Compassionate Co-Parenting, Part 2.

My co-parent and I had been together over a decade when we agreed to divorce. We began dating in college when we were only 20 and 21 years old. We have spent over a third of our lifetimes together but our children will have little to no memory of us all living under one roof. At 6 and 3, our oldest may have a couple fleeting memories from here or there, but our son won’t have any memories at all. None. Our children will never remember waking up and crawling into bed with us for sleepy morning cuddles or cleaning the house while belting out the Frozen soundtrack or even huddling in the shower together during a tornado warnings.

Our relationship as “mom and dad” will be not be defined by our marriage, but only by our DIVORCE. They will not remember our 7 year marriage- only our lifetime of divorce. This divorce will end up being our legacy and how we handle this separation, move, and co-parenting relationship will be the foundation that our children will base their knowledge of love, support, and partnership between their parents.

Our marriage went up in flames, but holy crap, we have the incredible opportunity to have an AMAZING divorce! We can rewrite history. We can let bygones be bygones, forgive each other of our trespasses and be the best fucking co-parents on the planet! We can wipe the slate clean, begin at the ground level and start all over again. We can be the friends that once went to a J Crew sample sale in college and joked about our cobblering skills to fix a broken sole. We can be friends that once drove around one New Years Eve in my old Ford Probe looking for a party and ended up ringing in the New Year at a stop light. We can be the friends that discuss the previous night’s episode of The Daily Show (RIP) and how glad we were to see Jon Stewart in NYC before he left the show. We can be friends that commiserate over home repair and our that time we got ripped off by the roofing company after the massive hail storm. We can be friends that enjoy each other’s company while hanging with our progeny and are happy to part ways at the end of the day.

We could literally put everything shitty aside and move on into our new lives and new roles as healthy, functioning, compassionate co-parents. Wouldn’t that be crazy? We could be Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. We could be supportive and caring and just put our own baggage away for the happiness and stability for those fantastic little people we brought into this world together.

coparenting

You can read more on my take on Compassionate Co-Parenting, here. Thanks!

Supper in a Swimsuit

You will be so proud of me!! Well, maybe you will be. You may not really know me and in that case, you may not care at all, but I assure you, if we were friends, you would be super freaking proud of me! 

I cooked dinner in my swimsuit.
Not impressed?? You should be. I don’t like to be naked. I didn’t grow up in a naked I house. I never sleep in the nude. I don’t walk around the house in my bra and underwear. It’s just not for me. Never really has been really, even in my younger, skinnier, pre-kids days. In the last couple years of our marriage my ex-husband mentioned several times that I had become fairly self-conscious. He was right. After two pregnancies, two C-sections and an abdominal surgery, I was very self-conscious. I gained weight in odd places that I had never gained weight before and I had gnarly Frankenstein scars running across my stomach. My husband used to (jokingly) call me fatty scar-belly. I took it as a joke, I was pregnant at the time, but it definitely didn’t help my body image issues. I never felt sexy after kids, instead I felt out of proportion and awkward. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I am sure you could read in a bit deeper between the lines, perhaps being a mom didn’t make me comfortable either. I didn’t feel complete or content. I felt tugged in a million directions and was eventually torn limb from limb. I became so obsessed with taking care of everyone around me that I literally forgot about ME. I still had sex, I still really enjoyed sex, but I didn’t have the confidence that I had in college. You know, BK, before kids, when you boobs are perky and tight jeans didn’t mean a muffin top, but instead they hugged your ass just right. That girl was gone.
By the end, all I was left with was a fairly self-conscious mom, a nagging wife and a shell of the woman I used to be. My confidence was shot and I felt stuck. I think without this divorce, I may never have been able to pull myself from the mire. I was stuck in quicksand. The more I screamed and kicked “Save me! Please!”, the deeper I sank.
So finally, 6 years AK (after kids), I am 30 pounds lighter and making fish sticks for my kiddos while dancing around the kitchen in my swimsuit. Today, I filled the kid’s little backyard pool and laid out on the lounger in the yard while listening to my “Divorce Source Radio” podcast. I came inside to start dinner and later, it occurred to me that I was still in my suit, just walking around like it was no big deal- because it wasn’t a big deal! My kids love me unconditionally and they don’t care that I still want to lose a couple more pounds. Honestly, they were just psyched that I agreed to fish sticks and macaroni in the same meal.
Tonight was a win/win for everyone!
MMMlegs

