How NOT to Get Divorced

Did you know that it is possible to get divorced and still maintain your sanity, dignity, and integrity?

 It has occurred to me over time that I have unwittingly become the “resident expert” in all things divorce related among my friends and acquaintances. I’m not at all sure how I feel about this. But, I will admit that I have learned a thing or two. So I might as well impart some of my err…wisdom. Because we have all heard and/or seen the damage couples inflict on each other and, sadly, their children.

There is not one child who has ever come out of a divorce and not been unscathed in some way. Even if you are to the point where your children are relieved that the two of you have finally decided to call it quits, they will have already been hurt by what they’ve been forced to witness and hear. Divorce hurts the children involved…period. There is no way around some of their hurt and confusion. BUT, and this is big. You can minimize this hurt by what's that, Ladies and Gentlemen?

 Acting like grownups.

There are innumerous reasons couples choose to end their lifelong commitment to one another. Maybe the love is gone. Maybe he or she cheated. Maybe there was abuse. Maybe one of you didn’t get a say. I know I didn’t. It in no way eased my guilt about my marriage ending or what it meant for my son. But I knew it was happening when my dad drove me to his attorney friend and told him that I was there to file divorce papers. My husband left for greener pastures and wasn't coming back. I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Make no mistake. I. Was. Devastated. I went through every stage of grief (and probably added a few of my own). I sobbed into my pillow nightly. I didn’t eat (and vomited) for months. I lost 40lbs. I made marriage counseling appointments that I attended alone. I reached out to my family, friends, other couples, and my pastor. I prayed tirelessly. Yet, my behind was getting divorced.

 I told my soon-to-be-ex-husband that I would be able to one day look into our son’s eyes and tell him that I did everything in me to save our marriage, and asked if he could say the same. And I did. I allowed myself the time needed to grieve during the excruciating process, but as I walked out of the courtroom, and those doors closed, I left with a lighter heart, a clear conscience, a smile on my face, and a hot new body. Just sayin.’

As part of a now co-parenting relationship I worried about my son every single second he wasn’t with me. He was a mere seven months old, and neither he nor I were ready for entire weekends apart. But my genius attorney was confused about his age, screwed up, and there you go. I worried about him missing me. I worried about who he was with, if he was being fed, if he was on a schedule. I worried about him getting sick, harmed, kidnapped by crazy psycho killers. I worried about him being in a house full of incompetent boys who knew absolutely nothing about babies. 

When he came home with cut off holy jeans with a binky attached to a chain in his back pocket, I actually laughed and realized that he might just be okay in his dad’s care. Still, those two days every other weekend were pure, unadulterated torture. Then I was given some of the best advice a co-parent can get. A second cousin-once removed (or something) passed on a little known secret co-parents know but rarely share. She said that she loved her days alone. She loved her days alone?! She used her time to rejuvenate and get crap done. I found this new piece of information intriguing. Free time…? Sleep…? SLEEP? I know happily married couples who would gladly give their left arms (and possibly their spouse) for a full eight hours. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to want “me time.” I won’t say that I no longer worried. I did…and then some. It was beyond hard. Especially in the beginning. But if it was something forced upon me, I was sure as heck making the most of it.

Onto the step-parent...Oy vey.

So there is fear. Then there is “new mommy/daddy” fear. This was the one thing my ex and I agreed on. There was no way our son was calling someone else “Mommy or Daddy.”  This agreement exited stage right about four seconds after my son’s step mother entered the picture. He was right around three years old. She was quite a bit younger, and if I’m being perfectly honest, a smidge immature. My son came home one day talking about “Chrissy Mom.” The more my son talked about her the more I detested this woman. I found myself wondering what kind of cajones some girl, barely out of high school, had to possess to tell my child to call her MOM! I was hot. The weeks went by and every time Sebastian came home, he came with new stories. Then there was ‘the event.’ You know the one. The moment that has the tendency to define and even solidify your new relationship with your ex. There is usually one…let’s call it…episode. Ours just so happened to be the day I met my son’s “Chrissy Mom.”

It was a Sunday morning and I was waiting for Seb to get home from his dad’s to go to church when my phone rang. It was my ex. He called to tell me that he wasn’t bringing our son home. That Seb had a 105 fever and that they were taking him to the hospital. Any parent would panic when they hear 105 fever, but our son had multiple health issues. So I was not just panicked. I was terrified. I had no car. So my sister drove me to the ER.

When I walked in seeing Seb beet red and crying, I wanted to reach out and take him. However, since they were accompanied by the girlfriend and some other woman I’d never met, I resisted and calmly asked for details. They were still in the waiting room. When my ex handed him to me he was on fire and asking for water. His sippy was empty. When I asked a nurse where a water fountain was she informed me that he couldn’t have water until he was seen by a doctor. This bothered me, but what do you do? Doctor’s orders and whatnot. Approximately 10 minutes later Seb again asked for water. At this point “Chrissy Mom’s” mother (who knew?) stood up, took Sebastian out of my arms, told me that she was a nurse, and that she was giving him water.

