Compassionate Co-Parenting

Co-parenting.Compassionate co-parenting. It sounds so Gwyneth, doesn’t it?

Compassionate co-parenting is like a decent sex-less marriage. Some days are really good and some days you just want to chop the other person up into little chunks and burn them to smithereens in the backyard. (Unrelated side note: Should I ever be on death row, my last meal would be El Palenque chips and salsa and a Shipleys’ pink frosted donut with sprinkles.) We are still living together, so I am sure things will shift a good bit when we have our own homes and a more routine schedule, but for now, you need to be nice. Nicer than you were when you were married. This past weekend, he got up with the kids and let me sleep in and I made him a cup of coffee and let him take a nap in my bed.

Co-parenting.

You need to smile and be kind. (Even if you are grinning through gritted teeth) You need to give space and not pry. (Don’t ask too many questions- it’s for your own good, I promise- and never snoop into phone or email accounts or social media) You need to respect their time and social life. (Don’t abuse your/their days with the kids) You need to be considerate when spending joint money. (We are still a one income house until July) You need to enjoy the other parent’s company enough to participate in family activities. (The smile on our kid’s faces when we are all together is totally worth the potentially awkward family dynamics.)

Co-parenting.

What I find the most difficult thing with compassionate co-parenting is the balance. You can neither hate nor love your ex-spouse. If you hate, you are bringing in negativity and resentment into the new parenting relationship. If you love, you won’t be emotionally ready to move on and re-define the parenting relationship. There is certain level of detachment that both parents must successfully reach, yet still care for the father or mother of their children in a very real and respectful way. I feel like it is walking a tightrope of emotional stability. You have to want to be around your ex-spouse enough to make family days happen and yet strong enough to walk away at the end of the day and be happy that you mutually decided on a divorce.

Co-parenting.

You loved this person once. At some point you lived a great love story with passion and commitment. At some point you planned to spend the rest of your God given days together. At some point you wanted to share that love and had a couple kids, gifting your genetic combinations with the world. You loved this person. We tend to forget that there was a beginning to our stories. It may have ended less than happily, but there was a time when you couldn’t imagine your life without this person. If you have children, you won’t. They are your family. Forever. Roles will redefine and feelings will change but you are a family. Sometimes a weird, uncomfortable, fucked-up family, but a family all the same.

Co-parenting.

Successful compassionate co-parenting, much like a successful marriage requires communication, hard work and compromise. So, if you weren’t good at it while you were hitched, you are still going to have to work your ass off at it while you are divorced. (And honestly, if you are getting a divorce- you probably were not good at it) We are not good at it. I am not good at it. Unfortunately, you don’t get to just sign along the dotted line and walk your separate ways. When there are children involved, it is never that simple. You put aside you own insecurities and petty issues and take one for the team. (Or at least you try. Oh, God, I try. I fail most of the time, but I try.)

Co-Parenting.

We filled out Packet One of the divorce papers last night. We had been getting along so well lately I really contemplated putting it off. Again. I didn’t want to rock the boat and bring up things, like a “morality clause”. I didn’t want to argue over who gets the kids on what holiday. (Just in case you were wondering, he has even years and I have odd years.) We hope to attend the holidays together, but you know, worst case scenario and all…

Co-Parenting.

We will make it through this, just like we have made it through everything else.

Failure

I went out to dinner with a friend from high school the other night. She married a man that had been head over heels her since they were 14.  They now have two adorable kids and a brand new house in the town we grew up in. She is a successful oncology PA and he is a CPA. They both do very well and are happy, but, get this- she feels like a failure.
Her words not mine.

Wtf.

She has a man who loves her deeply, two wonderful kids, a great job, a big new house in the suburbs and yet still feels like a failure. This boggles my freaking mind. I asked how it was possible that she could feel so negatively about her life and this is what she said, “I am not sure where I thought I would be by this age, but this isn’t what I thought my life would look like.”

