Posts from the ‘single mom’ category

 

There’s an amazing thing that happens when you start feeling like you are in control of your life again. Okay, maybe “in control” is too bold of a statement–let’s say more in-tune with who you are and your family. Almost every parent has felt like they run around like a mad man/woman trying to get everything done, but unless you’ve been a divorced parent with multiple kids, you probably won’t understand the level of craziness that we parents hit post divorce.

You bust your ass at work to do a good job, bring home a somewhat respectable paycheck, and try to maintain balance with the kids and their activities, school, homework etc. All the while you’re at work, you end up missing the 4th grade program, the 6th grade field trip, and the kids are often left home alone after school and on non-recognized holidays at work like Halloween, Veteran’s Day etc. You feel like a schmuck. And when you take-off work because of dentist appointments, state fair presentations or to volunteer in class, you feel like an even bigger schmuck because you’re gone from work. It’s a lose-lose, really. And it sucks! It’s a battle that never ends.

Now that I’m at home, I’m battling another battle in my head–it’s an evil, mean little battle that creeps in every now and then. You’re being selfish–decreasing the family’s income to chase a dream and be home. How will you pay for braces/college/soccer and all the other unexpected things around the corner? Little shouts of doubt pierce my thoughts, and I shake them off and try to ignore that ugly lizard brain that tries to talk me out of something I know is good for me. But wow is it hard to keep the faith and push forward!

Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter tried out for the Elite Club National League team here in Utah. We got to the tryout, and she didn’t know a soul. We sat in the car and watched as girls were dribbling and talking and everyone seemed to know each other. As more cars pulled up, she saw a few familiar faces from school. I thought that may help ease her nerves, but she mentioned that the girls were part of a premiere club, and she was not. Tears welled up in her eyes. She was worried. “I don’t want to go out there,” she told me.

I watched as she immediately talked herself out of the team, because she didn’t have faith in herself or her skills. She was selling herself short, and she hadn’t even stepped foot on the field! Of course, I knew she was an outstanding player (she’s been playing a year up for 5 years), but getting her to see that is a different story. I watched as she fell apart–completely melting into the front seat of my car. “I can’t do it,” she said.

My heart broke. I’ve been there. I never tried anything if I wasn’t good at it–I wouldn’t be caught dead trying something I looked foolish trying. She is a lot like me. In that moment, instantly remembered my decision at 17 not to take my college volleyball scholarship, because I was terrified–terrified I wouldn’t fit in, terrified to live on my own, terrified to move far away from life as I knew it and step out onto unstable ground. Not taking that scholarship is my biggest regret in life.

With misty, tear-filled eyes, I looked directly into the eyes of my daughter–my successful, straight-A, beautiful, dedicated daughter– and told her, “Honey, sometimes you have to do hard things in life to get to the things that are great. You can do this!” It was a moment where my heart was breaking. I wanted to take away her fears and insecurities. I wanted to help her escape this moment with all my being, but I knew this was a moment for her to shine. She wiped away her tears, took a deep breath, and strode off across the grass and introduced herself to the coach. She made me so proud in that moment. She took everything she was and faced her fears head-on.

She is such an example to me. I know that quitting my job was doing that hard thing for me. But I also have faith that great things are going to happen. In the past 5 days since leaving my job, I’ve experienced some beautiful things…all because I’ve been AVAILABLE to see them. Here are a few that come to mind I’d love to share with you:

