Usually when there is a crisis or a tragedy we have our family and friends to pull us through. Today, in our giant company “Town Hall” Zoom meeting of 90 people, one of our employees broke down to tell us that last Thursday his father died (unrelated to COVID 19). He wept, and choked on tears to tell us that because of what is going on in the world today, and due to travel restrictions, he was not able to be by his father’s side. There was no ability to say his goodbyes in person, or sit by his father’s side in his last moments. No. Instead, he was isolated to deal with his emotions in an apartment of solitude. There were no family or friend visits to comfort him. There was no shoulder to cry on, and there was no warm embrace to help ease the pain. He took 2 days off, and then got back to working from home because...what the hell else is he supposed to do?
In our almost 100 person Zoom meeting, you could see the grid of faces crying or fighting back tears. You could see the loneliness and desperation for comfort in this employee’s face. After he gave the news, he finished the announcement with a declaration of how he appreciated every single one of us. He called us his extended family and expressed how seeing all of our faces has been a source of comfort to him in a very isolated world.
And there you have it, folks. We are living in this weird limbo between being isolated from physical human connection and having the best technology to accommodate all of this social distancing. We couldn’t have picked a better time to be in a pandemic, really. But as our death toll in our country continues to rise, we are being forced further and further into our safe but lonely bubbles. The longer this pandemic continues, the more we will start to feel the impact. I, for one, felt relatively unimpacted until recently. I found out my cousin's husband in the Philippines had it, but is now recovering. He is a doctor and thankfully has been sent home from the hospital to finally start recovering in the comfort of his own home, albeit isolated from the rest of his family.
How are we managing over here? Well, our household has been incredibly diligent with making sure to stop any and all possible infection. My mom, who has fought and beat cancer 4 times, would probably have a hell of a time battling COVID 19. Before the mass hysteria and panic buying I was able to order a ton of Isopropyl alcohol (32 oz worth) and some tiny spray bottles in order to create our own travel disinfectant sprays. I carry it in my purse and spray my hands constantly and on every surface I come across. As one of my staff remarked when I told him, “my boss stays strapped in the streets!” (Admittedly, I do feel like some sort of badass to have this alcohol spray - like a sheriff ready for a quick draw of the gun.) In addition to the travel sprays, we have multiple spray bottles around the house with disinfectant cleaner. We spray the bottoms of our shoes and everything we bring home from the store. We now remove things from their outside packaging before stocking in the pantry. Kyle doesn’t come into the house when we do kid pick ups and drop offs now, just to be extra safe.
Speaking of the kids, they have been really great. Every weekday morning they do their assigned school work without me having to ask. They do the usual toggling between different electronics, artwork, and hide and seek. I introduced them to Zoom and now they have daily meetings with their cousin, Sophia. They have Zoom meetings for class, and Lucy has virtual hula lessons. Now that my lifestyle has changed, my expenses for commuting and coffee shops have translated into a budget for Legos and art supplies. I am more than okay with this. Since I can’t devote all of my day to the kids since I’m (thankfully) still busy at work, my parents have taken it upon themselves to do some vocational training with the kids. My mom is teaching Lucy to sew, and is also teaching both kids some Tagalog. The kids are also using Duolingo - Lucy to learn Spanish and Jackson to learn Vietnamese (there’s an exchange student in his class). My dad is letting Jackson use one of his really nice cameras to practice photography and editing. He’s also ordered a globe to start giving them geography lessons. Yes, it takes a village.
As I mentioned, work has been busy still and I feel very grateful for that. I know many people living in a state of uncertainty when it comes to their job. At the start of this shelter in place, I was really struggling to segment my day so that I wasn’t caught working 12 hour days. I was still waking up early out of habit, and then not finishing until 7 pm. While I don’t have a ton of free time during the week to pick up on any new and exciting projects (or any old ones for that matter), I have been making more intentional time for meditating, working out, and reading. That’s it. When the sun is out I make sure to sit on the patio to read or just lay in the sun. Sometimes I’ll lay with Lucy in her fort to take a 5-10 minute break and pretend to listen to her when she talks to me (just kidding). Every 1-2 hours I check on the kids to see how they’re doing and give them a hug and kiss. Before all this, walking into Jackson’s room to find him staring at a screen 3 hours later would have pissed me off. But not anymore. Times have changed and so must I. The extra time spent with the kids has not driven me to insanity yet; just feeling grateful to be near them at a time like this.
The title of this blog post was a quote that actually inspired me. Over the weekend, Cody and I watched Mr. & Mrs.Smith and the most unlikeliest of sources gave me inspiration. Brad Pitt, racing home to eventually beat the shit out of his wife, says over the phone, “I guess that’s what happens in the end, you start to think about the beginning.” And I thought, God damn it...ain’t that the truth. I know the context is different but it still applies. When things that matter to us start to go bad, we want to hold onto whatever positive thought or experience we can. We want to believe that there is something still good there; something worth fighting for. Well, at least I do. And in our current socio-economic climate I am trying really hard to find as many positives in this whole experience as I can. This isn’t the end, but I’m trying to be more mindful of where I’m focusing my energy and time. Because god forbid the end is near, I don’t want a recall in memory that showed I focused my energy and time on things that served no real purpose in my well being, the kids being included in this.
