My one-year divorce-aversary is coming up quickly.
It’s made me stop to think about the year and overall, it’s been a rough one.
Every time I thought I had things under control, life would pull the rug under me and laugh saying, “Not so fast, blondie.”
There were some moments in which I thought—I just can’t do this. Many moments. The feeling was overwhelming, but then suddenly, I turned a corner. Not that I don’t sometimes feel defeated about caring for myself and my daughter on my own…not that I don’t look at my bank account and think, “When does it get better?” because I do… a lot.
Not that I don’t think, when another issue comes up with my ex, “What now?”
But that I believe wholeheartedly that I will manage it. Somehow, I managed when I thought I couldn’t during numerous moments throughout this year. And honestly, out of the three years we have been done with our marriage, this one was the hardest by far—proving that no two divorce journeys are alike.
And here it is spring. A time of new growth. A time of warmer sun. A time of longer days.
And for the first time, I will be without my child for six whole nights.
Originally when we split, we shared her time 50/50, and it was challenging making a life for myself when she was gone with dad. Then as her dad started to take less and less and less time with her, suddenly, it was the two of us again, attached at the hip just like we had been when I was a stay-at home mom.
I’ve never been apart from my daughter for this long. I’ve never missed the chance to dye eggs or see the bunny in time for Easter. It’s this time of the year that I am most sentimental about missing my stay-at home days with her… she just turned six and I still remember those days…the ones rocking her in her chair, her nursing to sleep. The ones in which we hopped from park to park, drawing on the sidewalks, writing letters, and swinging on swings…climbing to the top and me wondering if she wasn’t going just a little too high…or not.
How quiet the house is going to be for six whole nights…getting used to that silence. Getting used to being alone with my own thoughts.
Divorce can be very hard and also very joyful if you move on to a better life afterwards. No matter how your experience with divorce goes, the fact is there is no single rule book that explains what you should or shouldn’t do in divorce. Even further still, there is no single rule book to explain how your children might react to a divorce. I have friends whose children have taken divorce very easily, whereas my child has not.
Knowing this, there are a few things I do as a parent to help get my little one through the process for her sake . . . and mine.
1. The Time Check
I kept asking myself, “It’s been X amount of months or years, so why is it still so hard for my child? What can I do differently?”
Hi, my name is Laura and I am single on Valentine’s Day.
When I enter any store or public location, I am harassed and dazzled with hearts of pink and red and chocolate boxes and cards for people of all ages.
When I go to the store, my daughter points out all the Valentine’s Day candy she sees because apparently to four year-old’s, every holiday is a celebration of chocolate and gifts…upon them.
Truly, it is though.
I am Laura, and I am almost divorced, separated for almost two whole years and am completely and utterly single.
When I go to websites and social media outlets, retargeting ads hit me saying “Buy this sexy lingerie” or “Indulge in the taste of sweet chocolates.”
I am Laura, and I have gone on a bunch of dates and had not one real boyfriend (minus one guy who got really close) in the time I have been separated.
When my ex and I first split, I felt it was crucial we be a unified front as much as possible, for our daughter’s sake. I still believe this — however, we took that unified front to the maximum. We did many joint activities together, and as time went on, I felt a pressure both from others and from myself to make sure we were all a “happy, amicable divorced family.” Is this truly such a bad notion to have? Absolutely not! But some of these altruistic ideas created problems that I would not have had had we kept a civil but more distant approach to separating.
For example, too much joint time together confused our very young daughter. It also confused us, emotionally. The more time we spent together and got along “well enough,” it made us wonder: Was divorce really worth the pain and suffering we would experience?
It was another Saturday night without my daughter.
In the past, weekends without her were torture.
In truth, the silence in the house is still hard almost two years later. Walking by her empty room? It still feels unfair. Missing out on taking her to dance class? It feels like I’m being a disobedient mother. I should be there– it’s my role, my job.
But from the start, weekends without her felt like not only a test of my heart by being “still” enough to notice she wasn’t around (during weeknights if she’s not here, at least I get home so late from work that I can ignore her absence) but it also felt as if a big blaring horn were going off announcing:
“It’s another weekend and Laura is still single, after her divorce. It’s another Saturday night and Laura is not going out on a date this time.”
Since my ex and I decided to separate, my weekends without my daughter have always been full but there was always this underlying tension blaring, “Will there be a date this weekend, or not?”
Believe it or not, I might actually have my divorce finalized in 2016! It’s a fairly simple divorce, yet it’s all been the most drawn-out divorce that I know of. We have been separated for 20 months now. It’s time.
The truth is, it took awhile for us to cut the cord and call the final shots. And once the trigger was pulled, it seemed it took forever to get the paperwork in. Either way, the light is nearing the tunnel, and I can safely say that throughout this divorce, I have done a solid job in getting my life together for myself and for my kid. I feel proud of how I have handled this at times, gut-wrenching experience, but there are mistakes I have made along the way that if I were to have to do it again, (EGADS!) I would do a few things differently. Live and learn, and try as I might, I have made my mistakes but overall, I have tried my best to move forward and I will be damned if I make the same mistakes in love again.
My ex has a new girlfriend and I have never met her. I know extremely little about her other than her occupation, where she lives (out of state very far away!) and who she lives with, and that she’s near my age and not a mom.
Does the last part matter to me? Well, sort of. Is “sort of” an answer? We don’t get to pick who are exes pair off with nor do we have any choice in how our exes introduce our kids to their partners or how they have their new flames interact with our kids (double too bad). This is one of the hardest parts about divorce: our children interacting with total strangers and sometimes staying over at these people’s homes. But it’s something we have to accept and cope with otherwise the possible anger, worry, and fear will consume us alive.
But does it matter to you if your ex’s new love is a mom or no?
It can be hard to feel thankful about your life after divorce when you are divorced or a child of divorce, especially during the holidays. For the parents, it’s a matter of financial stress and sharing time or not seeing your kids on a holiday; it’s also about difficult feelings such as loneliness, grief, and maybe even anger. For a child of divorce, he or she may not be dealing directly with the financial stress, but a child can sense and absorb the adult’s pain and tension. A child can feel all of those emotions listed above too, such as grief over seeing one side of the family and not the other. A child can miss what it was like to be with his or her parents all in one house.
And the exhaustion of coparenting isn’t just during the holidays; it’s all year-round. The bouncing back and forth between homes. New stepparents and/or stepsiblings. Moving out of a familiar home. Seeing loved ones less. Sometimes a huge change of lifestyle. During my time writing about divorce, I have spent time interviewing 12 adults who were children of divorce and one subject said it rather well when discussing what it is like to go back and forth with two distinct families: “It can be humbling to live two different lives.”
You hurt me.
You make me sad. Hopeless. Feel lonely. Broke.
Wonder why ‘”this is happening to me.”
You screw me up when sometimes, I miss my ex. Or sometimes when he’s nice, I remember all the good times all over again only to realize in a flash, that those times are gone.
You take my child away from me for part of the time.
You make me lose seconds, minutes, hours, and days with my child. Moments that I can never get back. Parts of her childhood gone. Forever.
You make me work too much and too hard.
A pint-sized, battery-operated writer, voice-over actress, comedienne and single mother , Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for the New York Times, Women’s Health, Redbook, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, Your Tango, ... Continue reading →