Archive for the ‘ Divorce ’ Category

Building a Coparenting Relationship After Divorce

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Anyone who has ever tried to coparent with someone after a breakup or divorce knows that it’s… kind of the worst thing ever.

For me, it’s a mixed bag.  Tyler and I have good phases and bad phases.  Lately it’s been pretty good.  I think that as time passes post-divorce, it gets easier to keep that necessary distance while still staying civil.  Both of us being in new (healthier) relationships helps a lot, too.

There are a lot of challenges, though.  To me, the most frustrating one is trying to develop a coparenting relationship that has a different dynamic than our marriage did.  Relationships have momentum, you know what I mean?  Once the interaction between two people is established, the pattern is pretty well set, and it’s hard to change.

Tyler and I were together for seven years.  We developed a way of interacting over those years that I clearly did not care for, since I filed for divorce.  From my point of view, it was basically him telling me that he was going to be gone for long periods of time and that I would need to rearrange my career to accommodate caring for Caroline, so that he could build up a reputation in his field and finish his PhD.  In the beginning, before we had Caroline, to be honest… I liked it.  I liked to mother him and take care of him and cook him dinner and keep his house, and I was proud of all the things he had accomplished so young.  (He treated me more like a subordinate than a partner, but as you can see, I am also at fault for encouraging it.)  I liked that he depended on me, even if I didn’t always enjoy being alone while he worked.  But eventually I became resentful of everything he asked of me, and the very little that he gave in return… both to me, and to our child.  And I didn’t want to back-burner my career anymore, because it was important to me.

Too often, our coparenting relationship reminds me of our marriage.  He will text me to say “I’ll be away for x number of days/weeks and I’ll be picking up Caroline for these days and I’ll need you to take her back on this day.”  I’ll say okay, rearrange my schedule to accommodate his, and basically do whatever he asks… but then I’ll get mad, and resentful, and pick a fight with him, and then we snipe at each other via text for a few days and act sullen when we finally see each other.  Sounds healthy, right?  And by no means do I claim that it’s all his fault– fighting takes two.

But how do you change that pattern of interaction?  How do you reverse the momentum of a relationship when you have to stay in constant contact after a breakup, because you have a child together?  How do you put the pieces of a broken marriage back together to form a healthy coparenting relationship?

It’s hard.  It really sucks.  I don’t know the answer.  I tried, today, to establish something new.  He texted me, telling me the way the next visit was going to go.  I told him that I had a conflict with my schedule, but I would be happy to have a two-way discussion about it if he would rephrase his order as a request.  Somehow, we ended up fighting anyway.

One of my friends said to me tonight, “I hate seeing my ex every day at school.  It doesn’t seem fair that I still have to deal with that, every single day.”  I looked at him.  “I win,” I said.  “I have to deal with mine for 18 years.”  (He was kind enough to refer to my one-upping as “perspective”.)

But, hey, that’s just life and coparenting after divorce.  You’ve got to make the best of it… right?  If you’re a single parent, how do you and your ex manage?

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Thankful

Friday, November 25th, 2011

I didn’t have Caroline for Thanksgiving this year.  I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  I never do look forward to holidays without her… divorced holidays are pretty sucky in general.  It’s supposed to be family time, you know?  Maybe they get better, but it’s all still pretty new to me at this point.

She left with Tyler for his parents’ house in Phoenix on Sunday, and she’s coming back tonight.  HSD went to Florida to visit family.  My best friend went to Maine to do the same.

I was not looking forward to this at all.

I made sure to have a big, long to-do list of stuff around the apartment to keep me busy.  I told myself that the alone time would be good for me, that it would be nice to sleep in and work out and have a glass of wine on Thanksgiving without worrying about what Caroline was destroying in the other room.

And you know what?  It was actually really nice.

