Tag Archives: parenting

Some Day We Will Get To Go To The Zoo

Some Day We Will Get To Go To The Zoo…

My daughter is six. She is smart as a whip and sharp as a tack and all those other colloquialisms we like to use. She asked me a question that kind of stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Mommy, why are you always in your room?”

Insert bulging eyes emoji.

“Well… It’s nice in there. I like it.”

She responded, “In the other house, you were in your room a lot, too.”

“So, what you are saying is you want me to spend more time with you?”

She and her brother, age five, both nod. Brother responds with: “We miss you!”

There is no rule book on how to parent singly. I often have no clue. Granted, I wasn’t really sure how to do that WITH a husband, either, so I come by it honestly. But she had a point. I thought about it. I always feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with them or I work so much that I’m too exhausted and use any spare time to rest. There is no such thing as work/life balance for mothers and especially not single mothers.

Do you know that I have wanted to take my kids to the zoo for about three years now? But it never happens because it’s just not in the budget, no matter how creatively I work around things. I still have to account for fuel, food, appropriate clothing, etc. I would like to declare that 2020 is the year I finally get to take them to the zoo. I currently work three jobs. Surely this year I can take them to the zoo. I really need to show them the spider cages. And the snakes…

I explained to her that mommy has to work a lot. “Why?” She often tells me she does not want me to work so much. I have tried to have her understand, but she won’t truly understand until she’s an adult on her own. In the meantime, I attempt to make her aware that money buys things and getting money comes from work. Money means food, shelter. She’ll understand. Someday…

And someday, we’ll get to go to the zoo.

~ALG~

It’s Ok To Take A Time Out

I used to have my kids in every activity and was involved with so many volunteer projects….  and then I decided to take a time out.I would make sure we attended every school and church event.  I would volunteer for every activity or fundraiser that the school sponsored.   And then I do not know what happened, but my thinking changed. I was tired of doing all those things.. I was tired of running constantly.  I was just tired.

I was doing those things because I felt I had to…. That was what a good mom does, you run your ass off morning until night.. It was crazy because running my ass off does not make me a good mom.  It makes me a crazy crabby bitchy mom.  I  do not know when this started where you have to be involved in everything to be a good parent or to feel like you are, but it is insane.   I loved to volunteer in my kids classrooms, but I did not love baking cupcakes, or being on the PTA, or collecting box tops. And I hate selling coupon books for fundraisers.. (that’s a whole other topic)

Now…Don’t get me wrong, I do think kids need to be in activities and we all need to volunteer in some capacity for school, however you do not need to do it all.   I know this was my own fault, I signed my kids up for all these activities and I signed myself up for all volunteer shifts.    I wanted to sit and watch TV with my kids. I wanted to do nothing some nights.  I wanted to just enjoy being with them.  I wanted to not be a stressed out crazy lady from running from activity to activity.

So, I stopped signing them up for every activity.  I stopped volunteering for opportunities that I didn’t feel passionate about. And I stopped attending every fundraiser.  I started asking my kids what they wanted to do and what they enjoyed the most.  I would ask if they were ok if we skipped a fundraiser or a school event.  Might seem selfish, but it made our entire family a lot happier and less stressed.  My kids have now each found the one activity or sport that they as passionate about and that works.  I  did not want to spend their entire childhood years feeling rushed…

As a parent you feel overwhelmed at times with all the activities that you children can participate in now.  But the truth is you don’t have to feel pressure to do it all.   A couple weeks ago someone was talking about about constantly running from church, to soccer, to drama club one night and I said why don’t you just let them skip?   And she said, “ what you that teach them?” What would that teach them…haha.. I laughed and said, “that we are human and we can’t do it all and some days you just need to stop and say no”.  That if I am tired and wore out, then I am sure my kids are also.

It’s Monday morning and my teenager has a migraine and stomach ache..she is begging to stay home and I believe that kids need down time.  They need time to do nothing and be kids. I believe that my kids need days to stay home.  They need days to do nothing and to “veg” out.   They need that time to unwind just like adults do.  If adults can take time to binge watch a series on Netflix, then I am sure my kids do too.

