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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Even moms need their mommies

Adriennes blog 5 bird pic

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.

Adriennes blog 5 bird flying pic