divorced mom

Single Mom Survival Guide: My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa, I am writing to request that you send some holiday cheer (i.e., kindness and pity) to a tired, overworked single mom this year. I have been very good all year long! (Ok, ok...I really haven't been that great, but based on the behavior of my children and co-workers alone, I think I'm still in the running.)

If you would be so kind, please bring me the following (wrapped and topped with a big red bow is optional, but would be a nice touch):

A big delicious bottle of Bailey's (i.e., Mommy's "chocolate milk"). You know, the one with a handle that requires a shopping cart at the liquor store. I promise to only use it medicinally.

72 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The only physical and mental recuperation appropriate for me at this time needs to mimic hibernation. During this time, I plan to wear my most hideous sweatsuit with legs unshaven and face void of makeup, curled in the fetal position on my sofa under a heavy blanket spooning my TV remote. I know babysitting my children for the weekend is a lot to ask, but I am not opposed to you assigning them to hard, manual "elf" labor. Trust me, they deserve it.

A man. A handsome, single, attractive man who loves me, my children and my creepy collection of Christmas nutcrackers. A man who finds my small, filthy, toy-ridden home "charming." A man who's sensitive but strong, and enjoys me bossing him around from time to time. A man whose hobbies include vacuuming, small home improvement projects, cleaning toilets and car-pooling. A man with the libido of a twenty year old, despite roaming the hallways all night tending to crying babies, requests for water, and middle of the night bathroom runs. (Please note: I will gladly substitute a maid and a one-night stand for the gentleman referenced above. Come to think of it, I think I would prefer the maid and the one-night stand. I don't have the strength to be witty and full of enthralling conversation most days.)

Thanks so much for your abundance of goodwill and joy. You're the man. Seriously, I mean it.

Sincerely, Missy xoxo

Single Mom Survival Guide: Surviving the Holidays

This time last year, I was a newly single parent. Every day felt like a mechanical struggle to get from beginning to end. My primary concern was waking up on time after being up all night with an infant in order to get bookbags packed, my oldest son on the bus, and getting to my new job on time so that my boss wouldn't perceive me to be the exhausted, scattered mess I was. The majority of my quiet time to myself was spent on the hour commute to work, listening to depressing songs about love and heartbreak and wondering where the hell I went wrong. As the holidays approached, I certainly wasn't feeling the holiday spirit. My mind was flooded with memories of Christmases past -- our first Christmas after getting married, cutting down Christmas trees as a family, staying up late on Christmas Eve night to put toys together. I love Christmas, but Christmas felt so bleak and alone. Knowing my kids wouldn't be with me at the Thanksgiving table killed me. Not spending Christmas Eve with my kids devastated me.

I should have known these feelings were coming. I had several divorced friends give me the "holidays are going to be a little rough this year" speech, while crushing up tranquilizers in my coffee.  Ok, well maybe not that extreme, but you know where I'm going with this. In my stubborn head, I thought I would be the exception to the rule. I went overboard buying gifts for the kids to attempt to fill the void in their hearts with crap they didn't need. If I could have crammed a Christmas tree the size of the one the Obamas had in the White House to make our lives more festive, I would have blown out one of the walls in our tiny house to do it. I played holiday music on constant repeat. I ate my weight in Christmas cookies. And none of it brought me the yuletide cheer I so desperately wanted.

I managed to survive a full 12 months of holidays on a shared custody schedule, and for me it has been an enormous test of futility. I've learned that dwelling on my time apart from my kids only fueled my own sadness. And I've learned the most important things to focus on is creating my own new traditions with my kids and to take advantage of our time apart.

I've been reflecting a lot on how I feel going into the holidays this year. I feel like much of my joy and excitement is returning. I'm eager to enjoy Thanksgiving with my extended family. I'm looking forward to cutting down a Christmas tree with my kids (although I can only ever decorate the top 1/3 of it to deter curious toddlers). And my greatest joy comes with watching my children open their gifts from Santa.Christmas

I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad about going into another holiday season alone, but I am looking forward to making the best of it. I must admit it's nice having every other weekend to myself to shop for and wrap gifts, a luxury I never had before. I don't miss wrapping gifts at 2am to avoid roaming children. And I'm looking forward to baking on my own. I hope to include my kids someday because I love it so much, but they are too young to enjoy it now. So in the meantime, I will enjoy blaring corny Christmas music and baking cookies with a glass of wine in hand. And I will make sure to keep my social calendar booked beyond that to avoid feeling lonely - spending time with my friends and family is my constant reminder that I have a great life, even when my kids aren't with me.

Picking Up the Pieces After Divorce

"Let go or be dragged."

It's been almost a year since my husband left my kids and I behind for another woman. We are trying to figure out our new normal and are almost there. I actually wish I had the resiliency my children seem to have. They seemed to have grieved the loss of our every day life and embraced their new relationship with their dad overnight. All 3 have their moments - they miss him, want him to come back, forget he isn't coming home. But shortly after airing their grievances, they are back to Spongebob, Legos, or whatever fixation they may be obsessing over that week.

Despite their ages, my 3 and 6 year olds are very cognizant of the world that is our new normal, and they have as many unanswered questions as I do. Trying to keep them informed while keeping the entire situation as vague as possible is hard, especially as they begin to put the pieces together. Most of the questions they asked are answered with a simple "I don't know." And there have been a lot of unanswered questions thus far. "If daddy doesn't love you, then who does he love?" "Why did daddy move so far away from our house?" "When will daddy realize he made a mistake and come home?" I know that someday they will put the pieces together on their own. So for now I leave the questions unanswered, and I focus on making them realize that all we can do is keep moving and treating others as we wish to be treated.