I am exhausted and overly saturated with bipartisan politics and COVID-19 exposure. The numbers are going up, that’s all I need to know. The only things that matter to me right now is making sure my family and Cody are healthy, my mental and physical health are tended to, my kids feel safe and loved, and my friends feel supported from a distance. When this is all over, I feel confident that many things that were taken for granted before will be held at a higher regard. I also think that many things we put onto a pedestal will now be dismissed as unnecessary. We are realizing the things we can and cannot live without and that is different for everyone - while some see the gym is superfluous, others believe the gym to be their church. Life is fleeting, material and extravagant things come and go, etc. etc. Where we choose to put our focus is individualistic. It’s not up to anyone else to decide but you. I have some friends who are struggling to find motivation to do anything. That’s okay. I have friends who are seizing the opportunity to do everything. That’s okay. I saw a meme about how this shelter-in-place is basically like being at the airport - no rules apply. If you want to eat macaroni and cheese at 2 am and wake up at 1 pm only to watch Netflix for 5 hours then okay. And yes, that’s pretty much how it is now and it’s perfectly acceptable.
Doing nothing right now is not lazy and doing ‘all the things’ isn’t an overzealous flex on the rest of the internet community - it’s basically our own way of surviving this chaos anyway that we can. At a certain point, we’re all going to have to adapt to the new normal that is our current state and the new normal that will take place 6 months from now. And when society as a whole has finally arrived at its new equilibrium, I hope that this wasn’t all in vain and we are all better for it.
I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions, but if there’s one thing I need to improve on it’s my inability to let go of how I think things should be. The holiday season is definitely that time when I struggle the most with this. Ever since the dissolution of my marriage the holidays have become a rollercoaster of emotions. Even after 3 years, I have to accept that my “new normal” is basically not having a “normal” traditional, carbon copy holiday experience every year moving forward.
“It’s just a stupid day of eating.”
That’s what I told myself to try and keep it together as I choked on tears and embarrassed that I was even bawling my eyes out at 8:30 am on Thanksgiving morning. How did I get to that point so early in the day? I looked at pictures sent from Kyle showing Lucy and Jack fishing with the picturesque view of Lake Tahoe in front of them. And then it actually hit me that they were there and not here with me. I didn’t have Lucy creep into my room with her hair all disheveled and her cheeks flushed as they normally are when she wakes up. There was no Jackson on the couch to greet me good morning and ask, “so mom, how did ya sleep?” when I came down the stairs. What I did have was Chloe patiently waiting in front of my bedroom door; silently pleading with her body language to let her out so she can go pee (8:30 am is late for us).
Instead I cried for ten minutes, and poor Chloe had to wait until I was done.
That was the beginning of my first Thanksgiving without my kids. And it was hard.
I know, I know…millions of people go through this. And maybe for some it’s really not a big deal. But it matters to me that I wasn’t with my kids on one of my favorite days of the year. Because deep down inside I know it’s not just a stupid day of eating. It’s a day for family and friends, kitchen craziness, bountiful tables, proclamations of gratitude that sometimes evoke a tear, and then later probably second guessing if you really want that 3rd piece of pie. And in my household it’s the holiday music playing with punctuations of laughter from Sophie, Jack, and Lucy. It’s the wholesome chaos that I’ve grown accustomed to as a mother.
I thought about just staying in bed for most of the day, but that also didn’t feel right. I decided on a hike with my trusty companion, Chloe. I packed up a small backpack and hit the road with the windows down and music blasting. I don’t think anyone can argue the therapeutic benefits of music, animals, and nature - especially when combined.
We landed in Lands End, a place I had never been. I knew as soon as I got there that I made the right decision. Though my dad had alternative thoughts about my choice, advising me, “just stay away from the edge would ya?” But I was not the only person who had the same idea. The coastal trail was busy – full of families and couples who probably wanted to be active before putting themselves into a self-induced food coma hours later. In any case, we all had our reasons for being there. Mine was to explore a place I’d never been, take my mind off of what was bothering me, and get my senior dog some exercise.
After walking/hiking for about an hour we came to Mile Rock Beach. Chloe and I carefully climbed through the rocks until we came to a big enough rock with a surface equipped to handle both of our butts.
And then we sat. We watched the waves come in and out and wash up right below us, almost to the point where I thought we could get splashed. Having passed so many different people on our way to this little beach, we finally found ourselves alone.
I had my music. I had my animal. And I had nature.
It was what I needed. I didn’t cry (surprisingly), but instead just listened to the calming ocean sounds and rubbed Chloe’s ears as she ever so gently rested her head on my lap. It’s like she knew her human was having a rough day.
[By the way, I’m fully aware how cheesy this all sounds.]
But in that moment I was thankful to have found this perfect coastal escape with my perfect dog and my perfect playlist. I finally felt ok for the first time that day. And somewhere in Tahoe Kyle was with our kids and his family enjoying a holiday that they’ve been unable to spend together for several years due to his work schedule. I’m sure he had some perfect moments himself.
