The Latest…

I’m having a hard time braining together sentences and paragraphs today. So… updates.

A child support payment came in today. I don’t think it’s the IRS garnishment, I think it’s the paycheck garnishment. I hope that’s what it is, because I’m anxious to create a budget.

Monday I saw the counselor. She was super nice. She suggested I ask the kids lots of open-ended questions about their lives away from home. She thinks this will actually make them feel better about spending time away from me. Maybe by not talking to them about what they do with their dad, I’m inadvertently sending out the message that I don’t like when they’re away. Also, she thinks I’m too in the dark about basics– how they’re eating and being cared for, what their interactions are with the people they spend most of the time with, etc. She says it’s important to know those things and just because he’s their father doesn’t mean I should just accept that everything is ok.

As we were wrapping up, I missed a call from my mom and from my office. I got a text from my Office Manager telling me to call her. I told the counselor to give me a moment and called. The OM informed me I had to call my mom. When I asked if everything was alright she said no, my mom sounded really nervous. I called my mom, who was obviously panicked and starting to calm down, and she explained the kids did not show up at school that day and K-Fat had just now started responding to her. K-Fat told my mother he and his girlfriend had stomach viruses and were unable to take the kids to school.

He did not answer my calls and attempted to brush me off with a text explaining he was sleeping and that he had spoken to my mom already. Long story short, on the advice of the counselor AND the OM, I left work to go pick them up at his house. I told him he needed to communicate. This wasn’t right. There were lots of people he could have contacted. When I got into the car, I asked the kids what happened like the counselor suggested. They told me K-Fat was really sick and couldn’t take them to school. I asked about the girl and they said no she was fine. I told them K-Fat had told us both of them were sick and that’s why we were so anxious to pick them up. When I asked why she couldn’t take them to school they explained she was too busy taking care of K-Fat.

I then told the kids, like the counselor told me to, that in the future if this sort of thing happens they need to call me. They all know my number. There was a protest about how K-Fat’s mom called him too much to let them use the phone, I told them this was an emergency situation and they could get a call in. It also debunked K-Fat’s texts to me saying he couldn’t answer my phone calls because he had no reception. I asked what they had eaten for breakfast and they said Pop Tarts. What about lunch? Nothing. Or snack, Baby added. It was almost 2 in the afternoon. So yeah, drama. I’m going to see the counselor again in two weeks. She thinks the kids don’t need anything extra right now but if bad behavior is sustained, that might be different.

My midterm was yesterday. I think I did pretty badly. I tried my best, I really did. But I just don’t think it was good enough. I felt in the dark on many questions. And I took longer than an hour and he said no way should it take that long. I’m SO frustrated with the class and the professor. At least the class is free for me because if I was paying for it, I’d be PISSED. Better to just buy the textbook and teach yourself is what it seems like. I got home and decided to just start doing my own things. So I designed and wrote a Random Shakespearean Insult Generator. Spring Break is next week for us and I’m going to use the time to go hog wild with the textbook and teach myself as much as possible. I really like the textbook. It’s called Building Java Programs. Right now Amazon has it for $98 but I bought it two Mondays ago for only $37 so keep an eye on it. I think if you add it to cart they email you when the price changes. It has LOTS of exercises and the answers for all of them. The style is conversational and easy to understand. If you’re interested in learning Java programming, pick it up.

Speaking of books, I got a TON of awesome suggestions on Google+ for books for Eldest. In my browsing, I came across The Ranger’s Apprentice series and got the whole thing at the library. It’s ten books long and he is loving them. He started Book 1 Monday and finished it yesterday. He started Book 2 yesterday and was halfway through by this morning so he grabbed Book 3 to take with him to his Dad’s house. When he saw the stacks I brought home from the library, he hugged me so hard. And he keeps thanking me for bringing them because he really likes them. I love that my little boy loves books so much. I also got some of the ones people recommended like Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Inkheart, and The Boy in the Dress which my Mom took for herself to read. I am still reading Nell Gwynn: Mistress to a King but I don’t know how much reading I’ll be doing now that I feel so behind in class.