I’ve gotten a ton of sleep, gotten all Caroline’s old baby stuff bagged up and sold for Christmas money, cleaned my apartment from top to bottom, and gone on plenty of long runs.  I went to Thanksgiving at a family friend’s place with my family, and it was so relaxing to eat delicious food and have adult conversation and not chase around a toddler and try to get her to eat her green beans.  It was just… nice.  It wasn’t lonely at all.

So this year, that’s what I am thankful for.  For the silver lining to divorced holidays, for the time spent alone, the time spent relaxing, a respite from my crazy-busy life.  For the time to get things done, for a glass of wine, for adult time.  And for knowing that once I’ve had my little break, my daughter will be coming home to me with a huge, excited grin on her face and with her arms outstretched towards me.

And now?  It’s Christmastime, my favorite time of the year.  I get Caroline for Christmas this year, and she’ll be almost three, and it is gonna be awesome.  I’ve got all my boxes of Christmas stuff out of storage, and it’s ready and waiting for her to come home and tear into it.    I am so looking forward to sharing all that with her… and I’m thankful for that, this year, too.

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Thoughts From a Divorcee on Kim Kardashian’s 72-Day Marriage

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Okay, so Kim Kardashian is getting divorced after 72 days of marriage.  As a divorcee, I have several comments to make on the matter, not that it’s any of my business:

1. I once had a case of bronchitis that lasted longer than her marriage.  (Jury is out on who deserves more sympathy in that scenario.)

2. At least 90% of the blame for this divorce lies with that weird headband thing she wore at her wedding.  She is gorgeous, but that thing was… Not. Cute.

Image credit: newestfun.com

3.  I totally called this, you guys.  (Fine, along with the rest of the world.)  One of my best girlfriends is also divorced, and she and I make divorce jokes all the time that I’m sure would make most of you call us horrible and bitter (but let’s be honest, a little bit funny).  I had sent her this picture of Kim Kardashian and her soon-to-be-ex husband, on their honeymoon:

Image credit: E! Online.com

I mean, come on.  They’ve already run out of things to say to each other.  She looks totally bored and he looks like he hates his life.  This is sort of how I felt at certain points on my honeymoon, which leads me to my next point…

4. I kind of respect Kim for calling it quits right out of the gate.  Hold up.  Let me explain myself.  No, she shouldn’t have married him if the relationship was so shaky that they’re getting divorced after 72 days.  I’m sure they both know that and knew it right away.  But at least she didn’t let it drag on and on, maybe bringing kids into an unstable situation, pretending and suffering forever and ever until the inevitable divorce finally occurred.  It takes a lot of courage to end a marriage, no matter what your reasons are and no matter how long it lasted.  Who knows what really happened between them or why it fell apart, but I’ve got to hand it to her for standing up and admitting that she had made a mistake.  I felt uneasy about my marriage from the start, and I should have taken action sooner (either starting counseling or calling the whole thing off, neither of which I took the initiative to do), but I didn’t, because I didn’t have the guts to admit that something was wrong.  She did, despite the fact that I’m sure the whole thing is very embarrassing for her, and I’ve got to say I respect that.

All joking aside, divorce is no fun for anyone in any situation, especially one as public as theirs, and I hope they can both heal as quickly as possible.  (But next time, Kim, as I’m sure you know, think it through a little better before you say those vows, and maybe don’t throw around so much money on the wedding, hmm?  XOXO, Julia.)

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It’s Fall!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

‘Tis the season for pumpkin carving, apple picking, soups and stews in the crock pot, adorable little kids in costumes, and patients harassing me to get their treatment done before the weather and roads become icy and unpredictable.

I love fall.  Always have.  I love the crispness in the air, the smell of wood stoves, and the colors of the leaves (just kidding, I’m colorblind, but I threw that one in there for those of you who aren’t, because I’m nice like that).  Last fall was a little bit crazy for me, because Tyler and I had just separated and no matter how clear-headed I sounded, I probably wouldn’t have noticed whether or not the seasons changed at all.  Those first divorced holiday seasons are tough.  But this year I am in a great place and I am so ready to enjoy every minute of it.