So yes, I do let my 8th grader stay home if she needs a day to regroup.  Kids have an amazing amount of stress and expectations put on them these days.   From school academics, to fundraisers, to mission trips, to athletics, to volunteering, religion class, to babysitting…. they are trying to do it all and they are still just kids.

I let my son skip soccer if he is had a bad day at school.  I let my daughter take a night off from religion class if she needs to decompress from the middle school drama.  And I do not think twice about it.. I do not think by letting my kids take that time for themselves, that it sets a bad example.  I think it shows that at times, we all have days where we just need to recharge.  Or we just need a time out.

I so appreciate that my kids can come to me and tell me when they feel overloaded or stressed.. I think it is so important that they know when they need a break.  I appreciate that they can tell me when they do not want to do something and just want to stay home.  I so appreciate their honesty over anything else.

Snarky Divorced Gal

www.snarkydivorcedgal.com

Who We Are And How We Got Here

This is who we are and this is how we got here..

My eldest son, James will be 19 in December. He is on the Autism spectrum (High Functioning). When we had James diagnosed at the University of Washington Autism Center almost 9 years ago one of the things the neuropsychologist told my partner and I was the best thing we could have done for James leading up to his late diagnosis was to treat him “normally”. What this meant is that James had chores and household responsibilities appropriate for his age and was held responsible when his behavior needed correcting even when we knew something was different about the way James was seeing the world and digesting experiences.

I went home after that visit and cried for two days. I couldn’t even look at my son square in the eyes. See what the doctor at the UW thought was great about how we had parented James up to the point of diagnosis, was exactly what had me riddled with guilt. Guilt for every nag and fuss and sarcastic response or impatient look or tuned out tangent. I felt embarrassed for every time I pushed him to be involved in an organized sport or sit through a loud movie or make eye contact with a stranger. And the more I read up on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) the worse I felt.

And then one day I got over it. I think it was during a conversation with my sister where she pointed out that I hadn’t been even close to being abusive or bad to James. I had been loving and firm, just like our father had been with us. And I knew I was doing my absolute best so on that day I decided that I was going to use my own parental compass and parent my kids exactly the way that I wanted to. Always attempting to lead with love.

For the most part, for the last 18 almost 19 years James has been nearly angelic. When my friends were having issues with their adolescent sons I was boasting about the cake walk I was on with James. The biggest challenge I had was securing supportive services for him through school. And the funniest part about that is I would work my butt off to secure a service and James would work even harder to prove he didn’t need it or very little of it.

It’s been my experience that finding support for non ASD presenting kids is hard. And let’s be clear, finding services for non neurotypical people is a monster effort and should be way easier than it is. But I feel like diagnosing and finding support for a non verbal child with classic ASD signs and symptoms is more straightforward than diagnosing and supporting a child that presents as neurotypical but does really quirky and sometimes dangerous stuff off and on. Most of my challenge around getting supportive services after our diagnosis was that at around age 13 James asked that we stop participating in the local Autism Awareness campaigns and walks and to stop advertising that we were an ASD family to our neighbors and on social media. I agreed but I found that after a while I felt closeted and shut off from other ASD parents and resources. The only support I had was on Facebook and the groups I joined never seemed to have parents or ASD members having similar experiences as us.

The other part of the challenge is that my son’s high functioning autism (HF ASD) has what we in my family call Cloudy Days. Meaning, we can go months without any significant spikes in characteristics commonly found with people on the spectrum and then one day I will notice that James is pacing (that’s how he stems) or he is having a hard time articulating his thoughts. When these “cloudy days” happen usually there is something that has lead up to it: over indulgence in processed foods, being overwhelmed at school, having a bad day at work, not feeling well or friend issues. I used to be able to anticipate these days because I was more in touch with what was happening at school or with friends but since James has started having more and more experiences that don’t include me, I am usually blindsided when his autism has spikes.