Update: By the Numbers

28: Pounds I have lost

89: Days without alcohol

36: Days until the kids and I move into our own home

5: Days left before the divorce should be final

31: Days we will both live under the same roof after being officially divorced

1: Time in the last 2 months that I have completely lost my shit and exploded into a fiery mountain of rage and completely broken trust

6: Times I have looked up Al-Anon meetings

0: Al-Anon meetings I have actually attended

3: Times I have looked up Co-dependent Anonymous meetings

0: Co-dependent Anonymous meetings I have attended

45 (ish): Times I have wanted to take a Xanax in the last 2 months

1: Times I actually took a Xanax

5: Average number of times I work out a week

174, 609: Cuddles I have given my kids lately

235, 090: Number of “I love you” daily

79: Days until I have my first day of junior high all over again

5: Times a day I cannot keep my head from rabbit holing into unpleasant places

5: Times a day I pull myself out and back into the sunshine

1: Hour I have brushed up on American History…you know, the subject I will soon be TEACHING.

300: Approximately the number of hours I should spend brushing up on American History

3: Nights I will be gone for a teaching conference that I was invited to attend in New Orleans

10: Teachers from my school that were invited to the conference

3: Times a day I have thoughts that literally make me sick to my stomach

10: Times a day I have thoughts that make me smile

1300: Calories a day I need to stay under to lose 1.5lbs a week.

500: Average number of calories I burn at the gym every day

1.5: Longest distance of miles I have consecutively run

3: Average number of miles I run/walk a day

1: (maybe 2) Times I look around everyday and think,”it will all be ok, I got this”.

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.

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

Birthday Breakdown

Lately, Saturday has become our “family day”. When we have separate houses, it will be “Daddy day”, but for now, it’s usually all of us together. A couple Saturdays ago, we went over to the neighbor’s house to celebrate their daughter’s 6th birthday. There was a gigantic bounce house, plenty of Chick-fil-a nuggets, cake and all the presents a little kindergartener could handle. Everyone was happy, smiling and the sun finally graced us with its presence. We gather around the table to sing Happy Birthday and suddenly my chest tightened. I felt like a 300 pound behemoth was kneeling on my rib cage. This has happened a couple times over the last year or two. I stand there, basically frozen, and rub my chest like I can somehow massage the tension away. It doesn’t work. Instead, it has become a small tell that I am about to have a full on fucking panic attack. I tried to breathe through the unbearable pressure.

Deep breathe in…Happy Birthday to you….deep breathe out….Happy Birthday to you….deep breathe in….Happy Birthday dear neighbor girl…deep breathe out….Happy Birthday to you.

My (soon-to-be-ex) husband sees me from across the room. He looks concerned. Tears are pooling in my eyes as the weight is bearing down on my chest, crushing my lungs. My breath quickens. He comes over and asks if I am ok, I nod. But, I am not ok. What the hell is happening? I tell him I will be back in a minute and go towards the front door. As soon as I hit the driveway tears are streaming down my face. I don’t know why. I have no idea what is happening. All was well. I had a couple nuggets, talked to some random guy about our favorite places in New Orleans and then had a panic attack while singing Happy Birthday. What the hell is happening?

Thankfully we live right across the street so the commute was short. I try to soak up my tears with a paper towel and contemplate the fact that I may hyperventilate soon. The tile floor looks cold, that could be nice. Clearly concerned with my mental status, my husband comes in the door holding two pieces of cake. He asks what is wrong. I have no idea. I can’t give a logical explanation. He asks if maybe it’s because we are attending the party all together? Maybe it was overwhelming? Maybe? Maybe. I am not sure. I still don’t know why I cannot stop crying.

