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We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children

We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children

 

We divorced. It felt like I was jumping off a cliff and taking my children with me. I was bad now. I was to blame. I felt ashamed.

At the same time, my brother was also getting divorced, which meant my mother was going through the breakup of both her children’s marriages. This was very tough on her. My mother had raised us by herself with no help from my father. None! At that time, a single woman raising children on her own was practically unheard of. When my mother finally saw both her children marry lovely people and have beautiful children of their own, she felt relieved that things had turned out well.

But with two divorces pending, it was all coming apart. We were all so sad and angry. The children were in the middle of all this strife. My mother had always been my rock, but now she too was slipping off the cliff, we were all struggling.

I slowly pulled myself together and began thinking of my children’s wellbeing. I once heard a woman, who was talking about her very young children after her divorce, say, “If I’m okay, then my children will be okay. If my needs are met, then I can take care of them.” I think she had it backward. In my view, “If my children are okay, then I’ll be okay. If my children’s needs can be met, then I can take care of myself.”  This became my motto.

I had young children at home and they were at the mercy of me and my decisions. I made a lot of mistakes at first. I began my search for better role models and a better way to do this.

We shifted our focus and although divorced, we realized we were going to have to figure out how to be a family and how to develop a new family structure going forward.

My former husband and my mother had a very close relationship. He had become like another son to her, and they really loved each other. He had helped to make our family stronger and more connected

We wanted to keep our family together as much as possible. Most of all our children were looking for stability and reassurance. So we did our best to be together as a family with the children on holidays and at school functions.

We helped each other meet our children’s needs.

We did it for the sake of the children. We did it for the sake of the whole family. I did it for myself too. We weren’t married anymore, but we had children together and so we were still a family and we needed the support of our extended family more than ever.

I remember thinking at some point that when people divorce they leave each other, not the family. But that wasn’t the message I was getting from my divorced friends or in the media. According to them, divorce was supposed to be like a war zone. We didn’t want to live like that, and we didn’t want to subject our children to that either, so we began creating our own set of new rules to live by. It was the silver lining to a very dark cloud.

We had to be pioneers because we weren’t seeing many examples of healthy post-divorce behavior around us.

We really had to create a relationship based on our own sense of what was going to make our family thrive. I personally had to keep turning inward for direction on how to act, what to say, and how to go on from where I was. This self-reflection proved invaluable in the process of being a parent.

One of the first important things we did as parents of two children was to make it abundantly clear that just because one parent left their spouse, they did not leave the family. It is the grown-ups who are no longer able to live together. It is so important to reassure the children that the love they feel for each parent is still reciprocated and the relationship between them and each parent is therefore strong and protected. I learned that it’s so important to remember to help your children feel loved by both parents even if you are not feeling that way yourself.

As part of a blended family myself, I’ve learned it is best to take a conscious approach to life in a tribe. I’ve encountered all kinds of things that keep me growing and inspire me to turn inward in an effort to be more self-reflective. It is not always easy, but over the years, I’ve realized that in our blended family, I’m but one leg of the table. I’m very important, but the other three legs are just as important for the table to be strong enough to hold all of us. I try to let everyone deal with what they are bringing to the table while I keep my focus on what I can bring. I’ve adopted a meditation of sorts.

These thoughts help keep me focused. It works for me.

If I can remember that I’m not always in control…

If I can give others grace when I feel trespassed upon…

If I can forgive and allow myself to have healthy boundaries…

If I can forgive and allow other family members to have healthy boundaries…

If I can speak up when I need to speak up…

If I can listen to others when I need to listen…

If I can avoid rushing in and pushing my agenda…

Then the family will find its own balance.

One of the things we chose to do differently from most of the family examples we were seeing was to gather as a family for holidays or special school events as well as birthday celebrations.

As long as our children were young and living at home with us, we chose to include all of us. We didn’t trade off years or make the children choose where to go or whom to invite for a special occasion.