James is hyper aware of the stigmas that come with people’s lack of understanding of Autism as a spectrum and is sensitive to being treated like any other young person. So, I’ve tried to help him in any way I could. In some ways it has been a blessing that I was a very young woman when I had him. We share many of the same taste in music and pop culture and it’s not a stretch for me to understand his perspective on many things. Between my daughter (James’ younger sister) and I, we’ve become his social queue and societal support. My daughter specifically was great about breaking things down for James. And as he got older and learned behaviors became more automatic, James became a terrific social support to her too. They have a very special bond. In fact as I write this blog entry they are in the dining room cracking up over some YouTube video that they’re watching.

But over time, as it happens in every household with children, James has gotten older and includes me less and less in his decisions and requires more and more freedom. Freedom in his decision making and freedom physically from home.

You should know, I grew up in and around Los Angeles county in California. I’ve been around shaky situations and sketchy characters my entire life. I got a very normal 80’s baby city kid upbringing. But as a parent, I work really hard to raise my kids in cities with low crime rates and good schools. My kids have had very little exposure to all the danger that awaits them in the world. So the idea of my somewhat naïve 18 year old navigating around the city with his friends shook/shakes me to my core.

I’ve always been really honest with James about my concerns. And he is been great about navigating his new freedom with care. But like a boomerang coming back to it’s owner it appears that some of the heartache I dished my parents is coming back to haunt me.

Recently, I’ve been forced to wake up and think about the “support” I’ve been giving James up to this point.

  • Was I helping him when I agreed to lesson my involvement with the local Autism resource groups?
  • Was I helping him by not forcing him to socialize with other people on the spectrum?
  • Have I been a helper to him by being in every nook and cranny of his life, so much so that he may have had to keep secrets to have privacy?
  • Have I been the best mother to him without the tools of other ASD parents who have traveled this road before me?
  • Have I given him too much control over how we will live as an ASD family?

I’ve lost a lot of sleep and consumed many a cocktail mulling over these questions in the last few weeks. I’ve searched the internet and reached out to support groups in other states and none of what I find seems to speak to where I am or the questions I have. James is capable of taking care of himself. But do I believe I’ll need to provide a moderate amount of support for possibly longer than most parents of newly launched young adults? Yes. I believe he’ll get to any place he wants to be in his timing. But I can’t help but feel like someone out there has launched a teen with HF ASD into adulthood and being able to pick their brain for a while would help me so much.

I’m going to start a new blog series on my page documenting this journey of launching James into adulthood. Maybe someone that is parenting a younger child similar to my James will find these entries and they’ll help them. Or maybe I’ll just write these entries to get all the concern running through my head out and on paper so I can sleep at night. I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

*Life Thief is a “real life” lifestyle blogger with a sassy mouth and real woman and mother sensibilities.

You can find her other blog posts at: https://thestolenlifechronicles.wordpress.com/

The Muscles We Don’t See

When I look at mothers, I value the muscles you can’t see…

If we are fortunate, we have friends or family members that tell us how strong we are. I have someone in my life that champions me. And, I appreciate that. But those on the outside looking in only get a glimpse. Because until you are a mom, you are not able to comprehend what it takes to survive.

Moms have the endurance of long-distance runners. Every day is a marathon. It feels like a sprint but it is a marathon. As soon as she is out of bed – actually, before that…as soon as she is awake – she is going. There is so much to do and life demands a consistent pace if there is to be any hope of getting even a portion of it completed. If this marathoner appears to be breaking stride or shortening the distance, don’t be fooled. This woman is always moving swiftly – thinking, planning, preparing, and plotting the entire time.

Mothers are incredible jugglers. You have not seen someone multi-task until you’ve seen her handle a day. Yes, we all know what studies say about multi-tasking but she proves them wrong and takes it to a new level. Making dinner, while correcting homework, starting the laundry, answering a teacher’s email, signing a permission slip and answering the phone, all while asking the kids about their day and while still wearing her work clothes. And, dinner makes it to the table on time, and the kids feel none of the effects of this whirlwind because her focus is seemingly only on them. Now that is impressive, and it is only one hour of her day. That juggle is nonstop and requires incredible muscle.