She never thought she would end up back in her home town, a mile from her parents house with kids that would be attending the same elementary school she did. She had a ten year plan and never thought she would slow her career mid-stream to stay home with her kids. She definitely didn’t think she would have resigned to the suburbs so quickly. She had this vision of living in the cool, fancy (read rich doctors close to medical center, great schools and restaurants) area of town, pushing a stroller to a downtown festival on the weekends.

I was shocked. Stunned.

Here I am 33, nearly divorced, 2 kids, job hunting and moving back into my childhood home thinking I am the one that failed. We even said the same sentence:

Do you ever feel like you failed?”

Jinx. You owe me a margarita.

Two completely different paths have brought us both back to the same geographical location and somehow we both see ourselves as failures. This fascinates me.

I have often remarked how we are so much more alike than different. We all have similar fears and hopes. We all have struggles and pain. We all are striving for something that we cannot quite reach. We all have vices. We all have demons that we are trying to quiet. Yet, here I am with a good friend, who seems to have her shit together, and she too feels like a failure.

I think we get so caught up on other people’s Facebook lives and want that. We want the adorable kids in oversized bows and matching outfits. We want the gigantic new build with a Tahoe in the driveway. We want fabulous date nights with a handsome spouse and beach vacations with cabanas and fruity drinks. We want. We want. We want. We want this made-up image in our head. An image that we may never truly be able to define. An image of perfection that we will not be able to obtain- mainly because it’s not real. I know this because I love people. I love to get to know people. I like to know what makes them tick and what makes them happy. I hear from people all the time about their own struggles with marriage or depression or raising children. It’s hard. Life is hard and unexpected in its twists and nothing turns out quite like we want it to. But that’s okay, it’s the journey that brings us to someplace we didn’t know existed. We reach a distant land with opportunities we didn’t know we were missing out on. I feel like we are so busy planning and plotting that we miss the journey while waiting for the next destination.

I followed the path. I graduated college, got married, brought a house, had kids…I followed the fucking path and it got shot to hell. I played by the rules and I have nothing to show for it but anxiety attacks and a shitty failed marriage. But, I also two amazing kids and I am closer to my family and old friends that have known me for 20 years. That’s a different path than expected, for sure, but it’s been comforting. I am so happy to have friends I can meet me for dinner and explain how our perfect lives became such failures. It’s rare to have such honesty in our world today and I am so thankful that I made such amazing connections all those years ago. I may not have known why real, true and deep friendships would be so important, but now, I know why I work so hard to make and keep good people around me. Some day you may find yourself lonely, in the middle of a failed life, and need support from friends that understand you in a way that few people will. I am glad all those years ago I made smart decisions for the future me. Subconsciously we know what is truly important: family, deep friendships, love and grace. That’s all we need. The rest of the stuff is just a bonus.

Full Circle.

 

Holy shit. De-com-press. Holy shit. Sit. Breathe. Be aware. I am not sure what has happened with my life but here are the facts:

I spent the last 45 minutes driving around my hometown.

I spent the last 4 hours before that at a job fair for the school district I grew up in.

I am moving back into my childhood home in August when our lease is up and the divorce is final.

My daughter will be going to my old elementary school.

The weird Chinese food drive-thru is still there and I wonder if the fried rice is still crazy amazing good. They introduced me sriracha.

I am will be 5 miles away from my very favorite Mexican restaurant, which means only 5 miles from my very favorite margarita. (Although, I am not drinking right now.)

I had a great interview with the same middle school I attended.

I never ever ever expected to move back to the area.

There are a lot of Stripes gas stations here, what’s up with that?

My high school is still in the middle of a field next to the railroad tracks. I kinda hope that never changes.

I never ever ever expected to live in my parents old house.

I never ever ever thought that my life would come around so full circle.

Ever.