Then there was Christmas: this year I had them both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, but the two years before that I did not. My reaction to my first Christmas without the kids was similar to my first Thanksgiving without the kids – lots of crying and self-pity. Up until the divorce, Christmas consisted of three separate families cramming into my parent’s 4 bedroom house, filling it with lots of bodies, laughter, and love. I remember the first Christmas without the kids my parents and I scrambled to find last minute restaurant reservations for the three of us since my brother and his family would spend the holiday with my sister-in-law’s side. It was the first time we didn’t have a home cooked Christmas dinner, and it was a tough one to swallow.
This year Kyle had to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the two days after. Though I was ecstatic to spend Christmas with my babies again my heart felt heavy knowing that Kyle would not. Divorce or not, this is a consequence of having a family with a first responder. There are many holidays and birthdays that will not be spent with families, and that’s just how it is. But knowing that is always a possibility doesn’t mean it is any easier for him to be away from his kids, or any easier on the kids to be away from their dad.
So I offered to do the only thing I could think of to make a hard situation a little more bearable – we will come to him at the fire station.
Keep in mind, this is the first time I stepped foot inside the fire station since the divorce, which also means it’s the first time the kids have visited their dad at his work in three years. Visiting their dad was somewhat of a normalcy for us back then but given the circumstances would have been rather awkward. Thankfully, there were no such feelings when we came over that night.
We ate a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, rode the firetruck around the million dollar neighborhood to admire the Christmas lights displays, and ended with the kids opening up presents that had been waiting for them under a conservatively sized Christmas tree at the fire station. It was nice.
As Kyle helped me buckle the kids into the car my sweet, sweet Jackson said to his father, “seeing you at the firehouse tonight was my best Christmas gift.”
I’m pretty sure my heart was ready to explode at that very moment.
And just before I drove me and the kids home Kyle and I hugged, wishing a Merry Christmas and thanking each other for allowing that Christmas Eve dinner to even be possible. That was also nice.
This is the part where I get sappy again. Brace yourself.
I know that as hard as I think the holidays can be I have so much to be thankful for. That sentiment isn’t lost on me, but sometimes I just need to allow myself the safe space to feel what I feel. Because what makes the holiday season meaningful to some of you can sometimes be the same things that break me down. I thought I’d be able to send Christmas cards this year, just me and the kids. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Maybe next year.
But on that especially hard Thanksgiving Day this year, I’m thankful for the many friends who reached out to make sure I was doing ok.
I’m thankful for the generous offers to have me join their family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m thankful for my family rescheduling our Thanksgiving dinner to the Friday after so that I could enjoy it with my two children, instead of crying self-pity tears into my mashed potatoes.
I’m thankful to my parents for letting me wallow and give me the space I needed. Because as it goes, I’m not the only one affected in these situations. My parents spent their Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve doing a whole lotta’ nothing. Except my dad got to watch football in peace and my mom didn’t have to do any dishes, so I’m sure they were quite thankful for that.
And as hard as it can be, I’m most thankful for the ability of me and Kyle to get through the holidays without hatred and anger. I’m thankful that we maintain a relationship that allows for us to still spend Christmas Eve together, even if for just 3 hours so the kids can enjoy time with both of their parents.
And one day in the future when we’re sitting around the dining table giving thanks on Thanksgiving I can’t wait to hear Jackson and Lucy proclaim their gratitude for that as well. And then I’ll be crying into my mashed potatoes after all.
Jackson, the modern day Tiny Tim, put it best when he commented how the best Christmas gift was the time we all got to spend together. It doesn’t surprise me that my sweet seven year old son can really put things into perspective. He’s wise beyond his years like that.
On the drive home that Christmas Eve night, as I listened to the melodic Charlie Brown Christmas album and the kids slumped over in their sleep, I felt an internal conflict between wishing the holidays weren’t such an emotional circus and a certain resolve that I have to let go of what I thought my life would be. There’s just something about the holidays that generally seems to emphasize what it is you don’t have. Nothing about my current situation is where I ever thought I’d be at my age. Splitting holidays was never in my life plan. And I somehow need to get over that.
With the New Year less than a week away, I officially decided that my resolution for 2018 is to refocus my attention on things that matter most. To let go of those expectations I have held onto for far too long, but also giving myself some time to adjust.
It’s all about…perspective (thanks, Jack).
Bumble. Tinder. Hinge. The League. Match.
If you’ve been single in the past 5 years, chances are you know these names all too well. If you haven’t personally experienced these dating apps you, 1.) are really lucky, 2.) most definitely heard about them through your friends’ dating experiences.
I imagine it all starts out the same for everyone. When you jump onto the apps for the very first time (and there will be more than one time), there’s a bit of excitement at the many unknown possibilities. You’ll craft your profile, carefully selecting which photos you want to sum up your personality without having to write some cheeseball biography. You’ll adjust your app settings to specify how far a radius makes for acceptable dating (more than 20 miles away is too much work in my opinion). In some apps you can even specify the ethnicity, religion, social status, etc. that suits your preferences.
Of course, as a single mother, I have an added level of complexity when it comes to dating and the narrative that I want to present for myself.