Mothers are tremendous containment specialists. When there is no one at home to confide in, to share the burden of decision making, advocating and disciplining, she needs to contain that frustration, struggle and self-doubt and put it aside as best she can.  Mom has grit. There is not enough time or energy to let that doubt and fear creep in. But it is there. It is always there. So, she shoves it down or back or into a box and moves ahead with her head high, knowing (or at least hoping that) she is doing the best she can.

No one sees all of this. And, yet, it takes a more strength than most can imagine. Not even the mom’s closest confidant truly sees the triumphs and tears, the disappointments and the dance parties, the hard days and harder nights. But in all of those moments, the real muscles are formed and refined and flexed. Mom doesn’t worry about who sees. She isn’t looking for sympathy. She doesn’t have time for that. She might need a little understanding and a little grace, or just a knowing smile from a fellow mom. She might not know where the strength she needs comes from. But it is there. Quietly growing and building, depleting and then building again.

It is those muscles, the ones no one sees, that help moms push through, carry on and strive for more.

 

Samantha

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I want to hold her hand…forever.

The love of my life has been twelve for not quite a month and in that short time and especially lately, I have been taught some hard lessons.

Like I am pretty sure I need her more than she needs me.

At least that is the vibe she is sending me.

She recently was away with her Dad for a week. I texted her everyday. Her answers back were short. Meanwhile, I’m at home practically begging the dog to hang out with me. It’s not that I don’t want her to have fun, but can she miss me. A little?

She definitely laments when I feel compelled to sing loudly to music in the car, but I feel that is actually a rule for tweens.

She has remarked once or twice I dress like a teenager. But again, I feel that’s a requirement.

The punch to the guts are being asked why I am in her room. Do I plan on staying. Tucking herself in and now not even really saying goodnight to me.

Maybe I get a good morning.

If… I’m lucky.

However, the one that stung the hardest was a recent Saturday we spent together.

G & I make sure every Saturday we make plans. It can be as simple as watching a movie to as complex as a road trip, but with her fast approaching her teen years I want time with her. It’s our time to put everything away and just be.

We went and grabbed lunch and as we were getting ready to leave I asked her if she wanted to go anywhere else.

She said the mall.

I think I almost spit out my tea. My sweet girl is not a shopper. The only way she will go to Target is if I feed her and stick to a list. If we do go shopping once she is done. She is DONE.

I asked her again just so I was sure.

She said yes.

She wanted to go to Hot Topic.

There it was!

Hot Topic is her place. My free spirit loves anime and t-shirts and plushies (that’s tween for stuffed animals).

Hot Topic carries all her favorite shows and movies in some form of backpack, shirt or pin.

I sighed and said fine.

She smiled – huge.

I have always been the Mom who holds my child’s hand. Because I love her and I’m a bit overprotective.

We walk into the mall I hold my hand out which is code for grab my hand. My dutiful daughter does but also lets out a huge sigh.

I say quietly while we are walking “if it’s uncool to hold my hand I get it. You don’t have to hold my hand.”

She drops my hand and says “I’m letting go because you said I could, but yes it’s not cool.”

Mommas(!)

She must have noticed my face.

“Mom I love you, this is great. I will walk next to you.”

“Thanks, ok.” I squeak back.

We shop.

I spend WAY too much money on a t-shirt for her.

When we got home she thanked me and quickly retreated to her room.

I found her a bit later.

Asleep.

I laid next to her… she grabbed my hand and held it.

G and I continue to enter uncharted territory and it’s rough sometimes.

But this is what I know, I will be 100 and she will always be my baby, my sun, my moon, my stars, the reason I try to be better.

Even if she won’t hold my hand at the stupid mall.

Much love Mommas

<3 Caprise

How Do You Do It All?

I get asked all the time how I do it.  “It” referring to working full time, taking care of a household, and raising four boys each with a different personality. I used to struggle and question my parenting style; for example do I parent like I was raised or do I parent like society says I should parent.

Then not so long ago I had an ephiany. I realized I need to keep doing what I’m doing. When my two younger boys, ages 12 and 14, are at each other’s throats, I try and remain calm and ask them what happened. Most of the time they talk and yell over each other and in the end I’m the one yelling.  That is okay because after some self reflection I tell myself I will try and do better the next time.