And my motto in those circumstances, if there is any discomfort, which there was, became:

 “If anyone is going to be uncomfortable in the room let it be me, not my children or other family members”

 It is my divorce and I must take the initiative and bear the changes with mindfulness so that my family and my children can all be together for these times.

When the going gets tough, we help each other. Maybe it was out of necessity at first, but it soon became normal for us as we became a blended family. Instead of waging war, we have created and provided resources for each other and for our children. In this family, I continue to find grace, love, and understanding.

The post We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Can You be Happily Divorced When Your Friends are All Married?

Can You be Happily Divorced When Your Friends are All Married?

Your happiness and contentment is not dependent on your friend’s relationship status.

The post Can You be Happily Divorced When Your Friends are All Married? appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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become financially smarter

4 Ways Divorced Moms Can Become Financially Smarter

become financially smarter

 

During my work with women who were going through or recovery from divorce one of the most frustrating aspects of the work was their attitude towards money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that one of the main stressors for women after divorce is money.

Yet, when asked what their plans were for relieving their stress over money, the majority didn’t make that a priority in life.

I worked with clients who had been long-term stay-home-moms, their only financial plan for the future was to live on child support and alimony. They were doing without; their children were doing without and the main concern for these women was not having to make a change in their role as a stay-at-home mom.

They feared working or building a career for themselves would be too disruptive for their children without acknowledging how being stressed for money was damaging their children. The only role money took in their lives was the lack of money.

When asked what their plans were for when their children reached the age of majority and child support stopped or, alimony was no longer coming in, I got shoulder shrugs in return or, “I’ll figure it out.”

Sorry, but the time to figure it out isn’t then when you have even less money than you have now.

A recent Prudential study on the “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” shows, unfortunately, that women have not come a long way when it comes to money. Women feel no more prepared to make smarter financial decisions today than they did three years ago — or even a decade ago.

And, based on my experience with divorcing clients they’re not prepared to make smart financial decisions when smacked in the face with divorce and the possibility of living in poverty.

Divorce doesn’t mean remaining financially dependent on a man you are no longer married to. Divorce not only legally ends your relationship with your husband, but it also sets a woman free to make her own way in the world and, to do that she must be able to make her own money and smarter financial plans for herself now and down the road.

If you’re divorced and reluctant to go back to work or, fear what the future holds for you financially here are 4 tips to help you become financially smarter.

Get educated: Learning about money is important, and the more of a role you take, the more enjoyable it becomes. You may consider taking a few classes in finances at a local college, university or online.

This might be a little extreme but, I can guarantee that you will be better off if you start to get a handle on your finances. There are hundreds of books, podcast, blogs, and videos that can help you gain a better understanding of your personal finances. We can’t “stay dumb” about money. It limits our options in the world, not to mention feelings of self-worth and competency.

Track and budget: In order to make smart decisions about your money, you have to understand where your money is going. Start by tracking your expenses for one to two months. Once you see where your money is going, you can start to weed out the unnecessary expenses. Use this information to create a budget that reflects your needs instead of your wants.

To help make tracking and budgeting easier, you can download smartphone or tablet apps such as Mint, GoodBudget, and Expensify. Creating and keeping your budget is one of the simplest ways to not only learn about your finances and spending habits but to be more informed and involved so that you can make smart decisions about money.

Start saving now: Retirement might seem like an eternity away, especially for women in their 20s, 30s and even 40s, but saving for it is incredibly important for financial security. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better your financial picture will look in the future.

If you work and your company offers a 401(k) plan or 403(b), make sure you contribute as much as you can. This is especially important if they offer to match your contribution. Remember, this is essentially free money going into your retirement account. If your company doesn’t offer a 401(k) or 403(b), consider opening a traditional or Roth IRA. The sooner you start saving, the longer you are allowing your money to grow.

Get a job: Unless you’re wealthy or a movie star, your economic level will decrease as a result of divorce. The same income that used to run one household is now running two. You’re going to need to supplement the income from child support and alimony with earnings of your own.

