We are not a broken family

I have been heading a single-parent family for nearly six years now. I am a teacher, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in meetings and conferences while others lamented the fact that we have to deal with “broken families.” I think it’s a hurtful phrase and one that I’ve had to work hard to overcome. My family is not broken. While maintaining our family’s privacy, I will just say divorce was not a decision that was taken lightly.

My ex-husband and I have made many compromises and more importantly, made peace with each other, in order to be the best co-parents possible for our kids. Yes, there are differences in our parenting styles, but we discuss all major decisions and are in general agreement on the important things. We face the same issues we would have been dealing with if we were still married.

Just because a children’s parents are divorced, it doesn’t have necessarily mean the family is broken. Broken to me means deficient in a way that is beyond repair. We may not have two parents living together in the same house, but I still consider my ex and his family my family and I always will.

We are bound together for the rest of our lives by our two children, and I want to make the best of it. I am happy that it’s not awkward or painful to sit together at recitals or meet up to go trick-or-treating. We will not have to sit in separate rows when our children graduate or get married.

Although it’s a sad statement about our society that the divorce rate is so high, the most practical way to help children is to give them a sense of family no matter what its makeup. I support the institution of marriage. When it works, it’s a beautiful partnership. But there are other types of families that work too. We may not look like the Pajamagram picture above, but we’re still a whole, beautiful family!

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices.

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Do you give your ex a Father’s Day gift?

 

The first few years after our divorce, I attempted to ignore Father’s Day as I dropped off the kids to spend the day with their dad. But as time has healed the pain of our failed marriage, I found myself wanting to acknowledge his continuing role in my life: the co-parent of our children.

I’ve decided to let go of things that disappoint me and celebra te what he means to the kids. They adore him and I believe that showing my appreciation boosts his confidence and shows our kids that they don’t have to fear they are “taking sides” by wholeheartedly and unreservedly loving their dad.

I am grateful that we are the kind of divorced parents who can peaceably go to parent-teacher night together, who can sit side by side at sports events, and who can talk without getting into the blame game.

Last year, I went through old pictures and made my ex a little photo album of our kids. He had very few baby photos because I seem to be the keeper of family history, so I knew it would be something he’d like. I felt I had reached a new place of acceptance that I could look at those photos without feeling angry, sad, wistful, or any other negative emotion. Instead, they reminded me that we had two beautiful babies who will always tie us together. We aren’t married anymore, but we will always be linked through our children, and maybe someday our grandchildren.

Now I can wish him Happy Father’s Day and mean it, and I can look for ways to let him know all year that I value his role in our children’s lives.

If you like reading about families, parenting, divorce and tough decisions, please check out my novel Giving Myself Away, available now.

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The only adult in the house

Adriennes blog 19 washing machine picHi, I’m Adrienne and I’m the only adult in my house.  Most of the time, I’m okay with that.  I get all the closet space, no one steals my stash of Oreos (that I keep too high up for the kids to notice), and the toilet seat is never up in the middle of the night.

Other times, it’s really hard.  I’ve lived on my own with no problem, but there’s something about having kids in the house that raises the stakes.  If there were a break-in or a fire, it’s not affecting only me anymore.  When there’s a tornado warning or a flood watch, it’s all on me to keep the kids out of harm’s way as best I can.

When Drew first moved out, I woke up countless nights to every little noise, convinced that something awful was happening.  Someone was trying to creep in the basement windows or pick the lock on the front door.  I’d startle awake, my heart pounding, and grab my cell phone.  But who to call?  After listening and sitting so still that all I could hear was the blood rushing though my head, I’d eventually calm down and realize it was just a noise like all houses make.

Then there are the times a major appliance breaks down.  I’ve had to figure out how to turn off the electricity and the water because pipes have leaked, the washing machine has become unbalanced, and the furnace made a scary sound.  Men probably feel intimidated about certain home repairs too, but they have a more exploratory nature, whereas I assume that anything I touch is going to break down even further with my intervention.

Growing up, I learned how to change the sheets and cook and iron and sew, but my dad didn’t teach me guy things because he never expected I’d need to know them.   As a result, I’m as unbalanced as the washer.  I don’t think of turning off the pipes to the outside faucets or cleaning the gutters because they were never in my realm of responsibility before.

I’m teaching my sons everything I know.  I hope they have someone to share the joys and responsibilities of home-ownership, but just in case, they won’t be as unprepared as I was.

Read more about my life after divorce in Giving Myself Away, available now.

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Gaining confidence as a single parent

Adriennes blog 18 suitcase picI did not sign up to be a single parent.  I expected I was going to have a partner with me to see through the raising of our children.  Yes, their father is actively part of their lives, but we don’t do our job of parenting together anymore.