The truth is there is a combination of things that go into how I parent, work full time and take care of my household.  First of all, I pray for patience, patience, and more patience. Second, I do my self care routine. My routine consists of putting my kids to bed and watching TV or getting on social media.  I also like to go to the tanner or go for walks with friends. I realized long ago self care is not selfish. I know I cannot be there for my job or my kids if I’m a hot mess. Humor is also a very important piece of my daily routine.  I laugh at myself several times a day. Like when I’m looking for my phone while it is in my hand or when I am shopping and jump when I see my reflection in a mirror and say excuse me thinking it was another person.

I have to remember I am human and I am not perfect.  Mistakes are made daily and that is okay, because I am blessed beyond measure and I get to wake up every day and try again.  If I can tell myself at the end of the day that I put everything I had into being the best that I can be I know my kids will turn out okay.

 

Yours Truly,

Anne Smith- A Working & Single Mother

Motherhood & Anxiety

I  was sitting in my first counseling session with my anxiety at full peak. To be honest, I should have been sitting in this chair months ago.  A pen could have dropped and I would have cried because I was, simply put, at my breaking point. My son was noticing how upset I seemed all the time, how something simple I would once laugh off gripped me at my core, and how our home was not as happy as it was before. The constant guilt of that would eat me alive.

I sobbed at that first appointment, the full hour appointment tears ran down my face. I cried about how I felt I had failed my son, how lonely this stage of life was, and how overwhelming life is when you are a single parent. It was as though once I opened those flood gates, which I’ve worked so hard to keep closed, I could no longer close them. They were stuck open, both in therapy and once I left. This was almost too much to bear, I thought. I cannot go back; this did not help me at all.

As I walked out of the office, I refused to make another appointment. I used the excuse, I’ll call when I have my calendar in front of me. However, as I was walking to my car, I noticed I mentally felt lighter. Almost as though I could take a deep breath and fully let it out without tensing up. My jaw was no longer clenched. A coping mechanism I often would resort to, to help hide my anxiety.

I took a hard look at myself in the mirror. My eyes were red and swollen, my makeup looked like a hot mess but I was smiling, I was relieved of my burdens. See after three more appointments, I’ve learned that a large portion my anxiety is because I have placed those unrealistic expectations on myself. Yes, now society has a standard, or pro-quo, but who the hell cares, right?

I was the root cause of my anxiety because I felt compelled to hold it in, conform to the standards of a husband and wife household, along with not ask for help because I didn’t want to fit the mold of the often misleading single mother label. Instead of taking care of myself and finding my triggers for my anxiety, I would hide, lash out, or cry. I would often times forget to breathe, I would find myself tense all the time, and the cycle would continue, day in and day out.

Today, I fully recognize myself in the mirror and it is all because I took one of the hardest steps of my life, reaching out for help.

 

-Heather

Moms Mess Up Too

Moms mess up too!

I’m writing this blog moments after boiling my youngest son’s pet fish alive. Yes you read right. I, supermom extraordinaire, just accidentally filled my son’s fish tank with hot water and killed his pet fish. His first pet at that.

If this had happened on any other week and any other day I think I’d be taking it in stride. But today is Wednesday, two days after the Leprechaun incident AND an early release day. What is the Leprechaun incident you ask? Welp here goes:

St. Patrick’s day was last Sunday. Leading up to St. Patrick’s day my youngest son (age 6) was convinced that this year he was going to catch a Leprechaun. He asked for my help. And in accordance with my new goal of not being a killjoy I agreed. I spent most of the weekend sort of putting off making a trap until Sunday afternoon came and it could no longer be avoided. My son looked me straight in the eyes and said “Mom, you said you would help me set up a Leprechaun trap and you haven’t done it yet. Let’s GO!” God I love that kid. He, like me has a pretty short tolerance for bullshit and once our threshold has been reached, we cut right through the fat and get to the meat of our needs.

So I took him outside and tied a rope to a log that held up one of the many leftover Amazon boxes living in the garage. We put 4 pennies under the box as bait and proceeded to wait for our Leprechaun to arrive. My son sat by the window and watched the trap for over an hour before it was time for dinner and then bed. The last thing he said to me before rolling over and falling asleep was “Tomorrow, that leprechaun is going to take me to his pot of gold and we will all be rich mom.”

