Being divorced and a single mom is one hard road. I’m very much in the middle of learning these lessons and think the lessons will continue to reveal themselves.
But here are some of the things I’ve been learning along the way.
1. Grief hits you when you least expect it.
It catches you by surprise at the most untimely moments. When making a family recipe in the kitchen, while catching a movie with friends, carrying my sleeping daughter into the house by myself after a late night out, when listening to a worship song at church…somehow it makes you feel the deep aches within your soul even when you don’t want to.
Just recently I was caught off guard by the emotions felt when asked by a friend if I had taken any recent trips this summer. Taken by complete surprise, my lip started quivering mid conversation. I don’t think they noticed, or maybe they were just being nice! Although I had just taken a great little road trip with just my daughter, the tender place in my heart seemed ripped open with this simple question. This was my first trip traveling as a divorced woman and single mom, and it was an inner fear I was daring to conquer. Struggling with the idea that family vacations now look a lot different has been hard. So the conversation felt extra tender. Grief…I am learning that I have to walk through it as I learn how to accept that I am divorced and I am now a single mom. It seems as if I actually need to learn how to accept each of those titles individually. There’s just no easy way around it.
2. You can miss parts of you “old” life, and you can also enjoy parts of the season you are in.
I find myself missing some aspects of my former life. I miss the restaurants we frequented together. I miss the couples dates, inside jokes and endearing names. I miss the trips to his parent’s dessert home together and our little summer getaways as a family of 3. I miss showing up at barbecues and parties as a family unit. Some of these familiar ways make me want to cling to what was and also make me ponder the effects of our divorce-all the while knowing that it was the healthiest decision in the situation I was in. But at the same time, I enjoy some parts of this current season I am in. I enjoy doing things my way. I love how I can decorate my home the way I like it without consulting with anyone else. I am thankful I can structure my time how I see fit. I am grateful for my new community and friends I have met since we have separated. I am slowly learning that I can live in both spaces. And I am learning how to be thankful for parts of both seasons.
3. It takes time to learn how to coparent.
This is extra difficult as I am learning how to navigate my own feelings about my ex husband while also having to keep my crap together so that I can try not mess up my child up for life. (Yeah, I know they are resilient and all but…)You will constantly be working to manage schedules and even harder-expectations. As much as I’d like to hide under a rock to avoid the tough conversations- I can’t. We both get angry and say and do things we never intended. But then we eventually arrive at a place that manages to keep our little one first. It’s not easy and we are continually learning how to walk this road.
4. You will probably always worry about money.
After living with two incomes, the adjustment is tough. Even if you are working and getting child support…it just feels different. That whole thing is weird in itself. But now the burden now rests solely on your shoulders and that feels big and scary and overwhelming. You’ll begin thinking about affording sports, vacations, your 401k, Christmas, and retirement in completely different ways. You may have to pick up a second job. I know I did. Here’s the deal. You’ll worry, feel okay and then worry again.
5. You will have to tell your story over and over again.
You’ll have to tell your story to others. I’ll never forget when our daughter first started playing sports. Her daddy and I went to most games and practices. Most people believed we were together and even talked about how fun it would be to meet up and go out together as families. All the while, I was cringing inside. And quite frankly, I just didn’t know how to manage it. I always felt like people were wondering. Finally a few moms asked and I got to choose how much I wanted to share. Friends and family tend to ask follow up questions out of care and concern, and acquaintances finally ask out of curiosity. It’s not easy to be transparent and it’s so vulnerable. These questions challenge my measure of courage every time.
Not only do the grownups ask, but so do the kids. You’ll have to tell an age appropriate version of your story to them. My little one asks and I give her answers at her level. Sometimes I have to drill down to find out just exactly what she is asking before I offer up more information then she is looking for. She has asked a few times and just when I think I have told it enough for now, I have to address it yet again. The pre recorded conversation always plays so differently in my mind too. I’m learning to listen God’s lead on this one.
6. You have to learn how to ask for help.
Okay, don’t roll your eyes just yet. It’s true that you have to learn how to ask for help. I am REALLY bad at this. And it’s not just because I don’t want to ask, but because sometimes it’s just harder. Most of the time it’s logistics. It’s way easier to have a sitter come to my house so that my little one can be in her own bed when I get home. Or there are times I feel like I need to get a small gift to thank the friend who has helped out. While I love doing that, it’s just harder, expensive and takes more time. Sounds bad right? But it’s the raw truth.
But what keeps me asking is that I NEED community and so does my little one. I know that my little one needs more than just me in order for her to become a healthy adult. She needs opportunities to build relationships with other family members. She needs to make healthy connections with school personnel (Bye, bye mama guilt about after school care.) And she needs her community. The Search Institute has done extensive research on the positive experiences our youth need in development to help them become productive, thriving and well balanced adults who steer clear from the problems us moms have nightmares about. They call them the 40 Developmental Assets. I’ve used this research in extensively in my classroom and I know they are essential in guiding my little one. The list includes things like a caring neighborhood, positive family communication and adult role models.
The bottom line is that I want Little E to witness how marriage works in the lives of others. I want her to feel the love, care and concern of her aunts and uncles and cousins. And, I want her to know that my neighbors are helping me watch her every move. (There will be no funny business-or at least she needs to think that. Hee hee.)
7. You’ll miss your babies, but you’ll also be fully aware that you need the break.
Ugh…so much truth here. I HATE it when my baby is gone. I HATE that she spends even one night away from me let alone more than one. It’s every mother’s worst fear and often the one thing that keeps women in terrible marriages. I’m not in a place to say that I look forward to it. But what I can say is, that when I am given a the opportunity I need to learn how to embrace it. Whether I feel it or not, I need the rest. Single mamas can’t just up and make a midnight run to Target or a spontaneous trip to the grocery store once your hubby gets home. Praise Jesus for Amazon Fresh! In fact, I miss those 10pm shopping sessions. So, when I have the chance to do what I need to do when I need to do it, I need to jump. Because I know that the break makes me a better mom when she returns.
8. God will meet you in the midst of it all.
There is so much loss, so much to grieve and so much needed in order to begin healing. With divorce comes the complete shattering of dreams. Dreams of more children, family vacations, 50th wedding anniversaries, and financial stability. Your heart is literally ripped out of your chest and you feel as if you are free falling with no net to catch you. All the while, everyone puts on a brave face. It’s emotionally devastating. But, in the midst of the storm, God will carry you. He did and still is carrying me. The more I lean into Him, the more I see and feel Him guiding me. Don’t get me wrong. There have been many dark, dark nights that I thought would never end. But there have also been some amazing, generous and tender mercies that God has granted me in the midst of my despair. And he’s there, ready to hold you too.
I’m truly still learning the lessons from my divorce. And I have a feeling that there’s way more to learn along the way. But it’s my hope to use the story behind me to shape the path that lies ahead. Sister, I’ve got this and so do you! If you are on this road with me, please share a lesson that you are learning along the way. We will carry each other!