. 

Your life is an amazing gift, and whenever you are ready to take it back, there are so many resources available and waiting to help. 

All it takes is the first step. 

One wild moment of tremendous courage. 

And one still, small voice saying they believe in you. 

Let me be that voice.

Let the stories of women who have been where you are and lived to tell about it be that voice. 

We all believe in you.




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Forward

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, 
but in looking outward together in the same direction. 
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A year ago this weekend my awkward, awful-at-flirting, freshly-scorned self met a boy whose opening line was to compliment my drink in the middle of a very loud, crowded night club we had taken one of my best friends to for her birthday. 

I can remember casting him my side eyes-always skeptical of any and all members of the male species in any room-and mumbling something about always drinking bottled beer when I go out because it was cheaper...and safer. 

He did his best to make conversation with me over the loud music-his eyes never leaving my face. 

I think that was the thing that struck me about him first-the feeling like he could really see me: Ashley

In the middle of this crowded bar with probably a hundred other desperate girls in their trashiest dresses, he saw the girl in the blue jeans and a black tank top drinking Coors Light-bottled-and watching over purses while her friends danced. 

I can remember him asking for my number as the girls came over ready to leave. I hurriedly typed it into his phone not realizing that I had forgotten the last number. I told him good night and stood to leave with my friends, and just as I was getting into my car. I heard him running up behind us. Chasing me down for that last number. 

The finally digit that changed my life.

*****

We talked a lot about that last digit this weekend.

About where we both would be if he wouldn't of come after me to get it.

About how different our lives would be now-a year later-without each other. 

I've got to say, God has a way with timing. 

My life has been whirlwind this past year.

A whirlwind of him and this new life we have quietly settled ourselves into. 

I never would of pictured myself here a year ago, but I am so thankful that God has lead me down this path with this boy whose patience and selflessness floor me every single day. 

He has held on through some of the roughest days of my life. 

He alone has watched me navigate the deepest waters of who I was to who I am becoming. He has helped guide me through even the roughest of waters and all the moments when I have been anything but full of grace. 

There have been a thousand times when I wouldn't of blamed him if he ran, and yet he's still here. 

Loving me in spite of my mess. 

Teaching me every single day what love truly looks like. 

Reminding me daily that this is so much better than anything I've left behind. 

So much better than anything I could ever deserve. 

And that this is what forward looks like. 

This is the type of forward I have always dreamed of, but didn't think was possible. 

The kind of forward you both work towards together. Not his dreams or my dreams, but our dreams. Not his way or my way, but our way. 

And for the first time in my whole life, I know what it means to truly be excited about tomorrow. 
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