Friday, November 21, 2014

Taking the High Road - aka another reason why Divorce Sucks.

I wrote the following post many, many months ago - but then was afraid to hit the publish button. That happens more often than I care to admit. But then I recently read a quote on Facebook (can't remember who posted it.....maybe HuffPost Divorce?  It said, “If you have children, love your child more than you hate your ex." -Valerie Bertinelli. I have said that right from the beginning of my divorce, too! Justified! Can I get a high-five from someone? Anyone? Anyway, reading that reminded me of this - and I came back to re-read, and tweak just a bit and finally get up the nerve to hit the "Publish" button. I know that not everyone has the same experience in divorce. But in my humble opinion - this applies to MOST of us who are divorced with children.

So, for what it is worth - here were/are my thoughts on taking the High Road aka loving your kids more than hating your Ex.
I am ranting today. Ranting because I have been hurt. And ranting because I have seen others hurt. And ranting because the world SHOULD be better than it is - except, you know, for PEOPLE. In this particular case I am ranting at people who choose nastiness and choose NOT to be kind and choose bitterness and think they are justified in doing so. I am ranting at people I have encountered who are divorced WITH children. I am not going to question the validity of whether or not anyone should or should not be divorced in the first place. (Naturally my own divorce was necessary and the best choice for all involved - in case you were wondering.) However - it really doesn't matter how or why you ended up divorced - it is where you are now. I am also focusing on those folks who made a conscious, intentional choice to bear children with the person who is the other parent. (Meaning you were not raped and a pregnancy followed.) If you had consensual sex with that person - it is your own fault that the other person is the other parent - got it? Or in some cases you have to accept that both of you signed the adoption papers and no one had a gun to your head. 
It has been hard in my little world lately because I keep running into many situations where parents won't choose to put their kids' needs before their own hurt feelings. Most of these situations involve parents who COULD choose not to bad mouth the other parent - but they do anyway. They COULD choose to involve the other parent more, but choose not to because the custody agreement lets them limit the time the other parent has with their child. It is so mean and selfish. Do these parents not see how these actions hurt their kids? It is bad enough to want to hurt another adult - that is really NOT okay. But is even worse to keep hurting your own children.

Now, I don't want anyone to think that I am writing this because I have all the answers and have IT all figured out. Oh, Dear Reader, my life is anything BUT an example of having IT all figured out. As I write this I must say that my ex-husband and I have come a LONG way in the three years we have been divorced. It has taken a lot of time and hurt and tears and frustration, but our kids are worth it. I was rather blind-sided when I found myself in the role of a single-divorced mother of three....two of whom still lived at home. I will be the first to admit that I have not handled everything as a divorced mother as gracefully as I could have. Because - as I say in the title - Divorce Sucks. My first marriage lasted TWENTY-THREE (23) YEARS. That is a long time for a relationship to break down. In the aftermath many people told me I had every right to be angry - which I was. I felt all the YUCK that comes with ending a marriage of 23-years....hurt, betrayal, loss, anger, bitterness (oh, the bitterness), failure, and more. (Have I mentioned it lasted 23-years? In hindsight it never should have, but I was not a quitter!) Part of me wanted to give in to all the voices that said I have every reason to embrace the bitterness and wallow in it. It was(IS) so very tempting some days. Truly. BUT - and for me this is huge BUT - my faith teaches me to love others (even ex-husbands). Yep - LOVE others. Period. And another BUT - and this is a also huge BUT - I have THREE (3) beautiful daughters. And they love their dad. As they SHOULD. He is their dad, has always been their dad and always will be their dad. They deserve to have a relationship with him - and as their mother who chose this man to be their father - it is my responsibility to make sure they have every chance to have the best relationship with their dad as is humanly possible. 
I will say right here and right now that there are days when having that responsibility SUCKS. 
One of the things that bothers me A LOT is how so many divorced parents make their kids suffer because their relationship with the other parent broke. If you got along you probably would not be divorced, right? But when do we actually have to start acting like grown-ups for our children? Because somewhere I missed the memo that said we only have to do the right thing if everything in our lives is perfect. If anyone has a copy of that I would love to see it. I was lucky.....I guess that is what you would call have had friends who offered very good and very bad examples of how to co-parent after a divorce. The good ones gave me ideas on what I should do - and the bad ones have given me examples of what I don't want to do. I DO want what is best for my kids. That means that no matter how their dad behaves I have to do the right things. That means, more often than I like, that I have to suck it up and get along with their dad. That means that I have to choose my love for my kids OVER my animosity towards my ex-husband. That means that I have to accept that my girls need their dad. That means that no matter what a custody agreement says about when visitation is supposed to happen I need to remember that he is their father every minute of every hour of every day. 