 I won’t lie. I’m sure dozens of cuss words ran through my head, but I believe what came out instead was, “I don’t care if you’re the d*mn pope. You’re not giving my son water!” Then I heard the words, “This isn’t a power struggle, Honey. You don’t even need to be here.” Oh no she didn’t! With my mommy mode amped up to volumes not even reached from outer space, my sister (the unusually calm one) stepped in, grabbed Seb and I, and told me we were going to the other hospital in town.

Needless to say, we were not off to a promising start. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t always gracious in the beginning. I would make remarks, not really thinking Seb understood what we were talking about. This lasted about a month or two. I wasn’t too bad. I did make the effort to refrain, but she just made it sooo easy. What stopped me short was when I made some off-hand comment and saw Seb’s face in the rearview mirror. It was crestfallen. My usually bubbly and chatty little boy was visibly upset. What I said didn’t hurt her. It hurt him…very much. I made up my mind then and there to grow up.

Some days it took real effort on my part. Most of the time I had very good reason to be upset. But the way I responded was 100% on me. Seb wasn’t going to look back on how much his dad and step-mom hurt me. He was going to look back and remember an angry, bitter, and ranting woman…whether it was true or not. I kept my feelings far away from my son and gave my hurt and anger to God. I mean I wasn’t perfect. When Seb came home one day and told me that she had told him that he came out of her belly and not mine, I asked him if he knew what the word “delusional” meant. When he said no, I told him to tell Chrissy Mom that she was delusional. 

They eventually married and she became a mother herself. At this time she finally seemed to just get my feelings about what had transpired over the years. My attitude towards her softened as well. Now I can say, without hesitation, that I am very happy that she is in our son’s life. Over time  I came to really appreciate what she and her family have done for him. Much of who Sebastian is came from them. If we hadn’t made the decision to put our feelings aside for Sebastian's sake  I couldn’t say this. It can be done. Fake it ‘til you make it, Honey. Then fake it some more.

 

Okay, on to cheerier topics…child support.

Did you know that children require things like food, clothing, and a roof over their heads? Heck, if you really want to go crazy you can throw in some electricity, heat to keep them warm in the winter months, and maybe an education. Children don’t come into the world with a preloaded bank account? What?!

Child support is a very touchy subject.

 I don’t care.

There are those who would argue that child support is unfair and is often used for things that don’t go toward the child’s needs. You pay way too much. You have other kids to support that actually live with you. You should just be able to buy your kid the things they need because then you can be assured that it goes where it’s intended. After all, the custodial parent can just ask if your kids need things?  Am I right? You’re getting screwed by Friend of the Court and your ex. Maybe you really and truly are. If so, it sucks and I’m sorry.

 But, if your solution is to let your children go without instead of paying the amount ordered by the court then I can assure you that your children are suffering much more than your ex. When I was receiving child support, the $74 per week neither made nor broke my bank account. However, it helped with the essentials. There were times when my ex couldn’t pay. I gave him breaks when FOC didn’t, but it really did hurt at this point when so much time had passed and the amount reached the thousands.

*Side bar…even when this happened my son saw his father regularly. It is sometimes hard to swallow, but one has nothing to do with the other when you put your child first.

 So, still think you’re being screwed? How about this? From here on out the court can just give you the choice. Option A: Pay the support ordered. Option B: Just give that kid right on back. Put a return stamp on them, walk away, and forget ‘em.

If this notion sounds ridiculous then we might be on to something. If this thought appealed to you even a little then you are disgusting and should contemplate your life and where your priorities lie (and please do us all a favor and get yourself fixed).

If you would take a bullet for your child, yet can’t get past paying child support grow up. You have an awesome human to call yours that is half of you. There is no set dollar amount. If there were you quite frankly couldn’t afford it.

Divorce is brutal on all parties involved. You are ripping a family in two. There is and never will be a clean break. The sheer force of the blow has the ability to leave yours and your children's lives off their axis' for years, and in some cases, a lifetime. But the blow can be significantly softened, especially for your children if you are really and truly making a sincere effort. Let your ex carry on. Sadly, they will reap what they are sewing when your children grow up. And no, this thought should not put a smile on your face.

I am a child of divorce. I have been the parent left behind. I have been the new step-parent. I have been the one who always felt stuck between my child and my new spouse. And I’ll tell you, they are all hard. There will never be a clear winner and loser. And there shouldn’t be. This is not war. If you treat it as such, it is your children that will suffer the casualties and they are lifelong. So take a deep breath, put the weapons down, and go hug your kids.