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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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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Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

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.

GivingMyselfAwayCover

Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

Available at Barnes and Noble in paperback and Nook format

Your family stickers make me feel bad

Adriennes blog 7 sticker family picHi, I’m Adrienne, the sometimes bitter divorcee.  I’m sitting behind you at a red light and I have to stare at your happy family outlined in glaring white decals on the back of your minivan:  Dad with his grilling tools, you with your shopping bags, and your sporty boy and girl, flanked by an obnoxiously cute dog.  Yes, I get it:  Your family is perfect.  Intact.  Whole.

I’m not going to put my family layout on my car because what would that look like, with me on one side, my ex and his new wife, her three kids, and their new baby on the other, and our two kids pasted to the middle, halfway between us?  Maybe we could even put my ex’s new wife’s ex somewhere on there too?  Who can keep up?  The whole lot of us are a family of some sort, but it’s not the kind you brag about.

Let’s be real:  I know your family isn’t perfect even if it is really great.  Even if your marriage is going strong, you’ve faced hardship and strife.  Your kids may be wonderful, but I’m sure they drive you around the bend at least some of the time.  Maybe your stickers are just your way of showing how grateful you are for the best parts of your life.

But I feel like you’re showing off.  Your family is superior to mine because you have a spatula-wielding dad in the picture.  It’s your right to decorate your car however you wish, but keep in mind all the families who are families, even if there are no kids, even if a parent or child has died, even if the grandparents are raising the child, even if the family configuration is one of many other scenarios that don’t play out well in stick-figure form.

You can read about my family, a little worse for the wear, but definitely not broken, in Giving Myself Away, coming soon from Assent Publishing.  Thanks for visiting, and please let me know how you feel about family stickers.

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Even moms need their mommies

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The kids and I recently found a baby bird lying on the side of my parents’ driveway.  It was probably old enough to fly, at least a little bit, but it wasn’t moving very much.  I didn’t say it to my children, but I thought it was dying.  A few hours later when we were leaving, the bird was gone.  “It flew away!” the boys exclaimed.

I’ll never know whether my mother moved the bird so they would think that, but I didn’t ask her.  I wanted to believe it flew away too.  I still wanted my mom to take care of me.  When you get married, you feel like such a grownup.  When you get divorced, you need your mommy again.

All the things I did when I got married made me feel like an adult.  Referring to “my husband,” signing the papers to buy a house, giving our first dinner party – I believed I had crossed some threshold into adulthood, never to return to dependence on my parents.

But when Drew left, I suddenly felt like a little girl again.  Getting up to make breakfast for my kids, I felt like a fraud – like I was trying on my mom’s makeup and heels – even though I had made them breakfast a thousand times before.  When I made an appointment with an attorney to represent me in the divorce, I wanted to bring my parents with me.  I realized that wouldn’t look very mature, and I reluctantly went alone.

A spouse fills so many spaces left open by parents.  My husband gave me reassurance that I was loved, like my dad.  He told me my outfit was perfect on the first day of my new job, like my mom.  He let me be the baby sometimes when life seemed too much and I wanted to stay in bed rather than get up and fulfill my adult responsibilities.

When you’re suddenly the only parent in the house, it can be scary.  I have to pay all the bills.  I have to decide who to call when the pipe bursts.  I have to tell my kids, no, they can’t watch that movie that “everyone else” saw.  The worst is those late nights when one of your children is sick.  No, the worst is those late nights when you’re sick AND your kids are sick.

The fact is, getting divorced made me grow up much more than getting married ever did.  Getting married meant going from the support system of my parents to that of my husband.  Getting divorced meant I was finally going to have to figure it out on my own.  Luckily, my parents are only an hour away, and my mom still lets me be a kid sometimes, even if it’s just preserving the fantasy that nothing bad happens to baby birds.

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Someone has to wear the pants…

Adriennes blog 2 wedding dress pic Hi, I’m Adrienne.  I’ve been a single mom for a while now, but sometimes the reality hasn’t quite sunk in. Last night I had this dream that I’m going to marry a woman.  I feel disappointed when she tells me I have to wear a pantsuit for the wedding…  I wanted to wear the dress.

“Couldn’t we both wear a dress?”  I asked.

“No, someone has to wear the pants,” she said.

I’m often the one wearing the pants.  Who else is going to deal with the spiders and the clogged drains and the lawnmower now that there’s no man in the house?

It’s not all bad.  I realized I can handle a lot more than I ever thought I could.

What do you do now that you didn’t have to before?  I’ll tell you all my favorite chores on my “Things for Which it Would be Helpful to Have a Husband” list in Giving Myself Away, my story coming out this fall.

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Why it’s great to be single

Adriennes blog 1 trash can picHi, I’m Adrienne.  I know I’m getting over this whole divorce thing because some mornings I actually wake up and feel relieved to be single.  I love to make lists.  My favorite kind of list is the one you write when you’re feeling really upbeat and motivated – the kind I fold up and tuck in a drawer to look at later on the days I’m feeling anything but upbeat.  Here’s the latest:

Things you don’t have to worry about anymore when you’re single:

  1. whether or not I snore when I sleep on my back
  2. who’s going to take out the trash (I already know it’s going to be me, so there’s no one to nag)
  3. consulting anyone else on what I decide to buy
  4. not having to share the closets or the dresser anymore
  5. ???

Help me out here… what would you add to my list that’s great about being single?  I don’t want to sound all bitter about marriage or anything, but really, we need to make the best of our situation and enjoy the good parts.

I hope you’ll want to read all about how I ended up where I am in Giving Myself Away (coming out this fall!).

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