I waiver back and forth constantly on whether or not I add that piece of information into my profile. I sometimes wonder if I should explicitly say that I’m a mother to 2 amazing kids in addition to some clever one-liner about how “they’re probably way cooler than any of you.” Do I just give my Instagram handle and let them see for themselves and decide if they want to swipe right or left? Do I add a picture of all three of us and just let them guess if those are my kids or my niece/nephew?
So far, I’ve yet to do any of these.
I wouldn’t call it lying (though my coworker would disagree), but I just prefer to either tell the guy in person or find an opportune time to drop it into a texting convo. I’d rather have the person get to know me just a little before I drop that sort of bomb on them. And yes, I realize that my preceding statement almost stigmatizes the fact that I have kids. But if I’m being completely honest with myself I know that ‘divorced with 2 kids’ is never someone’s first choice in the dating pool frenzy. Some may refer to me as ‘damaged goods’. I certainly did at the beginning of my divorce.
“Who would want me?“ Yes, those are words I beat into my brain for a long time.
But I’m past all that. Well, mostly past all that. I’ve put those tiny violins away and have taken a different approach from ‘who would want me?’ to more like, ‘I kinda get why I’m not ideal.’ When there’s a bevy of women who have glamorous jobs, unlimited free time to pick up and travel, or grab last minute drinks on a Tuesday, I 100% understand why I don’t make it past a few dates or a month’s time frame.
I come with a lot of baggage. Like…a lot. But once you get into your 30’s doesn’t everyone have some kind of baggage? There’s more of us who have been previously married, previously engaged, and/or has already procreated with someone. But as it turns out, besides being a drug addict or a criminal my baggage holds what seems to be pretty undesirable weight.
It has taken some time to get to this point of acceptance. When I started noticing the pattern of guys disappearing after about 3 weeks I contributed it to the flaky demeanor that is the online dating culture and the fact that I’m just not an easy person to date—in terms of the amount of work it can take, not who I am as a person. I think I’m alright ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And look, I’m not asking for anyone’s pity. I don’t really pity myself anymore. I’m just saying—dating in your 30’s is hard, and dating in your 30’s with two kids is even harder. To put it simply, it SUCKS. (But it does make for sometimes great, sometimes horrible, and sometimes hilarious stories.)
My expectations have been set so low, that I just assume every dating encounter will expire within about a month (if I can make it past the first date). It’s this constant cycle of excitement and then disappointment. And I’m not really sure what is sadder: that I expect it to be this way or that it actually is this way.
I don’t know any current single moms, and so trying to relate to other people about how dating is gets sort of lost on others. I mean, sure, they throw in the “I can’t even imagine what it’s like” bit and I know they’re sincere when they say it. But I’m kind of on my own with this one. So when I tried to research if there were any other young single mom blogs I could commiserate with, I came across a few (except they were not young and at least 10 years my senior). There was one post on the difficulties of dating that I only mildly related to, however; it was the comments section that really grabbed my attention. First of all, the commenters were almost ALL men [read: boys]. Why they were trolling a single mom blogger is beyond me. Second, they were brutally honest in their comments, and I mean BRUTAL:
“If motherhood is the best part of you and children are so fulfilling then you also don’t really need a man or to be dating at all do you?”
“Deep down inside single men (even ones that have kids) loathe dating single mothers for the simple fact that they are supporting another man’s offspring. Any single man who dates a single mother is secretly regarded as a simp, fool, chump, weak, and dumpster diver by other men…”
“I don’t hate ’em, just won’t date ‘ em. There is never a reason to carry another man’s freight. Better to be alone.”
“There pretty much is no reason for a man who has his stuff together to date or have a relationship with a single mom.”
“No sane man should ever get involved with a single mother, as there is very little and usually nothing to be gained. More to the point, single men who have no children of their own should not get involved as they don’t have the experience to know how to deal with manipulative children.”
OUCH. Also…WHAT THE FUCK.
Look, I already said that I’ve come to realize that I’m not ideal to date, but I came up on that realization on my own. It took soul searching, deep private thoughts, and many trial and errors to get there. But to read it from actual men [boys] put in such a way (whom, by the way, I hope I never ever come across) was a kick to the nuts. It also makes me wonder if there’s some general misconception that single moms need saving. Something about their conclusions regarding single mothers seems highly inaccurate. Honestly, do I strike any of you as someone who needs to be saved?
I get it though, I totally do. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and think “would I want to get involved with someone who has kids?” Had I been dating in my mid 20’s the answer would be no. In my 30’s: it would give me pause, but if everything else checks out then I don’t think I would let it hold me back. What I’m about to say is a very general statement, but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say women are geared more to the prospect of a family than men are. Therefore, we’re not as put-off by a man’s kids with a previous partner. According to those fucktards in that comments section, it's nothing but a burden.
As I explored my dating history for this post I decided to go through my text messages to see how many guys I matched and went on dates with in the past year and a half. With the exception of about a handful, and with most of them not making it past one meeting, I went on about 40 unique different dates.
That is a lot of groundwork to have to go through.
Only 3 of those guys made it to at least a few months of dating, which included seeing each other a few times a week, talking every day, and having the exclusive talk (in one way or another). That seems fairly normal for dating right?
