Tag Archives: Divorce

Making My Own Family

I’ve been pretty absent here and on Twitter, except for Friday’s SingleParentsTalking chat, and I’m sorry for that. Things have been a little crazy for me.

I went out of town to visit my friend, Sue, which completely derailed my “lifestyle change.” We get together and we *eat.* I didn’t follow most of my rules, and I paid the price–I felt terrible for a few days. But instead of going back to my rules, I kept eating poorly. I’m still making better choices sometimes, but I need to get back on track.

And this weekend didn’t help. Smiley will be with his dad on Thanksgiving, so I had my own Thanksgiving celebration with 20 of my closest friends. My true family. There were a few people missing, like The BFF (sad–lives far away) and my brother (annoying–unreliable), but I had a wonderful time. I really felt loved and even though I drove myself crazy with all the preparation, it was a great time.

Side note: If you’ve never roasted any sort of whole bird, a 20 pound turkey for Thanksgiving is probably not the best place to start. However, it turned out perfectly. Best turkey I’ve ever tasted. (And thank you to Cari and MFA Mama for the push to brine.)

I didn’t spend nearly enough time with Smiley yesterday because of all the craziness, and he was a little overwhelmed by all the people, but he was great and social and adorable. And he got to spend time with The BFF’s parents, who are basically his grandparents on “my side.”

I’m not related by blood to very many people. But I think about my childhood, and I was always surrounded by “family.” The ex and I used to get into it because he only considered “family” to be anyone who wast related by blood or marriage. But he has five or six aunts and uncles. I had many “aunts” and “uncles.” They just happened to be my parents’ friends. Three of his grandparents were still alive well into the ex’s 30s. Three of mine were dead by the time I was 2, and the last one died when I was 10. My parents had friends who were much older than they were, and they were my “grandparents.”

The ex just didn’t understand how those people could be family. But he had the luxury of having a large blood-related family. My parents did what they could to surround us with love and loving friends, who I will always think of as my family.

And I am doing that for Smiley. Of the 20 people in my home yesterday, only three were related to me by blood–my son and my brother’s children. But everyone in that house was my family. The Writer. Friends who are former co-workers. Friends who are married to former co-workers. My BFF’s parents, whom I have known since I was 5 years old. Friends I met while training for a cause near to my heart. This is my family.

My family is made up of people I have chosen, and that’s the best family of all.

Remnants of My Failed Marriage

I’ve been divorced for a month. After waiting so long for all the paperwork and red tape, it all was over amazingly quickly.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the things that remain.

My name: I am changing my last name back to my maiden original name. But I’m going on a trip this month and don’t want to change my passport or driver’s license, so that’s on hold for a bit.

My e-mail address: I changed my e-mail address when I got married to one with my married last name. I still have access to my old one with my original name, of course, but everyone uses the newer address. I suppose it’s nothing harder than setting up forwarding and just starting to respond from the new (old) e-mail address, but I’m sort of comfortable where I am.

My wedding dress: It’s in a plastic bag in storage. I never even got it cleaned and steamed and put into one of those fancy storage boxes. I did wear it a second time, for a Halloween skit at work, but it’s been in a bag ever since. I would love to donate it to Brides Against Breast Cancer, but I need to have it cleaned first and I’d have to actually go to the Post Office, and I haven’t been motivated to take the steps. But I know I should do it.

The wedding albums: So many beautiful pictures, so many memories. I actually had a blast at my wedding. Let’s not talk about how my groom got trashed that night–and the night before–and was totally hung over. The wedding itself was so much fun. But I don’t really see myself sitting down and looking through the photos any time soon. I guess I will hold on to them so Smiley can look at them when he gets curious (if he ever gets curious), but I probably should go through them and put them in archive-quality boxes. I do have a DVD of the images, so I guess I don’t need to keep the prints, but it is so hard for me to throw away photographs.

My ring: This one is really tricky. My ex proposed to me with my mother’s engagement ring. Which was custom designed for my mom by my dad. It has amazing sentimental value because of my parents’ marriage. But now it also has a bit of a tarnished value because of my own marriage. Any suggestions for this one? It really looks like an engagement ring, so I’m not sure about wearing it on my right hand. And I don’t want to re-set the stones because they were custom set for my mom. Hmm.

I also have other pieces of jewelry from the ex that I haven’t worn in ages. They are pretty pieces, but they just remind me of the ex. I had a stone from a previous boyfriend set into a ring, but I don’t need that much new stuff.

I would like to hold a cleansing ritual, of a sort, where I burn a wedding photo and a few other mementos, for closure. I think that would help me feel that it’s all pretty final.

What did you do with your engagement ring or other jewelry from your ex?