At first, it was overwhelming.  Parents with partners can tag-team so that when one is wiped out, he or she can step out of the ring for a few minutes to regain energy and composure.  When you’re a single parent, you’re on all the time.  You might be able to hand off kids to a grandparent for a few hours, but you’re still the chief decision-maker.

Early after Drew moved out, I decided to take Tyler and Nicky out for dinner, just the three of us.  It was a disaster.  Nicky was sulking about something and didn’t want to order, so I picked macaroni and cheese from the kids’ menu for him, which I figured he probably would have ordered anyway.  Just to be contrary, he said he didn’t want macaroni and cheese (after the waitress had already taken our order and walked away).  I said, “tough, you’re having macaroni and cheese.”

Tyler, the peacemaker, was upset that we were arguing, burst into tears, and knocked over his juice trying to hug me across the table.  This led to even more tears.  By the end of the meal, all of us had cried at least once.  I can only imagine that our waitress and the people at nearby tables looked at us with either pity or scorn:  Look at that pathetic single mom.  She can’t handle her kids (her life!).

Since those early days, we’ve developed a partnership that works.  Nicky and Tyler and I are now a family that feels complete.  There are plenty of families where the parents are married, but a spouse has to work long hours away from home or serve overseas in the military.  There are stay-at-home moms and dads who have to take three kids to the grocery store and clean the house and cook, all while keeping an eye on little ones.  I’m not alone and I’m not a pity case.

Our latest adventure was an overnight trip on our own to an unfamiliar city.  This was a big step for me, the person who couldn’t even handle a night at a restaurant on my own.  I took lots of time to plan our route (no navigator to help me in the car), packed our bags (no one to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything), and prepared for missteps (there were a few).  But we had a great time and it built my confidence as a parent.  I’m a parent, not a single parent.  And we are a family, not a one-parent family.

You can read more about my life after divorce in Giving Myself Away, available now.

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Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

What were you happiest your ex took with him in the divorce?

Adriennes blog 15 brown recliner picHi, I’m Adrienne.  I’m one of those people who likes to make lists.  You’ll find them stashed in drawers, hanging in the kitchen cabinets, and in the reminders app on my phone.  Not all of my lists are things to do.  Some of them are things to be grateful for.  There’s a list I pull out from my jewelry box every now and then when I’m feeling sorry for myself about being divorced.  The paper is getting fuzzy along the edges from being folded and unfolded so many times, but I’m happy to say I don’t need to look at this list as often as I used to.

Things I’m happy Drew took with him in the divorce:

  1. His hideous brown recliner.  You know the chair, the one that comes with you into your marriage.  You know it’s a bad idea to let him bring it with him, but you’re so happy to be pulling your separate lives together that you overlook that chair.  It might be a hand-me-down from his parents or he might have picked it up at the Salvation Army, but either way, it was part of his bachelor life and now it’s got memories.  Never mind the fact that it’s ugly as all get out, stained, and not even that comfortable anymore.  There’s no slipcover that’s going to make that lumpy excuse for furniture look respectable.  It doesn’t match anything else, and you just have to hope you have one of those man-cave rooms to hide it in, because it’s not going anywhere…until you get divorced, that is.
  2. His “collections.”  Beer steins, baseball cards, comic books, you name it.  The monetary value or the space it takes up is completely irrelevant.  The older his collection is, the more determined he is to keep it.  You can bet his mother can’t wait to get it out of her house.  I never saw Drew’s mom lifting such heavy stuff as the day she finally unloaded Drew’s boxes from their attic to ours.  Or maybe your man had a mother who threw out his stuff and he still resents her for it.  These are the ones to watch out for because if you so much as throw out an old receipt of theirs for a hot dog from a baseball game ten years ago, you’ve just discarded a piece of his life.
  3. His snoring.  I put up with it and I learned to sleep despite it, but wow, I’ve never slept so well in my life now that I’m single.  I can sleep on the left side of the bed, the right, or the middle, and there’s always room for me.  No one to snuggle up to, but at least it’s quiet and roomy.
  4. His clothes.  Clothes = laundry and some men never learned to unball their socks or take the stuff out of their pockets.  I’m already mom to two kids; did I really need to be his mom too.
  5. The love letters I wrote him.  I promised I’d love him forever, and of course I believed it.  Who doesn’t think their romance is the best, truest love the world has ever known?  I might be tempted to look back and get sentimental about old times I can’t recapture, but thankfully he’s removed the temptation.
  6. The petty resentment.  I spent a lot of time being mad at Drew for not doing the household things that I felt like he should be doing, such as taking the trash out, mowing the lawn, or fixing the broken vacuum cleaner.  Now there’s no one to nag but myself.  My “honey-do” lists are only for me, and I can check off the items or ignore them at will.
  7. His debt.  Some of it I was responsible for, but now that we’re divorced, what he does or doesn’t do financially can’t hurt me anymore.  There’s no one to negotiate with over what we can afford.  If I put something on the credit card, I know I’ll be the one paying for it.
  8. His pet snake, Lulubel.  Drew and his roommates bought a ball python during a drunken night of college partying, and somehow he inherited her by being last to move out of the guys’ apartment.  I will not miss weekly trips to the pet store to buy mice to sacrifice to Lulu, or the semi-regular dreams I had that she would escape and kill one of us in the night.