  • My daughter officially became a member of an elite team last week, and they played in their first tournament over the weekend. Both of her coaches expressed to me that she has “something that I just can’t teach.” I spent the day with her in Park City on Friday, which is something I wouldn’t be able to do if I was at my 9-5 job. And on Sunday, her step-dad, 7 siblings, and I watched as she and her new friends took 2nd place in the tournament. Her smile last weekend is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.
  • Today, I took my 17 year old son to the bank today and showed him how to withdraw money from his account–it seems like such a silly thing, but after landing his first job 2 months ago, he was used to seeing the money going into the account, but he had no idea how to get the money out. He was so proud to withdraw $350 and purchase a new Xbox system. It was like his Christmas for him. And seeing him becoming an adult is like Christmas (in a weird/strange way) for me.
  • Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my other son from his girlfriend’s house–the sun was out, the radio was turned up, and I looked at him and said, “Let’s go get a drink!” This boy loves his Mountain Dew. He beamed, and we rolled down the windows, turned up the tunes, and belted Maroon 5 at the top of our lungs. It was one of those “take a mental picture” moments I’ll never forget!
  • Finally, last night, my husband came home to a clean house, dinner on the table, and he and I and my youngest daughter went outside and played catch as the sun was setting. If I were working full time, NONE of that would have happened. Our nights were typically frantic, dinner at the last minute, and I usually was cleaning up or catching up on laundry each night.

These are the great moments that pay so much more than any job could. The moments that make me the most proud. And these are moments that if I’m not available, will pass by too quickly.

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When it comes to the debate of working moms vs at-home-moms, I’ve always been an advocate of “Do what you feel comfortable with.” I’m not here to judge another woman for going to work every day, just like I wouldn’t judge a woman who chooses to stay home with her children. Each woman should know herself and know where she will be the most happy. I’ve danced the line of working mom/at-home-mom many, many times. I’ve worked at home, nights, weekends, part-time and full-time. I’ve done it all.

After 17 years of juggling, maneuvering and balancing, I know what works for me. I enjoy working. I enjoy creating something and sending it out into the world and making a difference in people’s lives. But I also know that my influence on my children is one of the most important gifts they’ll receive.

Once I got divorced, I went directly into survival mode: work hard, provide for my kids, get them into counseling, try not to change life too much. I quickly found full-time work and bought us our little home. There was hardly any time for adjustment, because when you’re in the middle of divorce, you just do what you have to so you get by. All of you single parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

The most difficult part about that phase in our lives is that I felt like my kids lost their dad AND their mom all at the same time. Their world as they new it was turned on it’s head, which wasn’t fair! Their dad moved out, and their mom was hardly home because she worked from 8:30-5:30, and after work she was the chauffeur. We burned that candle at both ends for quite some time.

I’ve now been married to Brandon for nearly a year. We’ve been playing hot-potato with schedules, carpooling kids, trying to keep all the trains running, keep the house clean, each working a full-time job, and nurturing a new marriage all at the same time. Life ain’t glamorous most days ’round these parts, but that’s not what life is about. There’s been many, many discussions about keeping our relationship fresh, parenting our kids, joining our lives together and trying to understand one another. And when we hit a bump in our road, we’ve learned to talk through it and figure it out.

The ground beneath us is starting to feel fairly solid now, and we’re on the back side of that all-too-familiar “difficult first year” of marriage. As I’ve said before, blending two families is a challenge, but it’s also a blessing. Brandon’s recently been promoted at work, which takes him away from home more than I’d like, but I’m so proud of him and his accomplishments. We’re settling in and seeing how the inner-workings of this family work, and it now makes sense for me to be home more to take care of our kids, our home and nurture all that goes on here while he’s at work. In a way, I’m thrilled. But in another, I’m terrified! The day I quit, I had to make myself not think and just feel with my heart. My heart is telling me the right thing to do and it’s holding the door closed so my mind doesn’t run in and ruin the whole thing!

To walk away from a full-time job by my own choice is a crazy thing. But to have the majority of my job description be about nurturing my children and supporting my husband and walk towards a personal goal to start my own business/adventure (or whatever it is I’m going to do) is exciting. I’ve never had someone who believed in me and my talents the way Brandon does. He knows it’s important to have home handled, and his goal when he took this job was for me to be home more to hold down our fort. I honestly believe that life is much easier when one parent is home a majority of the time keeping the peace and balance–especially when you have a large number of children. Some may disagree, but this is our gig, and we chose this route.

I’m not going to lie…I’ve been sick with worry in making this decision. It’s a moment of vulnerability for me–to depend on someone financially again. My ex had no problem controlling and stashing money, so I breathe deeply with this decision and try not to hyperventilate myself into a frenzy. To give up the “guaranteed” and bet on myself is a huge risk. In a way I feel selfish. Is that stupid? I feel lame because I’m not contributing as much to our income as I could. I doubt my talents. I fear the stress will be too much on Brandon.

