My Own Stages: A Mom's Look at Divorce
While scanning the divorce section at the library, a punch in the gut memory comes to me. I’ve just gotten home from the same library, only this time I’m carrying my infant son and several parenting books. I only need to glance at a few of the back covers, where I see a male author grinning at me, to automatically hurl those books across the room. A quick peruse of a couple more, that state my baby should be sleeping through the night by now, get those books chucked as well. I make a vow right there and then to never trust a smiley-faced “expert” over myself when it comes to my life.
Six years later, I see there are still plenty of experts out there who will not only tell me how to get divorced, but how I should feel about doing so. From my quick scan, I glean that I am supposed to pass through three stages: denial, adjustment, and acceptance and that my children may become ill-adjusted adults who are unable to form healthy relationships. Once again, I have to trust myself over the “experts.” Since my separation in January, my son and daughter have not acted out nor disengaged with me, their father, their friends or any other people in their life. As for me, I’ve passed through many stages, none of them being the prescribed three. Here are a few of them.
Purging. Along with divorce, comes the need for change and I need it now. Any big idea that floats through my muddled brain is implemented immediately. Chopping off all of my hair, giving away half of my possessions, a service project in Guatemala, and dating a man twelve years younger than me are a few of these changes. The verdict is still out on which ones were actually good decisions.
Liberation. I love having the bed all to myself. I love having every other weekend to sleep in, see friends, and oh yes, date several men at the same time (yes, the young one is still included here). Freeing myself from my marriage allows me to feel more alive and present and I am sure I am a better mother for it. I believe I am the bravest, healthiest woman alive.
Turmoil. Sleeping alone sucks. Insomnia kicks in and with every 2:00 a.m. wake up comes an onset of fears. What if someone tries to break in? How am I going to afford being a single mom of two kids on my meager writer’s salary? Will I find love again? What if the hot water heater explodes right now and I have to go to the emergency hot water heater store, but the kids are sleeping and they have school tomorrow, so I can’t watch over them and also clean up the mess while ….
Mother’s little helpers. Along with Simply Sleep sleeping pills, I become very fond of gin, wine and chocolate.
3. I start to view the world in threes rather than fours. I set three plates every night for dinner. I am the third wheel when I stow away in the back of my friend’s car so I can accompany her and her husband on their date night. I am the third person in a world filled with twos and fours and it makes me feel as if I am missing a limb.
Stalker. Being alone takes it’s toll and I decide I need to talk to other women. Whenever someone mentions they are divorced, separated, or otherwise a single mom, I stalk them. The woman at Trader Joe’s who bags my groceries, my son’s teacher, and a woman who comes to one of my readings, are a few of the kind souls who finally submit to my pleas of joining me for a drink. Once I have them captive in my car, I say, “How can something that is so right be so hard? Why am I so confused?”
These women share their wisdom with me and continually reassure me that I am not only fine, my children are as well. Although I feel as if I am flailing and always rushing from one thing to the next, they remind me that I am still able to focus on what is important. My kids and I eat dinner together every night I have them, I still read to them before bed and cuddle, and am able to get them to and from school relatively on time. That we eat mac and cheese three nights in a row is arbitrary, what matters is we talk and laugh and make eye contact while eating the orange goo.
Yes, it is busy being the only adult in the home, but it has given me the chance to elicit the kid’s help. They set the table, make their own lunches, and get themselves ready in the morning. Rather than feeling burdened by these new responsibilities, my three and six-year-old are proud and squeal, “Look what I did Mama!”
And every hurdle I face, allows me to feel the same way. After mowing the lawn and fixing the overflowing toilet, I beam and say, “Look what I can do!”
Some days are messy and I know that will always be true. I do not expect to be perfect, nor do I expect my children to be so. I merely hope we can continue to grow and learn. I hope our lines of communication always remain open and that every day I make a connection, even if it’s brief, with both of my children. And whether we are laughing and dancing in the kitchen or crying and slamming doors, I know this is the stage we need to be in now.
Corbin Lewars (corbinlewars.com) is the author of the memoir Creating a Life (Catalyst Book Press, 2010) and the sexy mommy-lit book Swings (out for submission). She is the creator of the zine Reality Mom. She lives in Ballard with her two children.