Caroline and I went to the local orchard this past weekend with some friends and picked out some pumpkins, which we will obviously be carving and putting candles inside regardless of my apartment’s rules against such things.  I’ve also gone apple-picking, hayride-riding, and have been cooking all kinds of delicious fall things, like apple crisp and maple-roasted chicken with sweet potatoes and roasted squash soup.

Halloween is coming up quickly, and true to form, I haven’t even considered what costume Caroline will be wearing.  She says she wants to be a princess (this should come as a surprise to precisely no one) so I suppose that’s what she’ll be.  Tyler had her for Halloween last year, so he got to take her trick-or-treating– I’m so excited to take her this year for what will be the first time she’s gone with me.  Partly because I think it will be so cute… and partly because she still isn’t allowed much candy so I am totally gonna eat it all.  If any other dentists ask, though, I will of course be throwing out all the candy and replacing it with a bucket full of toothbrushes because that’s how we roll.

So tell me, how is your family celebrating the fall?  What are your favorite fall dishes?  What will your kids be for Halloween?  (HINT, I need ideas that aren’t princesses.  Thanks in advance.)

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Are Single Moms Crazy?

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

This article that was published on Slate last week asks the question, “do we all secretly think single moms are crazy?”

Obviously, my hackles went up just from reading the title.  The author mostly is talking about the small subset of single moms who were or became single during their pregnancies, and chose to have and keep the baby regardless of their relationship status.  I do not belong to that group, but to a certain degree, I chose to be a single mother.  I had a marriage that was “good not great”, but a lot of women would have stayed, and I did not.

I really, really loved this post… in spite of the fact that, or maybe because, I have been guilty of having the same “old-fashioned” thoughts of which the author accuses the general population.  She talks about the “unimaginative approach to family” that so many Americans have, and how that paradigm results in a collective shaming of the single mother that is somehow both discreet and overt at the same time.  Everyone thinks there must be something wrong with us.  Why would you choose that life for your child?  It implies that there is something inferior about our lives and our parenting.  It makes me bristle and yet I cannot seem to keep the thoughts from entering my own head.

“It’s hard to free yourself” from those thoughts,” she says, and that is certainly true.  Even as I read this article and love every word, I have to admit that I am doing little more than looking for validation when I cling to phrases like “it seems a bit… overly literal… to think that love has to come from two parents, like water from hot and cold faucets.”

The life of a single mother– if you chose it, for yourself and for your child, what is it that makes you feel guilty?  For me it is the idea of the selfishness, that I am choosing the freedom that I need over the security that my child might need.  Or maybe it’s the “hubris” also mentioned here, the arrogance to think that you can be both mother and father, that you can be mother enough to make up for the fact that the father is not there.

I mean, I’d like to be viewed as all bohemian and independent.  But in reality, is it best for my daughter, what I did?  I ask myself this question over and over, in infinitely different ways, in my head, and on this blog.  I don’t know, and I don’t know if I will ever stop wondering.  I think it depends on the child and the mother and the situation that she chose to leave.  For me, I think only time will tell, as I see how what kind of person my daughter grows into and wonder how she might have been different if I had chosen to stay.

And then there is the other side of the coin that the author talks about.  That married parents may look at us and think that we single parents are getting away with something, that we are not “paying the usual price” or not making the usual sacrifices.  We make plenty of sacrifices, it’s true, but not the ones that are involved in making a marriage work (a phrase which I truly despise, but that is a topic best saved for another post).  The idea that a married mother might be jealous of me is a foreign one, but I like it and I think it can be true.  I can love my child completely and live my single life at the same time, having fun, dating, spending time with my friends and burying myself in my career if I choose to do so, without the pressures and sacrifices that come from making a marriage work.  I probably could have made my marriage work but I chose not to.  Maybe I am getting away with something there.  If I am, I am not ashamed.

What do you think?  If you are a married parent, do you secretly think that people who choose to be single parents are crazy?  Are you jealous of us?  And if you’re a single parent, where do you stand on the issue?

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