Tag Archives: divorce

Controversial Single Mother – Who is She?

Yesterday I read a blog post that has me thinking, not just about what she said but about how divisive our society has become. The post was called “Single Parent vs Single Parent” and can be found at the link below:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/76765594/posts/1799625796

By posting the link to the article and not talking about it in general terms I do not mean any disrespect. Rather, I respect her opinion and I am not here to say she’s wrong. My intention is to post my point of view to see what everyone else here thinks. I also want everyone who is interested to be able to see her point of view without any bias, so I did not attempt to summarize her views. After a Google search I’ve discovered this is a popular view so I don’t mean to call her out specifically, but it was her post that led to mine and I want to give credit where credit is due.

While I’m not going to say she’s wrong, I do want to say that I respectfully disagree with her opinion.

According to her I should not call myself a single mother. According to this post only parents who are raising their child/children completely without the involvement of the other parent should call themselves a single parent.

Does it offend you if I call myself a single mother? Is there value in labeling those of us who have to share custody of our children something different? I honestly want to know.

Is this because single moms who have sole custody of their children have it harder? If this is basis, lets compare two situations. First, a single mother who has sole custody, whose parents babysit for her one night a week, who makes more than enough to pay her bills and sets money aside to help pay for college when her children are older. Second, is a single mother whose ex is verbally abusive, who sometimes “forgets” to pay his $100 a month in child support because the price of cigarettes went up again and who takes them every other weekend, or at least on the weekends he feels like complying with the custody agreement.

The label of “single mother,” in my opinion, should not attempt to universally describe a plight. For me it is a way to unite women together, not divide or label them. They may be single by choice, they may be lesbian, they may have adopted children, they may have a super supportive ex, or they may not even know the name of the father.

I have learned that there is no universally accepted definition of the term “single mother.” In my opinion, single mothers are women, or people who identify as a woman. Single mothers have children, either young or grown. Single mothers are not in a relationship with the father of their children, but they may be in a different relationship, or possibly even remarried. Single mothers may even still be in a relationship with the father but consider themselves “single” for a variety of reasons. Whoever considers themselves a single mother should be allowed to do so, without judgment. This isn’t an exclusive club and it’s not high school.

As I posted last week regarding what I felt children were learning from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there is power in joining together. You can accomplish more by uniting people than by dividing. I’m not sure why our society keeps going down the path of “you’re not like me” or “we’re too different to be labeled the same.”

I actually read an article in a major publication from the UK a couple years ago that said it was offensive to people who are born as a female but don’t identify as a woman to use the term “mother.” It was offensive to me to think that any group of people might try to take that word away from me.

When I started writing this I had actually considered maybe changing the name of my blog to be less offensive. After all, I do see her point. However I’m going to keep things the way they are. I am going to continue to call myself a single mother. I do this not to offend, but I do not apologize for it.

Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

The Lost Innocence of Childhood

Just as farmers incubate eggs to until they’re ready to hatch into chicks who will take on the world, we as mothers (perhaps single moms most of all) want to shelter our children from the harsher realities of life.

During the divorce and many times since, my ex has shared with the girls his version of what happened. This version paints me as the villain…the evil one who tore our family apart because of my selfishness. My children, the ones I want so badly to protect from the darker side of life, would come home saying “dad told us…”

And what can a mom say? At 5 and 6 they were far too young to understand everything that had happened between their father and me, nor should they need to be brought into the middle.

From the very beginning my response has been “what happened between your dad and me is complicated. There are always two sides to the story and if you want to know my side I’ll be happy to talk to you about it when you’re an adult. Until then know we both love you and that is all that matters.”

Holding this line was difficult in the beginning. I was full of self doubt. Did I do the right thing? Was I being selfish? Was there something wrong with me? During those early days I was still bombarded with messages that I was a bad person, a bad parent.