But money does not drive me. Relationships do. At the end of my life, I won’t be asking someone to bring my Porche to the window so I can marvel at how clean it is. I’ll want my family near me. When my children are parents themselves, they will know that family is worth sacrificing for.

My oldest son came home the other day and told me that his father got mad at my daughter for resting her arm against his car’s window. He had yelled at her, “Get your arm off the window!” quite loudly. My son looked at me while telling me that story and said, “Sometimes I want to ask him, ‘Dad, why’d you even have kids?'”

Life with children is full of sacrifices, fingerprints, heartache and challenges. Some don’t have the choice whether or not they’ll stay home, and they go to work every day to give everything they can to their kids. I applaud you, because I know how hard that is. We do the best we can with what we have.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, but even more, I’m looking forward to more quality time with my husband and kids.

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DivorceJarsWhen my ex husband and I decided to separate and ultimately divorce, our children were 12, 10, 8 and 6. Old enough to know what was going on, but young enough to perhaps not quite understand it. (Remembering that time still rips my heart to pieces.) After their father moved out, some of my children felt comfy enough to come to me with questions or comments. Some were quiet, solemn and kept to themselves.

Now, when you have a kid come to you and make comments like, “I think daddy lies like that guy did in the movie last night.” it makes it a bit easier to open the conversation and ask, “Why are you feeling like that?” The communication flows, and it’s easier to respectfully meter their feelings and see how they’re doing post-breakup

But what about the quiet ones? I was finding that my quiet kids would bubble under the surface and would one day explode at brother because he didn’t flush the toilet or have a fit when sister stole a pair of socks. Everyone would eventually melt-down, and after the shit hit the fan, that’s when my kids would finally start talking–all of them. We’d talk about everything and anything under the sun, and often than not, the divorce would come up.

I knew we needed to find a good way to get our feelings out in the open, but didn’t want my kids to feel interrogated or that their mother turned into Barbara Walters. The ultimate goal was to have them to feel safe to come to me with thoughts or questions. (I’m a big advocate of counseling for the kids, which we’ve done, but at this time we just couldn’t afford it.)

First, we implemented a family meeting night. We tried to do this once a week (with our busy schedules, it was hard), and held it in our formal living room where there was no TV or distractions. I made sure not to have this night fall too close to a dad visitation day, because I didn’t want them thinking I was trying to learn what happened at dad’s. He was probing them for answers on my life, and I didn’t want them think it was a “report in” meeting.

Think of this meeting as a weekly focus group. Gather in the room and LISTEN. Parent, you’re there to see what your kids need. What they enjoy, what they hate, what scares them, whatever is happening in their lives. This isn’t the time to drill-down and find out how last weekend went at dad’s house. It’s about getting them talking. Most times, my boys would sit and fold their arms, but as the conversation evolved they would eventually open up.

During these meetings, I found out that my oldest daughter would get frustrated because we were so busy all of the time. If/when she felt like talking, I was driving carpool or dealing with homework craziness and she wasn’t able to talk to me then. She would point out that her younger sister was fine to walk up and blab, but she didn’t feel so comfy doing that. “And sometimes I don’t want to talk about things during the family meeting!” She told me.

She came up with the idea to make 2 jars that lived in our kitchen. One jar was labeled To Share with the Family, and the other, To Share with only Mom. Next to these two jars were small slips of paper and a pencil. Since all of my kids were able to write, we agreed that in-the-moment, when a child came up with a question or a feeling they were having, they would write it on the slip of paper and put it in one of the two jars. If they wanted to bring it up in our family meeting, it would go in the Share with Family jar. If it was a private discussion for them and me only, it went in the Share with only Mom jar. Each child understood that once a paper went in, it was a huge no-no to go in and nose around–everyone agreed to keep someone’s thought private.