Hardship is Not a Zero-Sum Game

I know I keep promising Roxanne the story of my ex-husband’s slutty girlfriend, but I keep having other things to say. And I’m not really in the mood to relive the story just yet.

In the meantime, I read a great post called “Being a Single Parent Isn’t Hipster,” and it brought up a lot of feelings about my struggle with calling myself a single mom. And it brought me back to my conflicted feelings on my situation.

I once heard that “talent is not a zero-sum game,” meaning that just because someone else has talent doesn’t mean that you aren’t also talented. I’ve applied that to so many things in my life, but lately I’ve been thinking about it in terms of tragedy and hardship.

It is difficult to parent on my own, to be the only one responsible for my son, and to be “on” all the time when Smiley is with me. Also, I only have my son 50 percent of the time, and that sucks, I miss him so much it physically hurts. But I try to look at the bright side: I get time off. I have time to myself, time to go on dates, time for uninterrupted sleep. And my son is being cared for by his other parent when he’s not with me. I have a decent co-parent, but he seems to be able to turn off and tune out when he doesn’t have Smiley, so when I’m on my own, I really am on my own.

But when I find myself complaining about my life, I sometimes think of some friends and how they have more difficult situations. I have friends who are single moms 100 percent of the time. But just because they have it tough, doesn’t mean my life is a breeze.

I have several friends whose exes have practically abandoned their children. But every one of those friends is in a different situation. Every situation is difficult.

One friend lives with her parents, who provide free daycare, which is a great savings, since the dad doesn’t pay child support. And her daughter gets to have a great relationship with her grandparents. But my friend doesn’t go out in the evenings or on weekends on her own because she doesn’t want to take advantage of her parents since they already watch her daughter so much of the time. Plus she is thirtysomething and lives with her parents.

One friend lives very close to her parents and has two sisters who are able to help with her son when she needs it. But she doesn’t get a dime of child support, and her ex-husband calls in the middle of the night to berate her, not to talk to his son. He lives out of town and has dropped off forms in the mailbox while his son is at school, never making arrangements to see him. And this friend is very strong and independent and doesn’t like to ask for help. (I know she’s reading, and I would like to say “Hi, I love you, and asking for help doesn’t make you weak. And please remind me of this when I am down on myself for needing help.”)

I try not to focus on the deficiencies in my life, but sometimes it’s difficult not to.

I miss my son–so very much–when he’s with his dad. Sure, both of those friends have their kids 100 percent of the time and they don’t have to run any decisions by their exes, but they don’t get any regular time off. Sure, both of those friends have parents and family members around who can help them and I don’t, but I get breaks every few days and my ex is finally paying child support. The numbers don’t add up. There’s no winner in this situation.

Hardship is not a zero-sum game. Just because it’s hard for you doesn’t mean it isn’t hard for me. It’s just hard in a different way.

This isn’t actually a response to Lil’ Devil Mama’s post. I completely understand where she’s coming from.  I had already been drafting a post about this topic and her post just inspired me to finish it. I know there are some ways I have it easier than others, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Also, please read Chopper Papa’s take on deadbeat dads. It is powerful.

The Outlaw, Part 2

(I’d cue “Western standoff music,” but I still have that blasted song in my head.)

As I said previously, my ex-husband’s friends and social circle closed ranks around him after I “abandoned” him.

It was devastating, but I built my own social network by reconnecting with old friends and fostering new friendships, and I got past it.

But a few months later, people started reaching out.

I remained friends on FB with many of the ex’s friends (I still do, even though I’m starting to weed them out), and when one of his college buddies posted about his mother’s illness, I sent him a note wishing her health and luck. He wrote back filling me in and added that he liked me and we shouldn’t split up the friends without checking with those friends. I was flabbergasted. And flattered.

I went to dinner with him and his girlfriend and although they are still close with the ex, we’ve maintained a nice friendship, albeit a bit distant–they are kid-free and partiers, and it’s hard to coordinate. They like the ex, but they also see him without the rose-colored glasses with which his family sees him.

But even some family members see through him.

The ex and I split one of the holidays last year, and there was a lot of drama beforehand over how the handoff would go. He didn’t want me coming into the house and saying hi, but I refused to hand off our son in the driveway like a delivery person. (I did offer to meet him at a coffee shop.) Eventually I was “allowed” to come inside. I was completely ignored by XBIL, XSIL, and XGIL, although I said hi to each of them in turn. But something strange happened: people were happy to see me and chat with me. I like his family. I miss a lot of the extended family and it was nice to see them.

(Funny aside: One cousin’s wife had no idea we’d split up, even though it had been almost a year, and apparently she kept asking where I was. Oops!)