I am on the verge of tears. Not sure why. There is some comfort in knowing my “new” house and my kids “new” school. There is comfort in knowing my way around, although l the roads have been widened and there is SO MUCH commerce. It’s familiar and scary all at once. Part of me feels like I have failed. I have wound up in the same place I started. The EXACT same fucking place. The same precise longitude and latitude I spent 12 years of my life. Omg.

I feel like my whole world is changing and yet nothing has changed at all. It’s overwhelming and confusing and I am trying to live in the moment. I am trying to experience the anxiety and confusion and magnitude of divorce and moving and supporting myself. I am trying not to mask the feels with alcohol or xanax. I want to be here now. In the shit so when I come out the other side- it’s that much better. I don’t want to fight the tears or the sleepless nights- I want to live the human experience and that includes all the pain, sadness, fear, anxiety and excitement of my situation. You have nothing left to fear when you allow yourself to experienced it all. You know hurt and pain. You know sadness and depression. You know anxiety and self doubt and it can’t scare you anymore. Half the anxiety is the anticipation of the event, not the event itself.

So, here I am, at my very favorite mexican restaurant looking down the street that I will live off once again and thinking how weird life is. Really fucking weird. I would have never thought this would be my path and yet, here I am traversing the same damn roads.

Full circle.

Good Mom and Shitty Person.

“You’re a good mom. A shitty person, looney tunes and incredibly unbalanced, but you are a good mom.”

This is what I was told today. Honestly, I will put this in the WIN column. We can all be pretty shitty given the right circumstances. We are probably all a bit looney tunes given our cycle, amount of sleep and proximity to coffee. Incredibly unbalanced? Well, maybe just moderately unbalanced- but I have been seeing a doctor and I am working on that.

As for the “good mom” part…why, thank you!. I work my freaking ass off being a “good mom”. I get worn down, of course. My patience runs thin, sure. Some days I just want a break while I cry in the closet, this too has happened a couple of times. Lately, mommy has “been having a hard day” more than I would like, but its REAL LIFE. We have hard days and we have good days and the most beautiful thing about our days is that every 24 hours they start over. We get the chance to have a good night’s sleep and wake up with a clean slate. Every day we are afforded the opportunity to slow down, focus and make better choices.

The problem? I don’t make any money being a “good mom”, so in the midst of a divorce, my mom skills don’t rank very high on the totem pole. While being a “good mom” is a HUGE job and a grand commitment, I can’t pay the bills. I can save over $20k a year in daycare tuition- but I don’t necessarily bring home the bacon. This discrepancy is glaringly obvious while divorcing. I am working and praying to the Almighty that I will get a teaching job this August, and I cannot tell you how ready I am to support myself and the kiddos.  While I am so very grateful for the 6 years I was able to stay home with the kids, and for a husband that was happy to support us, it is important that I learn to support myself. I need my own 401K, my own savings and my own two feet to stand on.

Unless you have been there, and in my case I have been here twice- not having a way to support yourself while getting a divorce can be devastating and panic inducing. All of a sudden you have to find a career and insurance and a way to keep food on the table. You haven’t spent the last decade climbing the corporate ladder, you have been at home birthing babies, breastfeeding and rocking them to sleep. You have been scrubbing toilets, buying groceries and singing Sesame Street songs. You have been replacing toilet paper rolls, picking out preschools and cutting crusts off pb &j’s. You have been going to PTA meetings, volunteering as room mom and helping with homework. So, I certainly fucking hope that I have been a “good mom” because if this were school I would be working on my PhD in Mommyhood. This has been my job and my passion and there is a good chance it is also the reason I am loony tunes and a bit unbalanced. Yin and yang, my friends.

So, I will take it as a compliment buried in some shit meant to hurt my feelings- but a compliment nonetheless.

I am a good mom, thanks!

I love my sweet kiddos.

HATE is a 4 Letter Word

Remember that part in Crazy, Stupid, Love when Steve Carell’s character says, “ I have loved her, even when I hated her. Only you married people will understand that” ?