Except, I found that I had to make sure that talking about my kids wasn’t a problem. Once it was understood that the kids weren’t an issue, would I be ‘wearing out their welcome’ by filling our conversations with updates about my kids? I explicitly asked each of them, “Does it bother you or make you uncomfortable when I talk about my kids?” All of them said no, but looking back now it’s silly to me that I felt I even had to ask that.
Out of the three guys, only one - the last of the three - mentioned on his own ever meeting them in the future. It was something I hadn’t heard so soon into dating a person, and something I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready for. Things would have to be pretty serious for that to happen. But even the casual mention of the possibility gave me a sliver of hope. But extremely busy schedules led to decreased communications that dwindled to maybe seeing each other once every 2-3 weeks, to finally coming to the realization that it just wasn’t working.
The first of the three was, and still is, a very busy man, which I think had very much to do with why we couldn’t make a relationship work. He was actually my introduction back into the dating world, and I felt absolutely adored by him. I’d say, he was the best possible introduction into dating again. I distinctly remember about two weeks into it facetiming on the phone and I had to tell him something….
Quite scared, I told him that I was divorced. He shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal and said, “It’s not like you have 3 kids or something.”
“No….just two.” And then I burrowed my face in a pillow feeling equal parts released (there, I said it), and scared (and now he will go away). But he didn’t. Not in the way I was dreading. But he did go away; on lots of trips. He was (still is) doing great things, but I couldn’t be a part of it. Traveling the world is nearly impossible when working a normal job and being a mom to two young kids. We lived in different worlds and tried to combine them when we could. We came to the conclusion that we’re just in different chapters in our lives. We dissolved peacefully. To this day we communicate here and there, admiring each other’s vastly different lives from afar.
That leaves second guy. And, well, I’d say this one hurt the most, because our disintegration didn’t come from a mutual understanding that ‘this isn’t working.’ When we first met at the beginning of this year, I had just been told after 3 weeks by another guy that he wasn’t ready to deal with the kids’ thing. I had a very ‘fuck it’ attitude at this point and right away just told him (guy #2) I had kids, expecting the conversation to end immediately. Instead, he made a joke that illustrated he wasn’t afraid of it; and also illustrated he was funny and shared the same sense of humor as me. The more we talked, the more we clicked. I felt I had the strongest chemistry with him. I felt at ease, and I felt no pressure. I also felt myself falling for him a lot faster than I anticipated. I tried to fight it, but was powerless against my feelings.
At one point during a guys’ trip he texted me and said, “I just told my friends about you [aka I'm a mom]…”
“Did your friends throw the red flags out about me?”
“No, surprisingly. They were all just happy I like someone.”
Yes. Surprisingly. Because the expected reaction is always a negative one.
After a small relationship hiccup, he thanked me for being patient with his baggage (a messy past with an ex), to which I replied, “I could easily say the same to you.”
Him: "Well I’ve never really felt like you had baggage anyway.”
It was all I ever wanted to hear.
In the end, I was blindsided and heartbroken. There were many reasons that made me think we had potential, and several reasons that made me question his intentions. I don’t think he ever meant any malice, and overall I don’t think he really knew what he wanted. But after three months, he clearly no longer wanted me.
Remember my last blog post about me crying at the dinner table and how Lucy succumbed to tears as well? I have guy number 2 to thank for that meltdown. I’m not angry at him, though. Even when we broke up, I thanked him for reminding me what it was like to feel that way again. After so much rejection in the prior year, I was reacquainted with warm fuzzy feelings that can only be felt by a growing possibility of love.
But boy, did it hurt. And because of it, I have never been so guarded with my heart like I am now. I let him in, and I only did so because he made me feel that we were on the same page the whole way through. Somewhere along the way and unbeknownst to me, we deviated. And all I was left with were unanswered questions and a battered heart.
So this brings us back to the other guys, which I’d say the rejection ratio was about 70% (them)/30% (me), or we equally saw that it wasn’t worth either of our time. Out of that 70%, a third of them made it pretty clear in one way or another that the kids’ situation was more or less a deal breaker. It wasn’t always right away, but eventually they made it known. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions as to what that means.
The root of any frustration or heartache I may have experienced can be understood in a summarized statement I’ve been told over and over again:
“I think you’re great. You’re funny, you’re smart, you’re a cool mom, you’re attractive, you’re easy to talk to and get along with, BUT….”
You get the picture. It almost always boils down to the kids.
Just think about that for a second. I am told all these great things as consolation for the fact that my two children are the reason why I’m not good enough for them. Again, I know that throwing yourself into a situation with someone else’s kids is a lot and not everyone is ready for that. But I’m constantly reminded that my motherhood—something that will NEVER go away, something so apart of me—is the reason why I’m not desirable. Let’s face it: to them, my stock plummets the second they find out I have kids.
But I disagree. My kids have made me a better person. They have enriched my life in ways only a parent will understand. They’re easily the best thing about me. And I think anyone would be lucky to have me, and eventually all three of us in their life.