You might say this list sounds like sour grapes, but it gets me by on the days I miss being married, miss having the comfort of a spouse and someone to share all the joys and sorrows of life with.

What were you happiest to let go of when you and your spouse separated?

You can read more about my lists and my adventures with and without Drew in Giving Myself Away, available now.

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I was a wife, but not a person

Adriennes blog 11 wedding rings picI remember being a newlywed and feeling for the first time like I had reached adulthood.  We shared money, closet space, and friends.  Where we went, what movies we watched, and even what we ate was by consensus.  I gave up my own identity, but I was glad to trade it in for “wife,” which I thought was the mature thing to do.

My engagement and wedding rings were badges I wore proudly to mark my status to the world.  “I am married!” they announced.  I marked “Mrs.” in the little online checkboxes.

As the years went on, the novelty of being “wife” wore off and was replaced by the day-to-day routines of married life.  Drew saw me with messy hair and no makeup and ugly pajamas and he loved me anyway, but I missed being “new” and having the chance to remake myself as I matured.  We didn’t talk about it, but it became apparent that he felt the same.

We gradually moved apart, each of us trying to be our separate selves within our marriage, wanting to be not just husband and wife, but man and woman.  Some people’s marriages are fluid enough to absorb the changes of its two partners as they mature over time, while others are too fragile to withstand anyone casting aside the roles that were set in stone the day they said “I do.”

The Lebanese writer and artist Kahlil Gibran said of marriage:

“…let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love;

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

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Drew and I got married and we got divorced.  You can read all about why we didn’t make it in Giving Myself Away.

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It’s here!

Dear Readers,

Giving Myself Away is finally here, published, for real!  I am going to write as myself today rather than Adrienne… She’s funnier and sassier, but she also gets into a whole lot more trouble than I do.  I’m the one with common sense.

I highjacked Adrienne’s blog today to tell you what it means to me to be published.  Until two years ago, I would never, ever show anyone the fiction I had been writing.  It sounds funny, considering I’ve had more than a hundred articles published, but they were all nonfiction and they were observations about people around me rather than characters I had made up.

With the help of a life coach (thank you, Cathy Colangelo!), I decided to make my theme for 2013 to “Put yourself out there.”  Whenever I had a choice to make, I applied this standard and went for it in both my professional and personal life.  I joined a small group of friends and work colleagues in a writer’s critique group and I remember panicking before emailing them my first pages, but they encouraged me to send more.

Then I saw an ad in Writer’s Digest for the The Write Stuff annual conference of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.  I registered for the conference and met lots of other published and hoping-to-be published writers there.

It was here that I met Deborah Riley-Magnus, an editor for Assent Publishing who asked me to send my manuscript.  A few months later, I got a call from Les Denton, publisher at Assent, with the news that she’d like to publish my novel.

Since then, it’s been a crash course in “putting myself out there,” something that would normally be uncomfortable for me, except that I am willing to do what it takes because one of my fondest dreams from as far back as I can remember is to be able to bring others the same kind of comfort I’ve always gotten from reading.

One of the best feelings is to come home from a long day of work and know there’s a good novel waiting to get back into before bedtime.  Or to wake up early on a weekend morning, make some coffee, and let the characters envelop me in their stories.  I love finding the next book that will keep me company for a few days.

I hope you will enjoy Adrienne’s story.  She’s as real as anyone I’ve ever known and I made a promise to her that I’d do whatever I could to bring her out of my head and into other people’s hearts.

Thank you for your support.  If you’d like to purchase Giving Myself Away, here are some helpful links.  If you enjoyed it, I’d be ever so grateful for some good reviews!  The publishing market is huge, and books, like everything else, are sold by word of mouth.

Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

Coming soon to Apple iBooks, Sony Reader Store, and Kobo Books

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