I was getting ready to leave and realized that one of the uncles hadn’t come over to say hi. I wasn’t surprised. He has a reputation of someone you do not want to cross–and he holds grudges like…umm…a champion grudge-holder.

As I started to leave, he came up to me and pulled me aside. I went cold. He talks very softly (which makes him more intimidating), and he motioned for me to come close. He leaned his head next to mine and said, “If you need anything, you just let us know. We love you and you’re family, no matter what.”

I just about fainted on the spot. I am getting chills right now replaying it. This man whom my ex-husband revered was embracing me. I left the house with a great smile and a warm feeling in my heart (puke, I know).

That uncle’s daughter, DC, has stayed in touch with me. She has come over to visit with me, and we’ve gone out for drinks. In fact, we went out again this week. I worried a little about trusting her, since she is on “his” side, but she is smart and cynical and she knows the score. She saw how he treated me and has seen how he treats his parents for years. (But I’m not insane–she doesn’t know the full story of The Writer and me.)

DC may be cynical and a little bitchy (god, I love her), but she is thoughtful. She sends texts on meaningful days and she sends cards to her family. She pointed out that on Father’s Day, XFIL had two cards: one from her and one from his wife. Ouch. She’s the one who gave me the idea for celebrating Grandparents’ Day for the XILs.

She goes out of her way to help her grandmother (same one mentioned in the previous post), taking a week off work to stay with the grandmother when her husband died, and is rewarded by being accused of trying to kick the grandmother out of the house, but the ex and his brother are lauded as angels when they stop by for an hour. The boys have been the grandmother’s favorites for years while DC and her sister are ignored, so it looks like XMIL comes by her attitude from her own mother.

(In fact, during drinks this week, she said that XGIL “thinks the sun shines out of his ass, and it enrages me!”)

Learning more about the ex’s family history has helped me understand who he is and how he became the man he is. I know he’ll never spend the time to examine himself, but I’m better positioned knowing this.

And knowing that other people–who have known him for a lot longer than I have–see him for who he really is and don’t think he walks on water makes me hopeful. Not that his family will turn against him or anything like that, but that my social circle will expand further to include some of them, and Smiley’s life will be better for it.

I’m an Outlaw…

…on steel horse I ride…

Actually, I do ride a motorcycle, but that’s not the point. However, I now have that song in my head, and I thought it only fair to share.

Anyway.

I read a post a few weeks ago at the Post Divorce Chronicles about “in-laws vs. outlaws.” I have most definitely become an outlaw.

My ex-MIL has two boys. Her other DIL lives a few hours away and her family is large and close. XMIL always wanted a daughter and my mom is gone (stupid euphemism, but “she’s dead” sounds so harsh), so it was a good opportunity for both of us. The relationship was never truly comfortable–my ex-in-laws are very different than my parents–but it was nice to have a figure like that in my life. My ex-husband is very close to his family, so we’d go there for dinner often, and we traveled with them. She even asked to take me shopping for and bought me some maternity clothes. I was pretty lucky, as far as mothers-in-law go.

And then I walked out on their precious little boy. My ex-husband used the words “abandoned” and “deserted” in counseling with me, so no doubt he used those words with them. He was the one who translated the situation to his family, and it was apparent.

I wouldn’t ever have asked for his parents to hear my side of the story. I just wouldn’t expect that. And as I mentioned before, he had a very tight family and a close social circle. They closed ranks around him as soon as I left.

That I should have expected, but I was a bit taken aback. Only one person made any sort of effort to keep in touch.

My ex and I committed to coparenting our son, and we worked on a relationship that would allow that, but his family stayed silent to me.

His parents came to the hospital when Smiley was born and completely overwhelmed me when we finally got to our room. It was terrible. His mother did bring dinner to the house once and she took over care of Smiley one day when I was too sick to even take care of myself. But that was the only contact we had for months.

I have reached out, when I thought to. I sent flowers for Christmas. I sent them a Grandparents’ Day card this year. I even invited them to dinner, but they had other plans. (And I tried very hard to believe that, rather than take it personally.)

When Smiley was sick a few weeks ago, XMIL called to offer an extra set of hands, which was refreshing, even if I didn’t need to take her up on it.

The relationship is slowly building. I hope they realize that the better we get along, the better it is for Smiley, but I also understand they only hear one side of things.

My ex is their baby and seemingly can do no wrong. They did not have to be his partner, if I can even call it that. He doesn’t treat them with any sort of respect, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. His mother waits on him hand and foot, and that is what he expected from me, and they didn’t seem to understand why that would have been a problem for me.