Interestingly enough, I’ve remained friends with a few of the guys I went on some of these dates with. I use the term 'friend' loosely in that I wouldn’t call them in a crisis but we chat here and there. We may have hung out once or twice again, and it’s friendly; but we know what it is and what it isn’t. And if you’re one of those few reading this: I’m not bitter towards you. Don’t worry, friend ;)
Anyways. The apps have been deleted for a while now with no intention of jumping back on.
With a heavy, relieved sigh I say, “Thanks, Universe. You have made it abundantly clear I will be a single mom for a very long time.” And in the same breath I also say, “That is perfectly fine with me.”
Today was a shitty day.
[By the time you’re reading this, it has been at least a couple months since this has happened.…]
But today I came home drained from numerous things, and as I will occasionally do before I see the kids I will allow myself the alone time I have in my car drive home to expel the frustration out of me. (That’s just a fluffy way of saying I cried. A LOT.) Not even five minutes of being home, Lucy told me that Jackson lost the $5 allowance I just gave him at school today. This isn’t news I want to hear when I’m in a good mood, let alone a terrible one.
So I yelled.
I let my emotions come over me as I sometimes do. I didn’t even let Jackson finish explaining to me the whole story as to why he would leave money laying around at his school. I didn’t care. He was careless with his money (a conversation that is not unfamiliar with these two kids), and I just didn’t want to hear any more of it. Before he ran upstairs in tears, he mumbled in broken words, “I knew you would be mad at me.”
And just like that, I’m a monster of a mom.
The wave of guilt washes over me because I just yelled at the sweetest human being I know. He is a kid, and he did something stupid; but I know that my reaction was fueled because I was already in a bad mood. And as I’m scooping dinner onto their plates I’m letting all of it sink in. I call the kids down and we silently eat dinner together. Lucy, being the only one of cheerful nature, is trying to have conversations with anyone who will engage. Jack and I are pulled away. We give quiet one-word answers. This all occurs to me and so I hide my face in my hands trying to pull myself together. I think I have succeeded until Lucy notices the tears starting to form but not yet fall from my eyes as I lift my head up.
“Mommy, your eyes are watery.”
“I know, baby. I’m ok.”
Except when I turn my head to the side and look out the kitchen window a tear escapes. And so I just stare out the window until I feel I can look my daughter in the face again without losing complete control of my emotions. That is, until Lucy breaks the silence….and my heart.
With real pain in her voice she bellows, “Mommy, you’re making me cry!”
If you could only hear how she said this to me. It was like she couldn’t understand why she was crying. It was as if she had absolutely no control over her emotions as well. She saw her mother sitting across the table trying (unsuccessfully) to fight back tears, and in that moment felt my pain in such a way that she was moved to tears.
It was a moment of empathy that we had never experienced with each other before. I mean, certainly I have hurt from her hurting, but it has never been the other way around.
I summoned her to my lap and I held her. And we cried.
It was the kind of crying where your chest jack hammers up and down with staccato-like breaths, and you force your eyes shut because no matter how hard you want to stop crying your body has different plans. Gently grabbing her face, I looked her in the eyes asked her why she was crying to which she replied, “I don’t know.”
But I know why. She’s my daughter. She is a direct extension of my being and this was further proof of it. In addition to my sassy attitude, easily tan-able skin, love of doughnuts, and dancing, Lucy has inherited my empathetic/extremely emotional nature. The latter has never occurred to me until this evening. Even with her sweet side I kind of always thought Lucy was just a sometimes-callous-baby-boss-lady who liked to pick on her big brother and get him in trouble whenever the opportunity presented itself. Tonight, she revealed in a somewhat involuntary way that she is capable of empathy (at the ripe old age of 6, I might add.)
This whole experience made me evaluate my emotional interactions with my kids. I’ve always tried to be very careful about not letting the kids see me cry. There were definitely times where I had to lie and say that “something was in my eye.” But now that they’re older and picking up on things they can tell when mommy is legitimately sad or upset about something. And to be quite honest, I don’t feel like lying to them about that stuff anymore. Am I going to tell them what I’m crying about? No. But I don’t think it’s the worst thing for them to see me sad. I don’t want my kids to grow up with unrealistic or unhealthy views of how to express themselves.
I have heard (and also believed) at one time that mothers need to continually put on a brave face in front of their kids. But jeez, don’t we have enough pressure as moms/parents? Now I have to be a robot that shows no emotion in front of my kids? I can’t.
I’m not saying I will have a full blown meltdown…(ok, excluding the one this blog post focuses on). But I have hard time believing that sheltering my kids from my emotions is actually doing more good than harm. Crying, sadness, frustration: those are all a part of life. If they don’t learn how to manage those feelings they are going to have a very hard time in this world. Crying is not unfamiliar to me in any situation. I am an extremely sentimental person. I freakin’ cried at an Applebee’s commercial for Christ’s sake. And no, I wasn’t pregnant at the time.
As a *proud* emotional person I have cried when I’m overly joyous, laughed too hard, become way too frustrated, and of course, when my heart hurts.
Contrary to popular and misguided belief, emotional people are not crazy people. Just ask my psychiatrist - (just kidding, lame joke).
