Sooooo, you got the big D.
Divorce, girl, get your mind out of the gutter. As a fellow divorcee of over six years, I got you.
If yours went anything like mine, you spent hours hearing all of the worst qualities about yourself (true or not), every mistake you've ever made - under a microscope, and worse yet, you did the same to your kids' father. You're emotionally drained, seemingly alone, and don't know what is coming next with your new life. The first thing you're worried about fucking up...your kids. YOU WON'T!
Skip the self-help books, and "Mom's House, Dad's House," and take in the best co-parenting advice I ever heard through smut TV, "you've got to learn to love your kids more than you hate your ex," ( thanks, Bravo & Real Housewives of Beverly Hills).
So easy in theory, right? I mean, they've peed on you, puked down your shirt, and you've had their actual shit on you...if that's not love, what is!?
Let me tell you about some of the mistakes I made...
Using our divorce proceedings to point out all the reasons their Dad shouldn't have them, instead of all the reasons I should. Their whole lives, you want them to feel comfortable with BOTH of you at things, not stressed because you are. This means focusing your energy on the parent you want to be for them, not on the qualities your ex has that are sub-par.
Taking the bait. In my younger years, to prove he had no control over me and assert my freedom from the hell that was our marriage, I would react. Always. Called me a name? I'd fight right back. I would yell, return fire, sharpen my proverbial knife, and dig in. Just to prove I was stronger now. I wouldn't take it. Did it feel good at that moment? HELL YES! Years of repression, now I'm standing my ground. WRONG! They can feel that tension, and you're coming off like an ass hole. Don't let these trying times change who you are, a great mama.
Allowing a new significant other more power than they're allowed when dealing with your ex (Full disclosure, this was NOT my current husband. He and my ex have a mutual respect for each other and their places in the twins lives). So you found someone new. They love you and your kids. Where do they fit? There is a fine line between treating a child as your own, and respecting that you are not their ACTUAL parent. I, too, had to learn this the hard way, as I was a custodial step-parent with my first marriage. There are decisions, milestones, and moments that are sacred to parenthood; if their biological parent is involved, those are reserved for them to experience with your child. Believe me, they will have their own milestones, traditions, and moments with their Bonus Parent! My guys have an engraved box for just these occasions, with etched highballs and whiskey rocks, to celebrate major life milestones in adulthood.
Arguing any time they are even within earshot. You think they're asleep. They're too young to understand. They won't pick up on what's going on. THEY WILL. They will be put in a position to play in to your insecurities while they're with you, and his when they're with him. They need to know they can enjoy both houses, without worrying about hurting the other parents feelings. They need to know it is okay to love Dad's new girlfriend. Their happiness is our happiness.
Assuming that you aren't allowed to make time for yourself when you have "built in breaks" from them. This is soooo hard to overcome. Mom guilt is real. There are times those around you will even inadvertently (or purposely) make you feel bad for focusing on you, don't fall for it. When I was newly divorced I was so careful to make it seem like I was super mom and they always needed me around. Like I needed to prove I was worthy of having them full-time, it was exhausting. I just wanted to be their mom. For the twins and I, we learned to adapt with gym time, together! Three of our "single parent" years were spent in our local YMCA. I lost 100 lbs, became active in all aspects of fitness, and learned so much about myself and what I was made of. They got to experience it with me, and watch me grow. This was our new normal.
So what's next? Learning how to share those precious, snot-nosed, beautiful little terrors, and doing it while making them excited to now have two different houses to go between. Two Christmases. Two birthday parties. Two different houses to learn new cuss words (Mama needs an alibi).
*Photo courtesy of Jo Johnson Photography*