My recovery has been long and is probably far from over, but I find myself hoping each day that tomorrow will be the day I finally let go. Let go of the feelings of anger, hatred, disappointment, self-loathing. Having your spouse leave you for someone else somehow alters your entire perception of life and reality. The feeling I had the moment I caught him cheating can only be described as a kick to the head. When you finally come to, all that you thought you knew was wrong. The person you trusted with your life isn't the person you thought they were at all. You're suddenly a stranger in your own house and own relationship, and your mind spins with irrational blame. Am I too overbearing? Should I have dressed up more often? What is wrong with me? Am I too fat, too ugly, too boring?

I spun myself into a black hole of depression. I didn't eat. I didn't laugh. I felt hopeless. I felt like a failure. I apologized to my parents for letting my marriage fall apart and wasting their money on a beautiful wedding. I felt like I should send a letter thanking my wedding guests for the money and blenders and china place settings and letting them know they had wasted their money. I mourned the end of my marriage like a death, although in retrospect, him being run down by a bus seems almost easier. I cried about the plans we made for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Plans for family vacations we hoped to go on. Retirement someplace sunny once the kids were out of college. My life as I knew it was gone.

Then, a few weeks later, my aunt, Rosanna, came by to visit with me and the kids. She had gone through the exact same thing a decade before and gave me the pep talk/"come to Jesus" discussion I so desperately needed. Instead of mourning the end of my marriage, she made me realize this was my official "do over." I was being granted a second chance at life and I get to call the shots. This has stuck with me every day for the past 9 months and is my mantra.

That conversation triggered a switch in my brain. It was like someone blew the dust off the wiring, and my old self came to life. I was actually scared of my old self at first. "She" got lost in the "we" of our marriage, suppressed by a need to be everyone else's everything. The highly organized, Martha Stewart wannabe, supermom, who never forgot to pack school snack or library books, who always had laundry done and french toast sticks in the freezer, and who is at the ready in the event of a first aid emergency or school art project deadline. The worrywart, high strung, Italian housewife, who kept tabs on her husband's work meetings, doctor appointments, dry cleaning, and corporate card bills. The loyal daughter, who hates disappointing her parents or asking for favors.

My old self was still many of those things, but with more of a take no prisoners, screw you attitude, that is neither lady-like or forgiving. When the old me surfaced, I knew exactly what I needed to do and wouldn't rest until I gained control of my life again. The day after I threw my husband of 9 years out of my house, I proceeded to box up every item he owned - every chotchkie, mixed tape from high school, ugly cowboy shirt he wore to be hip and downplay his bald spot, EVERYTHING - along with every hideous gift and family heirloom his parents gave us. I didn't care where he took it - it just couldn't stay in my house. I then got on CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, called and e-mailed every former colleague I knew, and was able (thank God) to find a great job in less than a month. I drafted and executed the most brazen divorce agreement of all time. And within 5 months, I was exactly where I needed to be. I established my own stable home for my kids. My career was back in place. And my "screw you, I'm awesome" attitude is about 90% recharged.

I can confidently say I am in the rebuilding stage of this whole process. It's taken a lot of guidance and reflection to figure out what that really is. When you have been with someone for a long time, I think your default reflex at first is to want to find someone else - a replacement of sorts for the person you thought you were meant to be with. I, far too prematurely, tried to sign up for a dating website. Aside from being terrified by my "perfect matches" (which is an entirely separate blog post in itself), I realized this is so far from the next step for me. I couldn't even answer simple profile questions. What are my hobbies? Changing diapers and combating 3 year old temper tantrums is certainly a red flag for most guys, so I would have to lie. Pretend I like jogging or dancing or some other thing that makes me sound fun. What is the last book I read? Honestly, it was "Where's Waldo?". Last adult book was probably "The Da Vinci Code" back when it was actively on the New York Times best seller list in 2005.

So after a year of first crisis management, then reflection, I am in the process of rebuilding me. I am going to go back to the goals the old me lost along the way. I love art. I love drawing and painting, going to art museums and taking photos. I am going to find that passion again and get back to it. I already have a few ideas sketched, which is an incredible thing, since it's been years since I've even thought about it. I love to travel. I want to see the world, and I want my kids to see there is a whole world around them to explore. And I want to rebuild my career. I love what I do, and I want to be as successful as I can be. I always think back to my favorite Barbie as a little girl. She was the Career Barbie. She had a great job and a killer wardrobe - what's not to love?

So what the hell is the point of this blog post/rant? I'm not 100% sure, honestly, other than guess I just want to let others that are in the same boat know they're not alone and not to give up. You will be OK. Although all may seem lost at first, just take every hurdle one day at a time. Some days that may be something as simple as getting out of bed or paying bills. I remember getting out of bed in the morning (or sitting up wide awake at 2am) and searching for blogs, articles, etc. on the internet about what to do when your spouse leaves, how to combat depression, and life after divorce. I just needed to know that I wasn't alone. And I found great strength from those posts, actually.

When I'm ready to meet the right person, I will be confident that I am being myself and I'm living the life I was meant to live. I'm hoping to find that person, but am not fearful of going on these adventures in life alone. I'm like a great piece of cake. With or without icing, I'm still really awesome. If the right icing comes along, that would be great, but I am still fabulous on my own.

Family Picture

Two humorous blog posts that may have saved my life... http://happyhausfrau.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-to-do-when-your-husband-leaves-you.html?m=1


This post originally appeared here in April of 2013.