I strongly believe emotional people have qualities that allow for living a better life.
Because emotional people are so in tune with our feelings, we know how to adjust our expectations.
We know how to read people.
Our intuition is on point.
We are deep thinkers, with deep hearts.
We can be our authentic selves. No suppression of who we are.
Empathy makes us feel. It's what makes us human.
It’s who I am. And I have learned to love this part of me.
Now don’t think for a second I forgot about Jackson. Because after I calmed Lucy down I motioned Jackson to sit on my lap and I apologized to him for yelling. He was still in trouble for having been so thoughtless with his money, but I should have toned the yelling down a bit. I owned up to it.
I always do.
I will always apologize after some time has passed for losing my temper. Even though I'm a strong proponent of feeling your feels, there is an appropriate way of expressing them. I know I don't always handle my emotions the way I should, but I recognize that and try to do better. I have always found it confusing when people are upset with you and then moments later pretend that nothing happened without some sort of acknowledgement for their anger; whether it is through an apology or just simply talking things out. So my approach is to always acknowledge my emotional reaction with the kids. It’s the easiest way to say “I’m over it, let’s move on. Mommy loves you.”
Naturally, in true sweetheart Jackson fashion, he apologized and said “I’m going to make it up to you, mom.”
To which I responded with a kiss on the forehead, a smile on my face, and the reassurance to him that everything is ok.
It’s a Friday night, and I’m sautéing squash while he is making Velveeta macaroni and cheese on the stove next to me. He let himself into the house after picking the kids up from school while I was still on my way home from work. There was time to spare before meeting up with some friends at a concert in the city, so he stayed to help cook dinner for the kids. He is my ex-husband, and father to Jackson and Lucy.
Yes, you read that correctly.
For about 45 minutes my ex-husband and I chatted it up. He showed me his progress on his new fitbit, filled me in on what’s going on with work, and we exchanged stories about recent happenings all while cooking a meal for our kids. Because no matter what has happened to us as a couple, Jackson and Lucy will always be our kids. We will always be a family. And even though we haven’t always agreed on everything, you can be sure as shit we see eye-to-eye on our family dynamic. Of course we worried at first whether it would be too confusing for the kids if we still did family stuff together, but it really has been quite successful.
This, my friends, is what you call “Co-Parenting.” For us, this has included (but not limited to):
Having family dinner together
Getting breakfast together
Having a shared Google Calendar with the detailed schedules (and constantly updating/discussing over the phone)
Attending our kids’ extracurricular activities together
It’s implementing the same house rules
Giving him a ride somewhere
Feeding my dog when I can’t make it home on time
Going Trick-or-Treating together
Opening Christmas presents together
Going shopping for the kids on the other’s behalf
It’s celebrating the kids’ birthdays together instead of having separate birthday parties
It’s a lot of compromise and accommodation.
It’s saying, “sure, I’ll take them tonight so you can go out.”
It’s asking, “hey, I would like to go on this trip. Can we work something out so I can go?”
It’s offering to take the kids a bit longer on a Sunday morning because we both know how rough it is to watch kids while hungover. (Fellow parents: am I right or am I right?)
It’s apologizing for forgetting something and offering many thanks to the other for picking up the slack.
It’s knowing the other person is having a shit day and asking if there’s anything we can do to help.
It’s constantly showing our appreciation.
It’s saying, “thank you for (this) and (that).”
It’s sending a message on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day and saying how great of a parent they are.
It’s texting our frustrations about how the kids are acting up, but then days later marveling at the two little people we created and saying, “we have great children. we did good.”
What all this translates to is that we still have each other’s back. His success is my success. My success is his success. Our success is our family’s success – even if we’re in separate households.
See, there are these mythical lands called Maturity and Adulthood. You might have heard of them. When it comes to divorced couples it can be rather difficult to experience these fantasy-like places. People seem to take a lot of detours on the way there and never quite actually make it. They get too distracted by things of trivial nature…
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Look at this self-righteous bitch…” Well, let me stop you there. In the beginning it wasn’t always easy to be so nice and accommodating. And if we were, it was probably behind fake smiles and uttered offenses. But I can honestly say that we are in a place now where favors are returned with genuine intent. We still vent to each other about our daily frustrations, we share good news with each other, and we collaborate on our shared kid responsibilities.
Why? Because we have to be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives. Hatred and pettiness is exhausting. We have nothing to gain from it. But this is also our story and personal experience. I’m not going to sit here on a high horse and tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do in whatever similar situation they’re in. But for us, being the best parents we can be means getting along. It’s a strange dynamic, because I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily friends (I mean, maybe?), but we’re certainly not enemies. We’re not indifferent to each other; in fact, we care very much about the other’s well-being and happiness.
It really took a lot of work and soul-searching on our parts to get to this point. At almost 31, this isn’t where I saw myself in life. Divorced with 2 kids isn’t usually on the life trajectory but I will say that I am thankful every day for the relationship I have with Jackson and Lucy’s father. Divorce just plain sucks, and co-parenting can be hard sometimes but you know what’s even harder? A life full of hate and negativity. My kids are not going to know that life. We refuse to let that be their reality.