First of all, that is my favorite movie of all time and if you haven’t seen it, stop what you are doing and Netflix that shit now. You will thank me. Second, there is so much truth in that line. This is exactly how I feel right now. Cycles came around full circle again last night, on freaking Easter of all days, and hate is raging through my veins. Pure hatred. Hatred that makes me want to scream from this deep, guttural, primal place while shaking my fist in the air.

I stand here naked, having just gotten out of the shower after two hours at the gym and a major ugly cry fest and this intense Richter-scale level of hatred is making me smother screams of anger into my towel. I sure as hell don’t need the neighbors coming over thinking I am being murdered in my bathroom. And the most frustrating part is that I care for him so deeply as a person, as the father of my children that I would move mountains to make sure that he is safe. But, alas, he is not my problem. You cannot change anyone. You cannot save anyone. It will drive you mad- doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting different results. Crazy. Stupid. Love.

In fact, I hope that someone else will take over this role. I need someone to take over this role. I can’t do it anymore. I lose myself in it. Someone else can be his in case of emergency. Someone else can pace back and forth wondering if he will make it home safely. Someone else can call hospitals asking if there is a chance that he has been admitted. Someone else can check the HPD police website to see if he was booked. Someone else can call friends and family members to see if they have heard from him. Someone else can check Facebook to see if he has been online lately. Someone else can have panic attacks wondering why a 30 minute commute home has taken over an hour. Someone else can be the rock he breaks himself against.

I am done.

Let go or be dragged.

Divorce: The Beginning of the End

Note: I wrote this post in November when we first began to discuss separating. I have come a long way since then, but thought it was important to remember that even in the ugliest, darkest days of despair- things will get better, maybe not immediately, but certainly.

I don’t cry a lot. I get mad or yell or lecture- but crying isn’t my thing. In the past two days I can’t seem to stop crying. My husband tells me he is unhappy and cannot figure out why. Of course, he assumes it’s me. It can’t be work, we need the money to pay the bills. It can’t be that he works 60 hours a week. It can’t be his own pressures that life has given him or the fact that we are in the thick of raising two young kids. His kneejerk response is me. I am the catalyst to his deep unhappiness.

He says he just wants to be happy. We all want to be fucking happy! I agree. It just shatters my heart to think that I could be the reason for someone’s unhappiness. I told him I didn’t think that I could do this again. Another trip down the road to divorce will break me. I feel like I was right, I feel like I am breaking. I don’t handle my stress well. It manifests in all kinds of weird ways beneath a somewhat stoic appearance.

I need to talk with a doctor. I feel like my hormones are out of whack and conspiring against me. I never feel rested. I never feel completely sane. I am anxious. I have massive mood swings. I feel foggy and grasp to find common words, like cabinet. Who forgets the word cabinet?? Sometimes I feel like my brain is its own worst enemy- it’s combative. It creates problems that aren’t there. It’s creates its own walls to protect me, but also becomes so hardened that I lack compassion and kindness. I am so worried about getting hurt or looking stupid that I am always at arm’s length with everything. I don’t want to lose it all. I don’t want to be that vulnerable. It’s terrifying.

What if it’s some kind of break down? I have never ever thought it would simply be easier not to be here at all…but now it seems oddly peaceful. Lie down and surrender. I can’t believe I even had that thought. Shit. What the fuck is wrong with me!?

Now I am googling “in-patient psychiatric treatment”. I am also looking to see if the accept our insurance, so at least I got that going for me. And that’s exactly how it’s been working lately, moments of clarity followed by spontaneous tears and incredible doubt. It’s like a switch keeps flicking on and off, almost like I am watching it all happen and completely unable to do anything about it.

On…off. On…off.

OK, I am good right now. I am calm. I can think clearly. Please excuse me while I just sit back and enjoy this peaceful moment, it may not last long.

hardest