When these jars were put in-play during our separation and post-divorce life, each child felt empowered and they were able to feel validated because they were heard–they could get their feelings out and know that we’d talk about what was going on. The mom only jar was something I’d check every day. I even had kids point out to me, “Mom, something is in the ‘mom jar’.” As the mama, it made me happy to help the kids and know that I was there for them even when we were super-busy. And as a family, we always felt better after we were able to get things off our chests.

These jars have moved on in our home, and I now use them for other things, but for the few months they lived in my kitchen they helped my little family so much. I would get notes that dealt with school, their dad, their pain, or thank yous. My youngest daughter would often draw frowny faces with tears (there were a lot of those). I knew she was hurting and I was sure I kept our connection line open after seeing these sweet slips of sadness.

There was even one day I got a note from my soon-to-be ex husband…it said, simply, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” It was the only apology I ever got.

Talking about the upheaval of their lives after divorce isn’t an easy thing for children. They try to go on as-usual in their lives, which is hard, and oftentimes feel very alone. Schedule time with them–both as a family and one-on-one. The words will come, and so will the healing.

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forgranted_web

“I feel like she doesn’t even need me.”

It was a sentence I heard that rang through my ears and boiled the blood inside of me.

My ex husband and I were sitting in the marriage counselor’s office discussing our lives and how busy we’d become. At the time I was holding down a high-level job at a national magazine, running home after work every day and helping 4 kids with homework, running them to sports and activities, and taking care of our house and meals etc. He was working a high-stress job at a national financial institution which was undergoing a buy-out at the time.

On top of it all, we were also dealing with the fact that my then-husband was continually texting and talking to a woman in New York whom (he says) he’d never even met. He was continually on the phone or in the other room, to which I chalked up to him working hard for his job. While this woman DID work in his New York office, they were definitely NOT discussing work.

After my then-spouse told the counselor he felt like I didn’t need him, she looked to me as I was stewing inside, tears rolling down my cheeks, and turned back to him and said, “Can’t you see that this woman is drowning?” We had already gone over all of the stresses in our marriage, and I had explained how tired I was of doing it all and that I had nothing left to give when feeling so betrayed. His response to the counselor, “Well, if she’d just make me a list, I’d help!”

If that isn’t the answer of someone who is un-engaged, I don’t know what is.

I’ve told a few people that I felt like a single mom in my marriage long before I was single. My ex constantly reminded me when I was pregnant with our first child, “You always hear about how when the wife has a kid, she forgets about the husband.” It’s as if he had already determined he didn’t want to “join” the family, but rather, have me take care of him and take care of the baby. But not at the same time.

My ex never woke up with sick or hungry children. He didn’t take them to doctor appointments or attend school maturation programs. His life was “busy” and he “couldn’t get off work” for such trivial things. I always worked during our marriage–part- or full-time–and I always found time to get up with puking kids.

Last night I was at a restaurant with my son and I noticed a father with his 1-year-old daughter at the next table. He was holding her, rocking her, feeding her with a bottle and chatting with her while her mother ordered their dinner. It was a site I would only dream of as a young mother. The kids were “my job” from the get-go along with many other chores in the household. Now, don’t get upset with me, I love being a mother and nurturing my kids. And my then-husband worked hard at his job, so lots of things should have been my job. But when his work day ended, he chose to chill in front of the TV and ignore bath times or reading times unless I prodded him. It’s such a sad opportunity missed. Perhaps he was already on auto-pilot in our marriage so the everyday things didn’t mean much to him–I’ll never know.

Being taken for granted is what taught me to do it all without him. After all, if I didn’t do it, who would? And we didn’t nurture our partnership either–we didn’t go on dates much, because we “didn’t have the money” and we wouldn’t spend money on Valentines Day or Mother’s/Father’s Day, because, “Cards cost more than $5 now!” I began to feel invisible, undesirable, and sad. More and more, I withdrew, and I learned to survive without a marriage. And because of that, I’m sure my withdrawl perpetuated his indifference.

When you take your spouse for granted, you teach them to carry the load all alone. And when that happens, they’re forced to become stronger, in a way, to carry all of the shit. What happens then? Inside they become empty and dark. This will more than likely either lead them to find light somewhere else (like my ex did) or lead them to go through the motions in the dark. I chose the latter.

