Setting an Example

SHARED BY NATALIE M.

Alone and Grieving

It was autumn 2009.  I wasn't happy. I felt alone. I wanted to feel like I had a friend in my husband. I needed more than a steady income and an occasional babysitter for our kids while I ran errands. He declined my request, saying this wasn't something he could do.

He wasn't a bad dad. He wasn't necessarily a bad husband. He just wasn't what I needed, and he showed no desire to give me what I needed. We wanted very different things for our lives and had very different views of what a family is. I didn't want to show my children a loveless marriage where a husband was nothing more than a financial supporter. I did not want to set that example for my children. It took some time (by time, I mean a lot of grieving—grieving the loss of what I thought our/my life was going to look like—and accepting that I made a mistake in marrying the father of my children) to come to the decision that divorce was what we should do. 

The Transition

And here begins my life as a true single parent. The reality is, I was a "single mom" long before the end of my marriage. Our kids were my responsibility. Day-to-day parenting, doctor appointments, medical decisions, school registration, meals, discipline, and everything else that comes with being a parent. I was a stay-at-home mom; it made sense that I did these things. I was perfectly happy in this role, as being a mom was something I had always wanted. I took care of the kids, and he went to work.

This made the transition pretty easy for me. From the time my husband told me he wasn't up to the challenge of being a friend and a financial support as a husband, we continued living in the same house for a year and a half. We fell into a routine of separate evenings with the kids. If he was home, I found something to do outside of the house, and if he was out of the house, I stayed with the kids.

In April 2011, after a huge financial bombshell was dropped on me, the kids and I moved out of our "family" home. My soon-to-be ex-husband and I had the dreaded financial separation conversation. We calculated the cost of childcare for two small children plus child support and decided instead that I would continue to stay home with our kids until they were both in school full-time. What a blessing for these kids. While their life was being uprooted, there was still some semblance of normalcy.

Choosing Respect

I've never been the girl to sit around with my girlfriends and complain about my partner, and I didn't plan on doing that to my ex-husband either. Don't get me wrong—it's not that I never complained about him. I just didn't make a habit of trash-talking him. He's still the father of my children. Without him, I would not have them. I love my children way more than I've ever disliked him. He is their father. I love them, and I need to respect his value to them.

We've worked really hard to make our relationship good for our kids. Birthday dinners, school events, and extracurricular activities are done together. I divorced my husband; my kids did not divorce their father. We discuss plans with respect for each other's schedules. We bring our kids’ concerns to each other. We have occasional hour-long conversations to catch up on things going on in both houses. We discuss medical decisions for our kids. If my kids want to see their dad on a night they are supposed to be with me, they see their dad.

Of course, we do fight. About twice a year, it gets ugly. We yell, we swear, we make threats, and one of us stops it before it touches our kids. We apologize for taking things too far, and we get back to what's best for our kids.

Every divorced couple may not be able to do this. If you can, I promise it's worth it. It makes life so much easier for everyone.

 
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