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My Own Stages: A Mom's Look at Divorce

January 11, 2010
67 Comments

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.

67 Comments

I think this is so TRUE. I've been reading the books and was thinking "where do they talk about getting rid of all your underwear?" Because the minute I made that decision that this was really OVER I wanted new underwear - I didn't want to be sitting across from him at the mediators, or meeting at the gym for swim class and know that he could very well KNOW what underwear I have on.

I'm a counselor, and I get calls all the time from moms seeking counseling for their kids who are teenagers and angry "for no apparent reason". After a little probing, I find out that the parents are divorced, most of them divorced when the kids were very young. When I ask about this, the moms say that the kids seemed to take the divorce reasonably well and never had any emotional problems when they were little. I just have to shake my head, having heard this same scenario way too many times...

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Simply Beautiful. I went through all those stages and now as I look back I love being independent. Advice for women going through divorce; "Don't fight what is bound to happen!" Instead use your energy to strengthen your self-esteem & self-reliance. Believe me, you'll need it in years to come.

31 yr. old Mother of 2

Corbin,
When my children were 5 1/2 and barely 3 years old, I filed for divorce. The "children" are now 32 & 30 years old, and thriving, which is not to say they are problem-free, but who is. I've written a book about our experience of my divorce that took me to court until they went to college; it's called RAISING THEM ALONE (available at Amazon). My point is, I found divorce created opportunities for me to learn about myself and my child, and it sounds like you are, too...

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Thank you so much for this Corbin! I separated over 1.5 yrs ago and have been divorced a little over a year. I experienced much of what you mentioned here and steered clear from "expert advice" and looked within and to the support of wise sister-friends for guidance. I had an additional stage though-I really struggled w a combination of shame and pride. Shame because not only did I leave my marriage but I did so while expecting...

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Thank you, Shanna for talking about the children! As a child from a divorced family, I can tell you that I wish my parents had worked through their issues through counseling rather than simply walking away because it was "easier and freeing"...

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It's so good to read this! I am in the process of divorcing from my husband and I have two boys ages 7 and 9. I was so worried about the effects the divorce would have on them and to my great surprise, they are wonderful! They are happy and healthy and well adjusted. Granted I did have them see a child Psychologist for 6 months just to make sure I wasn't ruining their lives. We are happier and I am sure I made the best decision. Now if I could just find the time to go out on a few dates.

Thank you for telling all mothers who find themselves alone that there is hope and that they will get on the other side of the breakup of their marriage. I thought that I had known pain when I lost both my mother and father - but I had not. When my husband of nearly 25 years left I thought I would die - and I would have welcomed it. I felt as if half of my physical body had been ripped away - I felt detached from reality. I could not focus on my own needs let alone the needs of my children...

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My divorce was finalized 2 years ago. I am not sure how many stages I went through to be honest with you..I just know that when my husband left me and the kids (daughter 3 years and son 9 months) I went from being a stay at home mom to having to find work overnight due to no support from him in regards to the kids. He was mean and harassing because I wanted to go through counseling and he wanted to move on to greener pastures without any strings...

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I'm forty and a daughter of divorced parents. I am thankful that my parents divorced when they did and often wonder why it didn't happen earlier, a question my mom has answered but not well. Teens that are angery for no apperent reason is normal, puberty sucks! I'm with Beth on the better role model. Because of my parents divorce I was better preparred for my marriage. I willing to fight for it but also know I'm not trapped either...

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Brilliant Corbin and thank you so much. I too have been going through a divorce now for 1 year and I wonder how my kids will turn out and how it is effecting the 3 youngsters but we really are doing well and doing exactly what we were doing when their father was here. I still run them around and basically do all the caring for them, that didnt change and so life seems fairly normal to them...

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I am a therapist of 15 years and have been with my husband 13 years. We are currently divorcing and my sons are 9 and 7. My seven year old has special needs and although I agree that there are possible consequences to divorce in teenagers I believe that living in a battlefilled household is even more damaging and has worse consequences. Everyone has to find their own path and no woman goes into marriage wanting to get divorced even those of us that do get divorced...

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The most beautiful thing I hear all of you saying is that you made the decision to listen to and validate yourselves! Stories like these empower women, and myself, to follow our/my own inner guidance. This may be one of the most powerful lessons you can gift your children!

I find this article somewhat encouraging, but sad at the same time. I have watched my parents fo through divorce as an adult. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. I am happily married and live a great life and still watching my parents split is very hard. I have felt sorry for young children who have to grow up in this...

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My husband and I are separated now. Well he lives in the basement. And I know divorce is comming. I have 2 girls 17 and 10. While my 17yr old is very supportive my 10 yr old is very angry with everyone. I think she is why I have been stalling to file. I am scared for her. My husband does not believe in counseling so won't let her go. This is a very confusing and frustrating time for her and I.

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