Your kids will be just fine, and you will never be the same.
I used to be an awesome mom. I mean, I was AWESOME. World class.
Everything I did was determined by the best interests of my kids above and beyond anything else.
And that was fine. Because I was married. My then-husband and I co-existed pretty well on the surface. He made sure there was money in the bank to buy groceries. I made sure the house, the kids, and the socializing we needed to take part in for his work were all taken care of. It was a pretty sweet life.
Except when it wasn’t. Which was just about any time it was only the two of us. Or around people we didn’t need to impress.
After a while I had to stop and look at it. There’s no need to share sordid details, but I assure you I was living a life that could not have bee best for my kids, because it was a life that was terribly unhealthy for me. I don’t believe raising children in that environment does anyone any favors.
So, we divorced.
The first question a parent considering a divorce asks is always “How will getting a divorce affect my kids?”
Moms and Dads alike, we all worry our children will stop trusting us, stop trusting love and transform into miniature hobos marching between their parents’ homes with their clothes tied up in red checkered handkerchiefs on top of a stick over their teeny-tiny-adorable shoulders, whether they are going on 3, 10 or 18 years old.
I believe that divorce is a gift, but I am not going to give you a snow job and tell you it made me a better parent. I’m also going to resist the urge to kick myself more than I already do on any given day and say it made me a worse parent.
Divorce has made me a different parent.
Here’s what happens:
- Your kids become your most significant others. When you are married to your kids’ other parent, you may debate whether or not your spouse should come before your kids or vice versa. When you still have minor children at home and the person you are dating, engaged to, or even married to is not their mom or dad, your kids anchor your heart quite differently.
- Every second with your kids is more precious than ever before. When you only see your kids for a percentage of their week, whether 20%, 50% or 80%, that time holds a beautiful weight you strive to make the most of. Each hug, laugh and victory you rack up on Mario Kart is the instant highlight of your week. (OK, the victory part may only be me, but I am an Aries and a little sister of a big brother, so I’m allowed.)
- Every second with your kids is more stressful than ever before. That weight also means a lot of pressure and crushing responsibility. No matter how well you co-parent, that time alone is all on you. If you have a bad day or an urgent deadline, you’re kind of screwed.
- You have to make conscious decisions about how your children will see you as a dating adult. Kids don’t want to see their parents making out or anything, but no matter how much they cry “Ew!,” it does make them feel happy and safe to see them hold hands and hug. When you start holding hands and hugging on someone who is not their parent that is huge. I’m not telling you how long to wait before an introduction, I’m just saying this kind of thinking becomes a big deal and affects the way you view and form new relationships.
- Little things your kids do that remind you of your ex don’t make you smile, they make you want to scream. When you are married and see your little girl give you that look — the one your wife hits you with all the time — you crack up, snap a photo and forward it to her with a winky–faced emoji. When you’re divorced and your daughter flashes that look, you avert your eyes as though you looked directly into the sun at high-noon, go for a walk and remind yourself they aren’t really the same person.
- You become self-aware of the way you express yourself on a heightened level. Not only will every 4-letter word that ever emerges from your mouth again be reported directly back to your child’s alternate parental home base, but heaven forbid their dad is late one day when you have somewhere to be and you mutter an unkind word under your breath. I’m sure you get the picture of how that will have been magnified when you hear back about it from your ex.
- You learn to fill in the blanks. As much as you want to be there for the first everything, you just won’t be. Sometimes they’re with your ex the weekend that big movie opens and you feel really bummed about it. Sometimes they’re with you when that performer you shared with them comes to town and you count your lucky stars. You learn to enjoy the status reports they share, and those times the custody rotation works in your favor are that much sweeter.
- You heighten your focus on their sibling relationship. Lots of kids have divorced parents and learn to adjust to the back and forth involved. Your particular mini-people are the only ones who go back and forth between your two particular homes. They have each other 100% of the time. That makes for a beautiful bond you revel in. At least, when they aren’t hiding each other’s stuff or knocking over what you just cleaned up.
- You spend every second trying to catch up on something, never quite getting all of it done. We all know by now that no one can have or do it all. Without another parent to share some burden of the time with, nothing you do ever feels like enough — at work, with your kids, for yourself, or for others.
- You have moments when you feel guilty for getting divorced and turning your lives upside down and think you must be the worst parent ever to bear children. And you wouldn’t go back to the way things were before you divorced for any amount of money on Earth.
Photo Credit: flickr/2702109688