Two questions stayed with me through the night: How the hell did I get this far into the lie and how the hell was I going to get out of it.

Disclaimer: If you are reading this blog post and can’t understand the motivation of this lie follow through, my apologies you are on the wrong blog. On this blog we occasionally lie to our children and sleep just fine doing it.

The next morning around 6:30am, after I returned home from dropping my eldest off at school, I still hadn’t come up with a plan for our leprechaun. I sat in my car for a few minutes trying to come up with something believable. And then it hit me, a note. I took out the notepad I keep in my purse and dug out a pink highlighter and wrote a note on behalf of dear old Mr. Leprechaun.

My son’s room is right above where the trap was set so I had to be down right stealth in my execution of this plan. Crouched down, tip toed and absolutely silent, I moved across the from yard to the trap (I’m pretty sure at least one of my neighbors has surveillance footage of me creeping around my front yard for one reason or another. Reindeer tracks, Easter eggs and now a leprechaun). I removed the pennies, pulled the log, lowered the box and slipped the note in place. BOOM! Mom-excellence.

An hour later my son was pacing at the front door as my daughter (age 11) and I were grabbing bags and sweaters trying to get out of the house and off to school. As soon as I opened to door my son sprang out like he had just heard a gun shot and was racing for gold. Ha! Racing for gold, like a pot of gold. Get it?

Anyhow, he found the note. As he got into the car and buckled his seatbelt he started to read it aloud:

Andrew*

Nice trap. I was able to escape.

Better luck next year.

-Lep

Oh My Gosh!!!! My son screamed. He was so excited. He couldn’t believe that his trap had worked and that the leprechaun had actually been to our house. As we pulled into his school he said that he would be showing the note to all his friends. He just knew they would be as excited as him. DOUBLE BOOM! I felt super proud that my quick thinking put a smile on my baby’s face and my partner (Andrew’s father) gave me mom kudos for saving the day which is always nice. I should tell you though that my daughter who is highly intelligent and intuitive told me all of this was a bad idea right from the get go. Special note: Middle children have amazing insight. Listen to them.

Later that day I received a message from Andrew’s teacher that basically said that Andrew had shown the note to his friends and classmates and basically they didn’t believe the authenticity of the note and pretty frankly told him that leprechauns don’t exist. He was devastated and subsequently had a pretty rough day afterwards. Tears and all.

Shhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttt!

When I picked Andrew up from the school bus stop he had dried tears and snot traces all over his face. He looked defeated and heavy. I just wrapped my arms around him and took a moment to just hug him. I wanted to say “I’m sorry I set you up for disappointment” but I didn’t. Instead we took to the Peace Chair in my home office and sat eye to eye sipping juice and eating Hawaiian sweet bread dinner rolls and talked through the day. I explained that there are two types of truths: Kid truth and Adult truth. In kid truth, Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth-fairy and leprechauns are alive and well. In adult truth, those characters aren’t real and we as parents work very hard to keep kid truth alive. I told him that some parents choose to share adult truth with their kids early and that is why his class mates and friends didn’t believe he had a real leprechaun note.

I must have been getting help from beyond (thanks Daddy) because that explanation flowed out of me and landed perfectly in the mind of my 6 year old. Later that night at dinner, Andrew told his father, big brother and sister (who already knew) about what had happened that day at school. For just a moment in his story he became really sad. I fought back tears. The guilt was killing me and it must have been hard to watch because at some point I raised my head from my plate and noticed both my kids and their father with the same pained look on their faces. I think we all felt burdened by my well intentioned lie.

I spoke to my mother after putting the kids to bed and as always she reassured me that I had done the right thing, better yet the mom thing and that I needed to let the guilt go. Thank God for mothers, right.