  • I have worked in the legal field for over 16 years. Legal documents such as child custody agreements are a necessary evil in our society. I know all too well from personal experience that they are generally created at a time when people are at their most vulnerable and least rational. Many, many people I have encountered find themselves at a disadvantage in a legal situation and have no idea how to fight with little or no money for an attorney. The whole process is frustrating and extremely intimidating to say the least. These agreements are supposed to represent what is best for the children. More often than not they represent the best interests of whichever party had the upper hand in negotiations. The words on these pieces of paper also have to be lived out by real people with real feelings in the real world. No piece of paper signed by any judge can ever truly line out how that should happen in anyone's life.
No - I am NOT an attorney. These are my observations based on personal experience as a divorced parent and a friend of other divorced parents. I have the utmost respect for the law, but the best lawyers I know will be the first to tell you our system is imperfect. We just have to muddle through the best we can. I get frustrated with parents who will hide behind a custody agreement because it is easier than actually having to deal with the other parent. What is EASY for us as parents is RARELY what is BEST for our kids. Suck it up, Buttercup. Quit hiding behind a piece of paper and start doing the hard work of actually communicating with the other parent. 

Divorce is common enough that each and every one of us can probably come up with several examples of bitter divorces. What breaks my heart is how selfish we are. My custody situation is like many. Both their dad and I are full legal guardians while I have primary physical custody. It just means the girls live with me most of the time and he has assigned visitation. It is - like ALL such arrangements - AWFUL. Yep. It is not awful because it is inconvenient for me. It is awful because my kids have to split themselves between two people they love more than anyone else in this world. No matter how carefully it is lined out on paper it will NEVER be a happy situation to let my kids have Christmas with their dad because it is his turn this year. HOWEVER...and this is very, very, very important - I can and do try to the best of my ability NOT to punish my kids OR THEIR DAD because they are in this situation. It is not my kids fault their parents are idiots. And no matter how much I may want to blame their dad - every time, let me repeat, EVERY TIME I do blame hurts my kids. And it is not okay for a mother to hurt her children. And having the power to hurt the father of her children is also not something ANY woman should ever be proud of. So, on those years when it is his turn to have them on Christmas I do my best to smile and embrace the joy of the Season and let them know that it is okay to be excited about celebrating Christmas - no matter whose house they may be in at the time. Some things are more important than my hurt feelings. My kids and the chance for them to learn to find joy with their dad is more important than my hurt feelings. 

Like so many families today mine is evolving after divorce. God saw fit to bring a wonderful man into my life. And....he, too, is a divorced parent. Now I have not only three daughters to love, but five. It is not easy. But it is worth it.  I know there is a reason I have been given a chance to view divorce from the other parent's side since Curtis came into my life. He has the role of "non-custodial" parent. That does not mean that his role is less important IN ANY WAY. Because of him I know that I have much greater empathy for my own girls' dad. And I am grateful for it because since I have seen the challenges Curtis faces with his divorce I have been lead to be much kinder when interacting with my own ex-husband. And every time I choose kindness when dealing with their dad it is BETTER FOR MY DAUGHTERS. 

'Til Next Time.