And they are products of their backgrounds. Ex-grandmother-in-law (XMIL’s mom) told my BFF’s mom–at Smiley’s first birthday party–that “No one should ever go through what ‘ex’ went through.” Umm…yeah, because what I went through was easy peasy. <deep breath>

But there’s always another side to the story.

To be continued…

I Want a Do-Over!

Today had some ups and some downs.

The Writer and I spent most of the day together, side-by-side on the couch, working on our laptops, watching Jersey Shore. It was kind of perfect. Then he left to see his daughter, and we won’t see each other for another week.

I was excited to get my new computer, and hung around the house all day, and in the 30 minutes I was picking Smiley up from daycare, between 5 and 5:30 p.m., UPS came and went.

Ants are making a resurgence in my kitchen. Yuck.

But I got to see Smiley for the first time in a couple of days, and that is wonderful! He’s so much fun and so cute and just makes me smile. But when he walked in the house, he started calling for The Writer, which simultaneously filled me with joy and broke my heart.

In the midst of it all, I tweeted, “Can I please have a do-over?”

That reminded me of my counseling session earlier this week, when my therapist asked me what I would change if I could do it all over?

I first went to, “Well, I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant,” but really, Smiley is my world, as I tell him each night before bed, and I would never give him up.

I then said it would have been best if The Writer and I had resolved any issues in our marriages and left our spouses before we became physically involved. I do believe this would have been a better way to handle things, but I have thought about this a lot, and I suspect that had we not become intimate, we never would have ended up where we did. I think if we’d backed off and not seen each other again after we realized our feelings, we would have gone back to our marriages and decided everything was “fine,” and continued on. The physical connection just enhanced our emotional connection, and we could not pass up any chance to be together.

And to put the two together, once I was pregnant, I didn’t want my child to have a miserable mother (and father) and think that relationship was “normal.”

So I guess I’d have to say that there’s nothing I would choose to do over.

Except maybe stick around for the damn UPS guy.

What a Weekend!

As much as I miss Smiley when he is with his dad, there are advantages to co-parenting and sharing custody.

The Writer and I had time together this weekend for the first time in a month. Thirty-six hours of uninterrupted time! Just the two of us! It was wonderful. We had a casual dinner out on Friday night, giving us time to catch up and talk. There were so many silences, though, because we were too busy grinning cheesily at each other, happy to be together again.

We slept in on Saturday and bummed around the house a little, then we spent a romantic evening at a gorgeous boutique hotel. They have a wine reception each evening, which gave us more time to talk and reminisce about the two other times we stayed there, once when I was hugely pregnant. It’s a special place for us, and a great way to get out of our normal routine (well, when we have a normal routine).

We enjoyed the reception and then we got all dressed up (me in a dress, he in a jacket and tie!) and went to a little fish & chips joint where we overloaded on grease and I got to have some tasty English cider. (No matter that I can get it in cans at my supermarket; it’s still nice to be able to have it out and about!) And yes, that’s The Writer’s hand in the pic!

We opened a bottle of wine at the hotel and talked some more and toasted each other and our time together. And enjoyed our wine and our time and each other.

The morning was a little rough–the hotel screwed up our breakfast and we didn’t get to eat–but we got over it. I dropped him off at his place and he went to spend the day with his awesome daughter.

I headed out to meet with some girlfriends and go to a wine festival. Sample tweet: “Wine festival with my girls. So flipping drunk it’s embarassing.” And it was true. (And even misspelled.) I hadn’t eaten much that morning (see above: hotel screwed up our breakfast), and I wanted to make my $40 entrance fee worth it. And I did. Wow.

I hadn’t had that much to drink in a long time. I didn’t get sick, but I am not really sure how I managed to fight it off. I’m still a bit embarrassed by the whole thing. I had to hang out at my girlfriend’s house for a few hours to sober up before I could drive home, and even then I was pretty much done for the evening. Thankfully The Writer doesn’t mind just chilling on the couch with me.

But I talked about it this morning with The Writer and the BFF, and there’s no reason for me to feel ashamed. I’m (well) over 21. I had a designated driver. I waited for a long time before I drove. And Smiley was with his dad. I don’t get rip-roaring drunk every weekend–or even every year. (The last time I think I was close to this drunk was probably my first wedding anniversary–hmm, maybe that was a sign–over four years ago.) I have the occasional glass of wine or other drink, but I rarely drink to oblivion or to the point where my faculties are impaired. And I did it responsibly.

So, overall, it was a fantastic weekend. I wouldn’t have been able to have the same great experiences if I were still married to the ex (for various reasons!) or if I didn’t trust that Smiley was in good hands.

I miss my boy like crazy, but my friends and my boyfriend more than made up for it this weekend!