There are, I believe, 5 or 6 types of love described by the Greeks and one of them is Agape. If I break it down enough, I think this is the kind of love that he and I have for each other. It’s a love that wants nothing but the best for the other person. When he has gone through some rough situations I am still the person he calls or texts, and vice versa. When I have been down, he has checked in on me to make sure I’m ok. If he has needed help with anything, I have been there to support him to ease up whatever is burdening him. Sure, there have been times we felt inconvenienced by the other but we both know that any problem either of us experiences can have a ripple effect to other, and most importantly the kids. We can’t just throw our hands in the air and say, “not my problem.” For us, this doesn’t work and it shouldn’t for anyone who has created a family together. We are still a unit; it’s just that the dynamics have changed a bit.
I don’t know if I would say we’re necessarily “lucky” for the type of relationship we have as divorced parents, or if it’s that we consciously choose to be this way, or even better: it just comes naturally to us. But in either case, my number one priorities are those awesome little humans who simultaneously drive me bat-shit crazy and make my heart burst with love. And I know that is a sentiment he and I agree on unequivocally.
It feels good to be back. I don’t just mean blogging. But as a person who feels back to her normal self. You see, some of you might not know this but years ago I suffered from pretty bad postpartum depression. Unfortunately, the depression went undiagnosed for longer than it should have, and eventually it spiraled into an on-and-off-again dysfunctional relationship. It was always like trying to play catch up with how much happiness it had taken away from my life. I was trying to chase down that happy Jessica who used to exist. I sought out professional help in addition to taking anti-depression/anxiety medicine. I went through several years as a victim of depression. But for the first time in what seems like a very long time I have picked myself up and walked out of that isolated room of darkness. I broke up with Depression - the self-absorbed asshole who sucks the life out of you.
I found that after I removed myself from situations that were draining me I could see the proverbial light. It took some time, but I got there. Well, here. I got here - a place of self-actualizing happiness, comfort in who I am as a mom and person. I haven’t been on my medication (Welbutrin) for almost a year and I took a risk in self-(un)medicating.* So far, so good.
There’s this general misconception that 30 is something to be feared, but I’m actually excited for my thirties. I believe in fresh starts and that’s exactly how I’m approaching this age. Your twenties are when you can do a lot of immature shit but can still be considered an “adult." You get a lot of free passes because, well, you’re still so young. What do we know at 25 anyway? Not much. We think we know, and we try really really hard to have our lives figured out. Then you’re 30 and you realize it’s perfectly okay to not have it figured out. When I turned 30 I reevaluated some things:
Pssshhh.....I got this.
When 2016 began I sought out to make that year my “Year of Yes, Year of Jess” (insert eye roll). It was a self-proclamation to turn my life around, come hell or high water. I was fortunate enough to attend 3 music festivals, more than a handful of local concerts, and a few other random trips. I made some new friends all while nurturing the current bonds I have with my existing group of friends. But I think the most valuable gift of 2016, (and this is going to be so unbearably cheesy), is that I learned to be happy on my own.
Okay, let's not over exaggerate here. I learned to be happier on my own. Let me tell you something. This is not an easy thing to do. Not for me at least – someone who has been accustomed to being codependent for most of her adult life. To clarify, I don't think I am destined to be alone forever. I happen to think I make a great companion. But I'm learning that being happy alone is a lot like being happy in a relationship with another person. You have to learn how to effectively support yourself, communicate with yourself, love yourself, and treat yourself with kindness and compromise. Many times we don’t learn how to do any of those things until we’re forced into the situation as a result of solitude. And look, I’m not 100% there but I am definitely on the right path.
It takes time.
I began 2017 with an open heart and an open mind. When I think of where I was years ago up to the very beginning of 2016, I can remember how much anxiety and little self-worth I harbored. It wasn’t a great time for me. With the help of my friends and family I began to see that I was not the person I was so convinced that I was. Your mind can really play tricks on you. Your heart can blind you. You can literally be your own worst enemy and I have learned that through hard lessons. (I apparently love to learn the hard way.) Only my closest friends and family could attest to this, but I have made a lot of progress. And I’m proud of myself. I would like to think they would be too. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to thank them…..
Thank you. Thank you for sticking by me at my worst. Thank you for always encouraging me to see what you see. Thank you for constantly trying to pull my head out of my ass.
We all know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, a great village will continue to raise you up even in your adult years. The nurturing doesn't have to end just because we're not in diapers. I have been extremely fortunate to have a community of people in my corner through every crisis and triumph. My number one goal as a mom is to ensure that my kids have that same community. I want them to know and feel that love and support. I struggled at the beginning of motherhood to be what I considered a "good mom", but had it not been for my village I'm not really sure how I would have made it through.
Those were some rough times. And it's true that when you feel you have hit rock bottom there really is no where else to go but up. I know now that my happiness is mine to own. I have that power. No one else. So whether it's in my dirty white chucks, my hippie toe-sandals, or my Steve Madden booties I am taking the next steps in the right direction to self-rediscovery.....and that's forward.
*if you are on anti-depression/anxiety medication ask your doctor first about weening off of the meds. It can lead to serious side effects.