So we survived Tuesday and Wednesday started great but here we are now. Mid morning Wednesday and I am preparing another lie. I’ve just killed my son’s fish and because of back to back meetings I don’t have time to run out and get him another fish. My partner has agreed to go to Pets-mart and get a replacement. This whole thing is like a replay of that episode of Martin when Gina killed his momma’s bird Ruby. I now feel that anxiety on a very real level. My partner and I have agreed that if he can’t find a red betta then he will get something in a close shade and we will tell Andrew that the fish changed colors due to spring weather.

At this point I believe you are asking yourself: WHY NOT JUST TELL HIM THE FISH DIED? And that is a good question. But the history of Andrew and death is a long and sensitive story for me and I am not totally ready to blog about it yet. I promise though, when I do, I will remind you of this post so that you make the connection.

Anyhow the point is: I am not winning at momming this week. Meaty is still sitting in the sink. I couldn’t think standing above his tank of scalding hot water. But I feel better now. I feel like I have a plan. And now I need to go flush a fish.

Thanks for reading

-LT

Divorce For Grown-Ups

Divorce for Grown-Ups: 5 Tips on Achieving Your Best New Normal

None of us is immune to divorce and I’m here to prove it.  Though I was trained and practiced as a marriage and family therapist, I have had my fair share of moments where it didn’t matter.  It didn’t save me from the ick.  And I’m grateful, because those experiences have taught me the most.

My ex-husband and I met in a doctoral program in Social Work. We waited to marry (we were 30).  We planned long enough to have a child that I was labeled a geriatric mother (I was 35).   And yet today, I am still the divorced mother of a twelve year old child.  What-are-ya-gonna-do?

Alas, there are no guarantees in life. And although divorce is difficult and challenges will always remain, I personally discovered you can make your journey to the new normal easier on you and your kids, with no Ph.D. required:

 

  • Respect Survival Mode. A friend introduced the idea of “Survival Mode” to me during my separation when I was (yet, again) revisiting the facts, feelings and current state of our marital dissolution…I was deep in my feelings and in my head. She stopped me and said, “You know, you don’t have to do this to yourself.  You’re in Survival Mode.  Let’s save the therapeutic analysis for when you are not trying to just put one foot in front of the other and be a good mom.”  Wait? What? I don’t have to do this to myself?

When someone is trying to survive in the desert, they don’t spend a lot of energy and brainpower on how they ended up there and how unfair it is.  Instead, they focus on getting out – on surviving.  It was a very freeing for an over-analytical person like me to give myself the gift of giving myself a freaking break—and just get through now, this moment, today. There will be time for the post-mortem—later.  And I did it, when I had the bandwidth to do it.

 

  • Take off your spouse hat. Stop viewing the world (including your ex’s actions) through the perspective of being that person’s spouse. You’re not anymore, so stop. When your ex does anything – the more view that action as their spouse, the more likely it will do a number on you.

The only hat you are allowed to wear is your parent hat. Period.  You will be amazed by how much you can take off your plate once you make this one adjustment to your perspective.  It is not your job to make your ex a better person, or at least not a jerk, in your eyes.  You’re done.  Not your problem.  Off the hook.  You only ask: How does this directly impact my kid and their relationship? And don’t try to warp the issue into being about your kid, when it’s really just about the spouse hat you’re still sporting. Hat off.  And see how much better you breathe.

And bonus: the moment you stop acting like something bothers you is the moment it may stop happening, so stop taking the bait. A little secret I discovered…

 

  • Don’t wait for the karma train. You feel wronged.  Treated badly. Undeservedly so. Yep. That sucks.  Not fair.  Stop screaming at the sky and demanding the karma train to hurry up and get’em.  Because each day that you focus on thinking your ex is “getting away with it” or has “won” is another day you have wasted not getting your best life.  Focus on you, your life. Things have a way of working out, but you are not in charge of the timeline.  So deal.  Go back to figuring out your new normal and living well.

 

  • Social media lives forever. Don’t Vaguebook about your ex. Don’t outright hash it out publicly on social media.  Your kids and lawyer will thank you.  Stop.  It’s a bad look and your friends are cringing for you.

 

  • You are a teaching tool. Remember, your kids are watching and learning important life lessons from you at this moment about how to be resilient, face disappointment (and reality), and conquer challenge—all needed life skills. It’s ok to show vulnerability though—they should also know perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Just be human with superhuman tendencies.