One day my ex’s girlfriend called me up about something that was going on and she told me the divorce was all my fault. Tears were running down my face, my oldest daughter watching me. As I cried, silent so this woman on the phone wouldn’t know how much her words struck a chord, my daughter told me to just hang up. Over and over she said that, clearly upset by my emotion. I told this woman who thought she knew everything, “of course you think it’s my fault, you’ve only heard his side of the story.” So she told me to tell my side.

At that moment I had a choice. I could engage in a debate with this woman or I could hang up as my very wise daughter suggested. I chose the higher road. I was not going to convince this woman that I was right and everything she held as truth about the man she was living with was wrong. Nor did her opinion matter.

What mattered was the opinion of the little girl listening to my half of the conversation. I chose to be strong for her. I chose to shelter her from what I might have said. So I told her that I was not going to tell her my side and I hung up. My daughter gave me a hug and in that moment I felt we were going to be ok.

Children lose their innocence far too young today. They don’t need to know the things they are exposed to. I think we could learn from the farmers and incubate our little ones just a little longer.

Incubate
Photo by seabass creatives on Unsplash

Love Shouldn’t Hurt – Deeevorce

For a year, whenever I disagreed with my ex he would ask, “what do you want…a deeevorce?” He would say “deeevorce” instead of “divorce”, like saying it that way somehow made it less hurtful, funny even.  He said this with a smile, knowing that I would never leave him.  You see, this started almost as soon as I got laid off from my well-paying job.  I was trapped, or so we both thought.

That year I heard “what do you want…a deeevorce?” when I didn’t like what he was doing with the kids. I heard “what do you want…a deeevorce?” when he gave me my list of weekly chores to be completed while he was away (he was a pilot so was gone half the time).  I heard “what do you want…a deeevorce?” when he didn’t like what I suggested for dinner.  I heard “what do you want…a deeevorce?” when I wanted to watch something different on TV, or spend time with friends, or do anything he disagreed with.

Then one day, after a disagreement about something fairly minor, I decided that yes, I really DID want a deeevorce. Or a divorce.  Or whatever he decided to call it.

This final time when he asked the question, he had gotten so used to having control he hadn’t considered the fact that I had a new job. He hadn’t considered that I might be unhappy.  He hadn’t considered that just maybe my opinion, my thoughts, my feelings actually mattered.

He was shocked. He absolutely could not believe that I would end our marriage.  He could not understand how much this phrase hurt me over the course of the year.

When I was growing up I was always told “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How untrue this statement is!  How unfair this is to the people receiving harsh words from someone who has promised to love them!

This was not the only reason for our divorce. It was just the tipping point.  It is what made it easier for me to say “yes, I want a deeevorce.”  It is what made me decide that being a single mother was better than being an unhappy married mom.  While I wish I didn’t have to put my kids through this, I have never regretted this decision.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

The Lesson of Wrinkles

Out of adversity comes brilliance. Often as I move forward with a plan I discover a wrinkle, an obstacle or a fear that has the potential to crush my dreams. Or move me toward a better life. My divorce was a major wrinkle in my well planned life, the first that made me decide that I could turn a crisis into a triumph.

As a single mother I faced one wrinkle after another, but each one made me stronger.

When my kids would go to their dad’s I would feel a sense of loss, like they were leaving for the first time, every time. Tears would flow down my cheeks, completely unwelcome but there just the same. One day I decided that staying home alone and lonely was no way to live. It was not going to stop them from being gone and it was not going to make their absence any easier. So I left the house and drove to the beach 15 minutes away. After parking I started to walk…and walk…and walk. I walked until sunset, alone with my thoughts, listening to the waves. And I learned that I did not have to be lonely because I was alone.

After several months of walking the beach, the sunset began to come earlier and earlier. After the time change the sun would go down far too early for me to head home. At first I felt raging panic. If I couldn’t walk the beach, what could I do? Staying home was not an alternative (yet). I thought about my options and someone I had met gave me an idea. He would often go out alone, meeting people wherever he went. Did I dare try the same thing? Swallowing my fear one night after sunset I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant by the beach. I walked inside and sat down at the bar. The first night I kept my face buried in my phone, reading, pretending I wasn’t terrified. But I came back again and again, eventually putting my phone away so I could listen to the live music, occasionally having a conversation with someone sitting nearby. And I learned that I could go out alone, without fear and shame.