Post divorce and after the many hours I spent looking within, I realized I don’t want to walk through this life carrying the load alone. I don’t want to be taken for granted. And I don’t want to take anyone for granted, either. I want to share the load equally and celebrate the hard days and the good days. Now after my remarriage to Brandon, I try to remind my man how special he is and how I appreciate all he does for me. And in the same regard, I want to be told or shown I’m special, too. Showing appreciation is such a small thing, and it’s so easy to do, but it’s often a piece that begins to dissolve as time goes by in most relationships.

Remember to go above and beyond. Remember the small rules of using “please” and “thank you”. And last, but definitely not least, remind yourself that you deserve to be appreciated.

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Lori_2011

Last week I went to dinner with a good friend. We had a long discussion about what we “deserved” in our lives and why, sometimes, it’s difficult to call attention to what we deserve or even ask for it from people.

Why is it so difficult? It shouldn’t be, and yet it is.

Too often, especially as women, we tend to put everyone else first on the list and we are a distant second (or third, or fourth). Sometimes we think we’re being selfish, and other times we let poor treatment towards us slide because we excuse it off when another person treats us worse than we’d ever treat them. You know who you are out there–right now you’re saying, “Damn it! That’s SO me!”

The minute you have the epiphany that you are “settling” in some way or another is the time to take action. Do it RIGHT THEN! You can express your needs and what you deserve in a productive way. It may be hard for others to hear at first, especially if you’ve been the doormat for far too long, but it the first step to getting what you deserve.

After telling my ex husband to move out of our home, I felt myself put me first for the first time in almost 20 years. The backseat I took to him and my children was, in my mind, my way of being a good wife and mother. Not true. I was on a quick path to depression and sadness by losing myself.

This photo was taken when I was putting myself first. I made time to go for a walk every day (without guilt of leaving the kids). I gave myself permission to spend money on clothes for me, wear more makeup, and feel sexy again. I was broke, separated, my life was in upheaval, but I was doing what I “deserved” all along in my marriage. So in a strange way, I was happy. Extremely happy.

It was also during that time when I began thinking long and hard about what I deserved in my life. These are some of the things I repeat to myself often.

  • I deserve to be treated with respect. Do not yell at me, do not put me down, and do not call me names.
  • I deserve happiness and laughter every day of my life.
  • I deserve time to take care of myself.
  • I deserve to not feel guilty when I spend money on myself.
  • I deserve to be treated like a queen by the man in my life and showered with loving words, loving touches, and time.
  • I deserve to have my loved ones show appreciation for all of the things I do for them. Even if that means I have to remind them to say thank you sometimes.
  • I deserve a job where I’m appreciated for my abilities and an employer to be somewhat flexible with me for my family, because balance is important to me.

As my friend and I ate our chips and salsa last week, we laughed about how it’s easy to get sucked back down the dark hole of “tolerating” poor treatment or or being second place, because it’s what we know. And even though the subject came up because of her relationship, I realized that I, too, was slipping back into the old me.

So you know what I’ve decided to do? I’m going to have a bi-weekly or monthly check-in with myself. I’m going to have an honest discussion with myself and see if I’m really walking the walk or am I just full of crap. To create new, good habits, I’ll need to review my list and make sure I’m keeping those things first in my mind.

This weekend I looked back at my list and realized that bad habits come back quickly. Am I putting myself first? Nope. I’m becoming frumpy and out of shape, staying in the house more, and I’m tired a lot. Am I giving and giving and am I getting appreciation and respect? Not very much. This is something I talked to the kids about last night.

At the same time, I asked myself if I was GIVING OTHERS what they deserved. Am I trying to say thank you for the small things? Do I recognize when my kids are being kind, or doing well at school and commend them for it? The check-in goes both ways. Are you getting AND giving what you and others deserve? I know that I could improve in both areas. I realized that I’ve asked Brandon what he needs/deserves out of our relationship, but I haven’t asked my kids what they need. I need to. Their happiness and what they deserve is important to!

So I ask you, what do you deserve?

Do you have it?

divorce_web

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