When I was newly separated and looked for solace online, I seemed to find mostly articles letting me know that if I divorced, my kids would be scarred for life. They would suffer academically. They may end up in juvenile court. And…it was all my fault, for not seeing my dysfunctional marriage through to the end of my days. I thought to myself that if I ever made it through the financial strife and the emotional pain, I would write something uplifting about divorce. Because, what good is it to tell someone who simply had to divorce, that it was the wrong thing to do?
WHY WE SHOULDN’T JUDGE DIVORCED MOMS
First of all, we’d all be happier if we minded our own business, but when tempted to judge a divorced mom (or dad for that matter), consider the following:
- Her husband might have left her for another woman.
- Her ex husband may have been abusive, verbally, emotionally and/or physically.
- Her ex may have had an addiction that was affecting the entire family.
- She may have tried it all, maybe for years, to fix the situation before she left.
- It may be in the kids’ best interest for her to break away from an unhealthy relationship.
BEFORE YOU TAKE THE PLUNGE
I don’t take divorce lightly—when I married, of course I hoped it was for life. And when I had babies, I certainly did not wish for them to grow up with divorced parents, as I had. But then, life happened, promises were broken and trust went out the window. Hope was substituted by loneliness, anguish and despair. Two years of marriage counseling didn’t fix it. An empowerment seminar as a couple didn’t do the trick. Hoping things would change certainly didn’t modify a thing.
After several years doing everything in my power to make things better, the day I left I did it believing that it was in the best interest of all involved, including our kids. So my two cents are…if you must leave, do it once you have given your marriage your all. That nips regret in the bud. If you were the one left behind, analyze what you could have done to make it better, mourn your loss and take your lessons with you. On to the next step.
Read Related: How to Co-Parent After Divorce
YOU BROKE UP, NOW WHAT?
You are in a vulnerable position, so don’t listen to anyone who is tempted to judge you. Be good to yourself. Be good to your ex. If you can’t do that, then at least live and let live. Now is the time to stop ruminating and start doing. Make a list of all the opportunities divorce opens up for you, for your ex spouse and for your kids. Every situation is different, so this is by no means a guarantee of success. But, it’s a good place to start. Following are some bright aspects of divorce that I’ve discovered along the way:
You get a second chance. An extremely dysfunctional relationship can drag you down emotionally to the point that you lose your joie de vivre, your focus and even your drive. When you break away from it, you become empowered to take ownership of your life. What do you want to do with it? Go back to school? Run a marathon? Set up your own business? Rediscover yourself? Find out how to do it and…go for it.
After I recovered from the initial financial and emotional setback, I was able to go farther both professionally and personally than I ever could have thought possible. My ex husband also found professional stability and satisfaction shortly after we separated.
You have alone time. Assuming that you have shared custody or that the kids spend some time with their dad (I’m for shared custody, which is usually in the best interest of the children), you will enjoy time alone. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, use those hours or days wisely. Pamper yourself, read books, study, exercise, plan your next professional or personal move. Meet up with friends. It’s your time; time you never had before.
One of the reasons I can work so hard now is because my ex husband and I co-parent. When our daughters are with him, I’m a working machine, and when they’re with me, he does overtime. We both do our socializing when the kiddos aren’t around, so they are never with babysitters. It’s a win/win.
You both get to bond with your kids. My daughters thoroughly enjoy what we call our “girl’s nights.” All we do is huddle together in one bed and watch a movie or read books. It’s a source of comfort for the three of us. They also get to spend special time with their dad, without my interference. I stay out of their hair when they’re with him enjoying action movies, fishing or paragliding. I believe we´re both better parents now that our marital relationship is not draining us of our energy.
You get the chance to love again, and better. You may have not gotten it right the first time, but if you play your cards right, your next relationship could be The One. Knowing love doesn’t conquer all, and armed with the lessons learned from your broken marriage, you are better equipped to take on a functional relationship down the road. Take the time to think about what red flags you ignored the first time around. Make a list of attributes in a potential life partner. Make it as detailed as possible. It will help you know what you want and … you may just get it!
Eventually I met a person who is the most compatible partner I’ve ever had. Our children get along like brothers and sisters. We’re lucky they’re close in age. But our attitude as adults and parents has helped foster a nurturing, supportive, respectful blended family relationship, especially for the kids!
And guess what. This past Christmas my children enjoyed having both their mother and their father sitting with them at the dinner table…