One day the knob on my bedroom door broke. It just wouldn’t turn and I was trapped. There was no way out and my cell phone was not in my room. I had no tools to disassemble the useless mechanism and the windows were too small to climb through. Fortunately my young girls were on the other side of the door and they ran to the neighbor to help. He immediately came over and got me out. And I learned to accept help, understanding for the first time that allowing others to help is not weakness.

That evening I went to the hardware store and purchased a new knob. Entirely unsure if I was capable of installing this myself, I set out to do just that. I read the instructions and before long I had a functioning handle on my door. And I learned that I am capable of fixing things on my own.

The last 6 years have been full of trials such as these. Each time I have a choice. I can let these feelings and situations bring me down, or I can learn from them and continue on my path to a fantastic life. There will always be challenges. Today I am able to iron out the wrinkles as they come up, learn the lesson it was there to teach me and move forward a better person.

Wrinkle
Photo by MUILLU on Unsplash

Get a Life!

My life is a work in progress.  I am constantly learning from my mistakes, even when I think I’ve finally gotten it right.  Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from dating is how important it is to have a life of your own, outside of any potential relationship.

When I lived in NH I had family and friends.  It was easy for me to find things to do and I actually appreciated the rare moments when I had a few free minutes.  To be honest this is one of the main reasons I was able to stay married as long as I did.  After moving to FL everything changed.  I tried to make friends and meet people but that took a back seat to the other things going on in my life (specifically my divorce).

So when I entered my first relationship I had no other commitments, nothing to keep me from focusing all my time and attention on this person.  When he had things he wanted to do I waited patiently for him to be free.  I failed to make plans of my own in case he became available.  Eventually when this relationship ended I continued this pattern with other people I met.  Until one day I finally got it.

See, I felt like I had to keep time available in order to have a relationship.  Being a single mother, a good deal of my free time is spent with my kids.  Any time I wasn’t with them I kept open for finding or building a relationship.  At the time this seemed logical.  If being in a relationship was important to me then it made sense that I had to make time to work on that.

Except that made me dependent on a relationship to make me feel complete when I wasn’t with my kids.  This also made me come across as needy.  Plus when I met someone I was interested in I didn’t have anything to talk about outside of work and my kids which did not make me seem appealing.  I made myself too available, too accommodating.  It sounds cliché but men like the chase – and I did not require chasing since I would bend over backward for anyone willing to spend time with me.

I knew I had to change.  I knew I needed to get a life.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step but how do you fix it?

I had been part of groups on meetup.com for a while but had never made the effort to attend the events.  I was part of a couple of parents groups, a walking group and an “adventure” group so I had the opportunity to meet people and do things, but going to events where I didn’t know anyone pushed me out of my comfort zone so I made excuses not to go. I decided that I would start responding yes to any event I was even a little interested in.  If I changed my mind or couldn’t go I could always change my response to no later, but simply responding yes suddenly had me getting out more.

And when all else failed I started going out alone.  Yes, I said it.  Alone.  Many people are shocked, or at least surprised, when I tell them I go out alone.  For many the idea of going out alone would never cross their mind.  I was the same way, but I met someone who changed that for me (I’ll go into this in a different post).  So I found a local bar that I was comfortable in alone.  There was live music that was often very good and to my surprise I started meeting people.  About half the time I went in I would end up having a conversation with someone, or several people.  I probably would have met more but some nights I left after only a short time, especially in the beginning.  If you can master this it is very liberating.

Gradually the time I spent without my kids was filled up with fun and exciting things.  When I had my kids I got us all out among other people.  I started meeting people and making friends, some with kids, some without.  I still had time or could make time to date, but I was no longer focused on finding someone to be with.  I had many, many people to be with.

Now my life is full and complete.  I love every aspect of it whether my kids are with me or not.  I still haven’t found that person I want to share it with but eventually I will, and until then I am happy, happier than I ever thought I could be.