At the beginning of the school year the neighbors divorced. They are young, in their mid twenties with two small kids and just couldn’t keep it all together. I totally get it. The husband moved out and she has been holding down the fort. I help out pretty regularly, when they need someone reliable to pick up their daughter after school or when they need an extra hand. She began dating someone not too long after she and her husband separated. They all seem very happy- the kids are thriving, pretty content and adjusting well. The kids go to “Dad’s house” some nights and understand the new living arrangements.

At the birthday party they were all there- dad, mom and mom’s new boyfriend. One big happy family. They seemed to be making it work, all of them helping out with their assigned duties. Smiling, making small talk, trying not to step on anyone’s toes. Their delicate, polite dance was working.

Maybe that was it? Maybe subconsciously watching this new co-parenting couple navigate the family dynamics was a bit overwhelming? That will be us someday. Someday we will move on and have new relationships and new family dynamics to deal with. Someday we will have to smile and make small talk and try not to step on anyone’s toes.

Someday.

I walked into our kitchen so I could blow my nose and cry in privacy. My husband follows, turns me around and gives me a huge bear hug. We stand there for a minute and he says, “we will be fine”. I reply, “I know. We will make it through this just like we have made it through everything else.” He is right, we will be fine. We will make it through this just like we have made it through everything else. We will make it because, even though we no longer need to be married, we do need to be family. We are a family; a weirdly functionally-dysfunctional family, but we get to make our own rules. We have the great opportunity to structure our family the best way that will work for us.

This whole bittersweet episode reminded me of the first time we filed for divorce and met with a realtor to sell the house. We were told that we may just break even. Defeated, I went into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. My husband followed, laid down next to me and rubbed my back. We would be ok. We are used to set backs but everything was going to be fine. We would be fine and together we would get through it- just like we have gotten through everything else.

We can do scary things.

I am thankful for these small moments that reassure me that our family will make it out alive. There will be some growing pains. There will be anger and frustration and hurt feelings- but at the end of the day we will be fine. I am sure of it.

be alright

No “Plus One”

I have been invited to two weddings in the last week. TWO! I am a bridesmaid in one and a guest in the other. I kinda love weddings although I cry at every single one of them. I am sitting at my desk Pinteresting “nude/gold bridesmaids dresses” when all of a sudden I think, “The wedding is in November…it may be pretty cold…I most likely won’t have a date’s jacket to steal to keep me warm”. Awesome. No date.

Being married is advantageous for many reasons, but one of them is an automatic “plus one” to all occasions. Who will escort you to the fundraiser/wedding/holiday party? Your built in date of course! I am not saying that I cannot or will not go to an event alone, I just really like having a buddy. Its fun to have someone order your cocktail or save you a seat at the cool kids table. I like that. Someone that keeps tabs on you and makes sure no one has stolen you. (I am not paranoid, I promise). I love the camaraderie of relationships but now I guess I can be that slutty brazen and independent bridesmaid that can sleep with the groomsman or hot cater waiter or go home alone and happy- its up to me!

It is still weird, though. I don’t have to match anyone’s tie to my dress. I don’t need a king bed. A twin would be fine for little ol’ me. In fact, I can just bunk up on an air mattress if necessary…just me, my champagne flute and my nude/gold sparkly bridesmaid dress.

On the flip side, I suppose I also don’t have to wonder if he is having fun or drinking too much at the open bar. I don’t have to worry about keeping track of him while I socialize with friends and family. I don’t have to go home early if he gets tired. I don’t have to feel bad that he has to occupy himself while I take pictures before and after the ceremony. This sounds easy. I can just worry about me, my hair falling flat and remembering to bend my knees during the ceremony so I don’t pass out and embarrass myself.

I still have 8 months until the wedding, which mean lots of time to continue growing and become more confident in my new role. Mom. Co-parent. Employee (hopefully). I am really excited and anxious to meet the future me. I wish she would come visit me now and reassure me that everything works out well. I want to know that everyone is happy, healthy and thriving. I am sure we will, we have been working our asses off to remain respectful and civil.  But in the mean time, maybe I will look for an elegant gown with sleeves, that way I wont need a suit jacket to keep me warm anyways.

I really like this one:

gold bridesmaid dress