I sat down with my Mom a year and a half ago and said, coming from a walled up, stressed out, angry, confused place, "I want out." She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received, "Go to counseling. For six months to a year. If not for this relationship, for your next one. You'll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over unless you work on yourself and your marriage." So I did that - spent over a year in counseling and six months in marriage counseling. I can't say I regret the time one bit. I am still in divorce, and even though we hadn't been working for a long time, I tried as hard as I could. I think if I had exploded without all the work, I would have many regrets. I owed it to myself, and my kids.
So here I am plugging along this alien path of divorce. I'm learning so much - hiring lawyers. Answering interrogatories. Doing house inventories. Learning the custody lingo, as well as child support and alimony terminology. Taking transparenting (Yes! The actually call it that!) classes. My ex and I, while not really on a friendly basis, are doing a great job of co-parenting the kids over the summer, and we are very good at being cordial. It was tough giving up five whole weeks with the kids, but I've now got two under my belt and the second was a hell of a lot easier than the first.
I'm not sure really what the point of this blog is other than to talk about my experience, so far, and open the table for future discussion. I haven't made my divorce a secret - it is obvious in my comments and I think I may have alluded to it in a past blog. A couple of months ago someone asked me to write about going through divorce and I was so stressed out and worried over emotionally supporting my kids that I couldn't imagine talking about it. But now I think I'm ready.
Here's the toughest part - Sicily, my 7 year old, is in that age (thank god I took the transparenting class right off the bat) group that likes to play "Parent Trap." She is constantly trying to get us back together, and that is so heartbreaking to watch, even though I look back on my marriage and see that even at 3 and 4 she was trying to get us together, so this is not so different from then, only more out in the open. Here are some particularly painful examples:
"Mom, I'm going to have Dad bake you a cake for Mother's Day so you get back together." She got him to do it. That girl has amazing powers.
"When is Christmas? What I want from Santa is for you and Daddy to get back together. Can we start calling Santa now?"
"If you didn't have to work would you be going to the beach with us and Daddy?"
I know she is just trying to wrap her seven year old brain around all of this, but ugghh. Luckily she has a few key players in her life that have been children of divorce, and they have offered incredible support. I'm glad she has examples of those who have been there and have turned out OK - not to belittle their experience, I am sure it was hard.
John is of a different age - one of magical thinking. He is just 5, and his adjustment has been quite different. He doesn't talk about it as much, and at first I made the mistake of thinking that it was easier for him. I talked to a friend who has a mother with her masters in childhood development, and she said that girls usually come out better because they talk a lot more, and boys shut down. I started paying more attention, and I've had to troubleshoot some fear, separation anxiety, and stuffing emotions issues that were much more subtle, but I think that he is doing pretty well, overall. Kids struggle with divorce. But they also struggle in marriage. Attentive parenting is what matters the most.
I know marriage is hard. I've seen lots of people struggle and hit highs and lows (including my own parents). I think that if you do get married, you should try to work through the low points. I believe in those vows - but I also reluctantly, slowly, finally admitted that sometimes two people just don't work. I'm starting my life over at almost 37 years old, with two beautiful children. There's nothing to regret - and lots to look forward to. I am a pathologist who is about to be a partner in 4 months. I can support myself and my kids. I can afford good childcare and help, and am getting a lot more vacation that I've ever had. When I make partner, I will have the flexibility to cut back more if I need to while my kids are young. I'm in a great place. But it is still tough.