Surviving this chapter
I was on a walk when I decided to end my marriage.
I’d had enough of the emotional and physical abuse, and refused to expose myself and my daughter to the situation any longer. I called my mom and asked her to come get me from a Burger King. I had no money, no clothes, not much besides my purse, my 15-month-old daughter, and her stroller. I left with nothing, but I don’t regret my decision.
It’s hard when you and your significant other reach that point of breaking apart. For some, the decision is abrupt and made to get away from a dangerous or abusive partner. For others, the separation is more gradual – a realization that the relationship is broken and won’t be fixed for whatever reason. Regardless of the reason for separation, divorce is much more difficult when there are children involved.
Here are some words of advice that I wish someone would have given me when going through this painful process:
I don’t think I could have survived without the community that supported me during my divorce. On nights when my child wouldn’t sleep and I was suddenly the only one helping her, causing me to be exhausted the next day- support was what got me through. Having my friends and family help for even just an hour, so I could nap, was a lifesaver. I couldn’t have gotten through this transition in my life without them. If you don’t have family nearby or friends who can help, seek out a meditation group, church, MOPS, or a therapist.
Seek out an attorney.
I know what you’re thinking. Who can afford a lawyer when money is extremely tight and I’m reestablishing my life? As someone who works in the legal arena, I know that the judicial system is difficult to navigate, but there are affordable options! When I was going through my divorce, I was thankful that these options were available to me. Here are some suggestions for low cost legal help in the Denver Metro area: JAMLAC- Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic- 303-839-1008. Also, try Colorado Legal Services.
I was already a woman who liked to budget, but when I found myself with only one income, I learned quickly that budgeting would help provide some much needed stability. When you’re working low or minimum wage jobs, I know that budgeting can be difficult. To make our budget, I cut out all unnecessary purchases. This meant that instead of going out to a movie, I rented a Redbox. Instead of paying for pricey entertainment, I took advantage of all the free events Denver has to offer. I became an expert on Denver parks, and enjoyed our beautiful city! Instead of going into stores to browse, I re-wore, re-used, and re-purposed like a champ! This was particularly hard, as I like a good deal and I love Target! When budgeting and cutting expenses wasn’t enough to save money, I also got a second job. I know that taking on a second job in a field like retail or food service isn’t easy, but in order to make our budget work and save money it was necessary. Using your support network can also help with managing a budget and saving money – look for people who can help you with child care while you’re at work, lean on your friends and family.
Don’t talk bad about the other parent.
This is a hard one if your ex is being a jerk to you. Your child doesn’t need to hear about it, and it will hurt them to hear you talk badly about someone they love. “Your child is not your friend,” I would repeat to myself, “Your child is NOT your friend!” When my daughter was two and was asking where her daddy was (when he wouldn’t show up to see her), I would tell her “Honey, I know you’re frustrated and I’m frustrated too, but I love you and I will take care of you.” During this transition, it’s vital to provide your child with reassurance and love. Let them know you are there for them, and that they are loved no matter what. I think this helped my daughter when we were dealing with her father’s inconsistent behavior, and helped me to remember that regardless of how angry I was, he was still the father of my child.
Mom time may look different now.
Can I meet up with friends every other night of the week for dinner or a Moms Night Out? Not successfully. Accept that your situation has changed now, your “me time” is probably going to need to be planned in advance, and it may look different these days! Invite a friend over to watch a movie after your little one is in bed, trade time watching your children with another mom who needs some time to herself. Get creative! Managing your mom time differently will also help you stick to your budget and connect with your support community. Just remember, you’re going to get through this, just like I did.
Don’t focus on the negativity.
When things were particularly hard I would find myself dwelling on all the negative comments coming my way, instead of recognizing that I was with the most beautiful person in the world and she was now safe; my daughter. I tried to take time to enjoy her when I wasn’t emailing my attorney, sleeping, or working my two jobs. Don’t let the negative swallow you up – remember the things that ARE going well, or find something that you’re particularly thankful for- and focus on that!
Find healthy ways to release frustration.
There will be days you are exhausted. There will be days you want to yell, and curse, and cry all at once, when you are beyond frustrated. Find healthy ways to manage your frustration. Take a bath, go for a run, yell in to a pillow, tear up paper (preferably not something important), express yourself artistically, call a trusted friend and vent. Don’t let frustrations pile up, or you’ll end up discouraged and stressed out – find a release that works for you.
You will get through this in one piece. You may become broken and hurt in the process, but you will make it. I made it and now I feel like I’m exactly where I should be. My daughter’s dad is not in her life; he has not seen her in over a year, but I’m thankful that I’m able to provide for her; on my own. I couldn’t have done it without my friends, family, and my two supportive workplaces.