If you worked in the past, re-enter your career field. If you don’t have a work history but skills that make you marketable, make a list of those skills, build a killer resume and start networking. If you have no marketable skills, it’s time to get a degree or take courses that will help you become more marketable in today’s job force.

Women can be very smart with money. All we need to do is start getting in the game and stop believing that financial issues are too complicated for us to understand.

The post 4 Ways Divorced Moms Can Become Financially Smarter appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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have a splendid valentine

How Divorced, Single Moms Can Have A Splendid Valentine’s Day

have a splendid valentine's day

 

During my marriage, Valentine’s Day was a big deal in our home. I made mini heart-shaped cakes that my husband and I would share with our children after he and I had been out to a special Valentine’s Day dinner.

We didn’t focus so much on romance but on showing each other love. The children received a new plush toy on that day, I got a special dinner with my husband and, at the end of the day, we all had a sweet treat and time together as a family.

We carried on the tradition after the divorce only I didn’t get the special dinner and although I felt like my heart had been ripped out, I still had to make those mini heart-shaped cakes and buy plush toys.

What I really want to do was go to bed and pull the covers over my head. There is no better reminder of how unlovable you are after a husband leaves than Valentine’s Day. And the last thing I wanted was a reminder of how much life had changed since our last Valentine’s Day together.

I also knew that, I didn’t want my next Valentine’s Day to be a reminder of the past or my station in life so, the following year, I changed things up and made a promise to myself that I’d not wallow in pity but make the day the most splendid it could be regardless of my marital status. Here’ how I did that.

How Divorced, Single Moms Can Have A Splendid Valentine’s Day

Be kind. Pay attention to your inner dialogue and the things you say to yourself. When that inner voice is saying something negative, stop and ask yourself if you would “talk” to your girlfriend that way. If the answer is no, then don’t say it to yourself. Instead of thinking, I’ll always be alone or no one will ever love me or Will I ever find love again? Try reminding yourself that you are loved and reassure yourself that the right person will come along at the right time.

Treat yourself. Do something nice for yourself, anything. Pamper yourself with a pedicure or massage. Take a bubble bath. Visit your favorite coffee shop armed with a good book as company. Go for a long walk. Treat yourself to dinner and a movie. Buy yourself a fancy cupcake or a piece of chocolate. You deserve to enjoy good things. You deserve to spend time participating in activities that are life-giving and create peace in your life. Stop waiting for someone to do it for you—do it for yourself.

Create a new tradition with your kids. Valentine’s Day does not have to be all about romance. Take this opportunity to celebrate with your children. Make pizza at home. Decorate cupcakes or watch a family movie. Clinical psychologist and divorce coach Deanna Conklin-Danao suggests that focusing on your kids is an excellent way to combat the loneliness that can creep in around this time of year.

Phone a friend. Surrounding yourself with positive people is a key way to practice “emotional hygiene.” Enlist the support of a good friend and plan an evening or afternoon out. There is nothing like some good girlfriend time to remind you of how wonderful you are.

Work out! Exercise is a proven mood lifter and is essential to maintaining one’s physical health. It is an excellent way to demonstrate self-care. You don’t have to join a gym or go to a class—start with a walk outside. Go for a run. Climb the stairs in your house. Rent an exercise DVD. It doesn’t matter what you do—just move your body and you will feel better.

Make someone else’s day. Another great way to elevate your own mood and to feel encouraged about your situation is to do something for someone else. Make and send Valentine’s Day cards for our servicemen and women who are away from their families. Plan and host a Valentine’s Day party at a women and children’s shelter. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Serve meals to the homeless. Bake cookies, and take them to your local firehouse or police station. Send thank-you letters to your children’s teachers.

Holidays can be difficult for divorced single moms, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Creating new traditions on these special days is an excellent strategy for combating the blues and building a wonderful new life for you and your children. This Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to start the tradition of celebrating your love for yourself. Filling up your “love tank” will give you plenty of love to pour out on those around you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The post How Divorced, Single Moms Can Have A Splendid Valentine’s Day appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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