Two years have passed since the last time I had to sit across the table from my ex-husband. I could think of fifty other unpleasant activities I’d rather do. Sitting across from someone who hasn’t seen my children for a couple years isn’t one. I have seen so many families go through divorce; it’s effects are undeniable for children. Divorce rates are high and yet, somehow, I feel like this isn’t a topic that many discuss aloud and openly.
Anyone who has gone through a divorce knows how exhausting and emotionally consuming it can be. Add kids to the equation and it becomes an even greater complication to the collapse of what used to be your life. The experience can be isolating and casts a negative shadow on even the most hopeful of intentions.
One of the largest lessons I’ve learned is that you can only be responsible for how you conduct yourself. Sure my mom told me this growing up. She also told me to treat others like I want to be treated. It wasn’t until I was faced with impossible decisions as a divorced parent that the clarity of what my mom meant really sunk in.
So when my daughter asked me to join for her and my ex-husband for breakfast I had two options…
I could express my dissatisfaction at the mere suggestion of such a thing and would be completely justified in doing so. Or I could turn this into a teaching moment showing my children that their needs will always come before my own. The kids ordered pancakes and chatted about Disneyland. I made light hearted jokes so they would laugh and feel that I wanted this experience to be pleasant for them (even though it felt anything but for me).
Thirteen years ago I became a mom and in that moment, I made a conscious decision to put my kids’ needs before my own. I don’t always want to, and I am by no means patting myself on the back. Sometimes I’m aggravated at the injustices that come with having to co-parent with a non-parent. I married too young and began my journey into parenthood at a time when my then-husband was not ready to. Navigating through motherhood at 23 with someone who is not on the same journey as you is almost indescribable.
I thought divorce was hard – wrong! Co-parenting with someone who doesn’t want to be a parent is the hard part. Explaining to your kids why their dad hasn’t called in six months is hard. I could be a single mom; I’m a millennial and it’s in my nature to overcome, to pave a path of my own no matter how unconventional. In fact I was ready and prepared; I made achievable goals for what a superhero single mom was going to look like.
Fast forward a few years and our life looks much different now. I’m well into my thirties, I’ve married my life partner, added a sweet baby to our family and my other two babies have grown into teenagers. I am no longer consumed or weighed down by the negativity that divorce brought during my earlier years. I can sit back and enjoy the new life we have created. I can have peace of mind that my kids will always know I’ll be in their corner, even when I don’t have all the answers for them. Next time they ask for us to join them for an uncomfortable breakfast, they’ll already know what the answer will be.