~Dr.L~

 

Dr. L is divorced mom with a global consultancy based out of North Carolina. 

Practical Changes

Below is my piece, Practical Changes, from 2007 when I was a contributing columnist to The Southern Ledger newspaper with my Practical Changes column, the night before my son’s birthday…as you all know my son graduated from High School early and will be 18 this coming May.  I wanted to share this old blog because it speaks to parenting and how it was for me back in those days where many of you are now…enjoy and hope everyone had a great holiday season.

XO, Noelle

WOW…I am writing a night early…Mr. Southern Ledger will surely fall out of his chair from shock tomorrow morning when he sits down to write that ‘friendly little reminder’ to the bloggers and notices that my column is already posted…HA

Six years ago tonight I was in a hospital in Plymouth, MA in the midst of 30 hours of HARD labor waiting for my son to make his first appearance…tomorrow he turns six and we have been counting down the days since Christmas…everything he sees goes under the ‘ I want this for my birthday’ category.  Those of you that know me well are now saying to yourselves, “just like his mother” and I can hear you.

In retrospect, I believe that was the hardest night of my life…I won’t bore you with the scenario of 30 hours, but trust me when I say it was FAR from pleasant…it taught me that if I could do that and endure that, then I could certainly do anything…what a good, smart, handsome little boy he is and funny and stubborn…sometimes I feel like the kid got a raw deal, all I do is work and it seems like some days I am always yelling…I have two modes loud and louder…it runs in my Italian family, we talk too much and most everything is loud.  Then there is that whole emotionally unkempt thing, which runs in my family too.

Sometimes I feel like I am doing such a bad job at all this…I think I should be nicer and more patient, yet someone or something is always pulling at me and I just have to keep moving because I don’t see anyone else around here paying for anything…granted this was my choice, to get a divorce rather than live in a situation that I was finished with just for the sake of security…I’m pretty sure the kid is normal, whatever that means anymore…I mean he goes to private school and has the best of everything and he is with me all the time…I have a great staff that helps a lot and without whom I would fail to function.

I think that no matter how smart we are there are always those times when we are second guessing ourselves, wondering if we are good enough or if we are doing it ‘right’…we must be doing okay around here though because we are starting year number six and that feels like a huge accomplishment.

As I sit here tonight I think back to who I was six years ago and I realize that so much has changed…I think that I am gaining some insight and wisdom as I go along…that’s a good thing…I am learning how to let things go, how to let someone else have the last word, how to walk away instead of react when someone is unpleasant, how to trust God and not be so scared all the time about everything turning out ok…I am learning how to take deep breaths and learning to remember that it will all still be there tomorrow.

I have also learned that I am too old to be blond anymore.  Recently, I had my hair highlighted and a lot of blond put in—it has been that way for about two and a half weeks and I have felt off the whole time—I kept looking at myself in the mirror and thinking how not like myself I looked, too washed out, too old and then finally this morning I wondered why I had done it, what was I hoping to prove?  In my other life I could carry blond, this life requires dark hair and ‘on purpose’ behavior—tonight my hair has been returned to a darker state and I recognize the chick I see in the mirror…  She has a messy desk, is emotionally unkempt, is a workaholic, is probably starting to wrinkle and sag, drinks too much coffee, shops too much and is not currently working out as much as she needs to, however, she knows how to get stuff done, she has a great kid, she has incredible friends, she is generous beyond measure, she knows how to laugh at herself and she understands that life is really about who we are and not what we have…I like that chick, she has dark hair and she’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

It’s good to mark time, to look back and see how far you have come…it makes us grateful for progress, grateful for all the gifts that we have been given…most everyone is always rushing through birthdays, Christmas Days, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days…how many times do we stop and remember the years past, how much do we acknowledge how far we have come?

We should you know, we should make a practice of acknowledging how much advancement we have gained over the years.  It is virtually impossible not to gain wisdom as time passes…life itself is such a profound teacher.

I will take my leave of you now as I have gifts to wrap in Spiderman paper and tomorrow there is a trip to Chuck E. Cheese in my future…I know y’all are jealous.