I won tickets at the Gala to see the ballet this Sunday. Daughter and I will be watching the Miami City Ballet perform Program III at the Adrienne Arsht Center. I am really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to a show like this. And they’ll be performing The Steadfast Tin Soldier which I’m dying to see. Who am I kidding, I’m dying to see all the numbers they’re doing.

My OM told me this morning she feels it in her bones that things are going to start turning around for me. I hope she’s right. I turned this quote into a little poster and pinned it at my desk.

JK_Rowling_Quote_Rock_BottomDo you have any updates??

 

 

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So many questions

Do you ever get the feeling you should be feeling something, and yet you’re feeling something completely different?

Last year for Mother’s Day my brothers spoiled me. MutantPirate gave me a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure at a little spa close to my house and MutantWino got me a gift certificate for an hour massage at a different little spa by my house.

I never used them.

I’m strange with “nice things” and am guilty of the “save it for something special” as often as I’m guilty of the “use it right now” method. I found the gift certificates again a month or so ago and realized the massage one has an expiration date of March 16, 2013. I didn’t book the appointment right then but I kept telling myself, “As soon as I have money for tip I must book this. And the mani/pedi too.”

My kids’ school is having a gala this year at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Tickets are $85 a person and out of my league. I have become friendly with a lot of the moms there and some of them are aware of the situation at home. But still, they asked if I was going. “No, I can’t.” “You have the kids that weekend?” they would sweetly ask. “No actually, I just can’t afford it,” I’d reply. Which really sucks to say out loud, especially to people who are several levels of wealth above you. It’s awkward for everyone. One of the room moms for Daughter’s class pulled me aside and told me she had a family that wanted to donate a pair of tickets for someone to go to the Gala and would I be interested? YES! And so it is that suddenly I was going to the gala.

The thing with the gala is that in my mind I kept putting it off as a thing that was happening far away and suddenly, it became a thing that was happening this weekend, today in fact. So on Wednesday the light bulb went off and I made my appointment for my mani/pedi and got my nails done yesterday.

manipedi

OPI Thrill of Brazil is the color

It. Was. Amazing! They gave me a glass of wine. And they were sweet to me. And the lady that did my nails didn’t barrage me with questions or small talk which is nice because I usually just like to sit and be quiet and enjoy the fact that I am being taken care of. I came home feeling all pretty and lovely and stuff. And then I got stressed out about what on earth to wear because I have nothing for this event and the dress I had planned on wearing, I realized is missing the belt that came with it because I lent it to a bridesmaid. My mom had the idea of calling MutantWino’s fiancee and so Stallion finished up bedtime so I could run over to their house and try on dresses.

I left with a pretty ivory lace sheath dress which I will be pairing with an awesome vintage red swing coat I’ve had in my closet for a couple years that I got for free when my friend was doing a garage sale.  And I will be wearing that with these really pretty black and grey peep toe heels my cousin gave me from her last Purging of the Shoes. And I will be carrying a really cute red clutch my BFF gave me for my birthday. Funny, I just realized my outfit will cost me zero dollars. Oh wait, I did buy the knockoff Spanx thing I’m going to wear under the dress but I bought that several months ago– does it still count?

Oh yeah, and my massage is booked for next Wednesday night after work.

So all of this awesome and I am feeling… completely exhausted, drained, and worried. Baby is going through something and I’m stuck. He wet the bed again last night and yesterday he got in trouble at school. My mom told me he was absolutely wild with her yesterday. This morning he was absolutely crazy with me too. On Monday I have an appointment with a counselor. My job gives free counseling on-campus and they also give referrals. I’m going to talk to them about the situation I am in with the kids and their father and also explore the possibility of the kids going to therapy. I have a FSA I contribute to so the money is there, and it looks like they need it. It can’t hurt.

On top of all that I’ve been dealing with this coughing, congesting, voice hoarsening thing for a week now. The NyQuil is making a mess out of my mornings. I keep passing out on the couch. I have a midterm on Tuesday. I really need to see my friends more often because I’m feeling lonely and too dependent on Stallion. I’m anxious about tonight because I’ve never been to a gala so will I be overdressed or underdressed and I don’t even know where they ended up seating me so I have no idea who will be chatting with me and big things make me anxious these days and  seriously aren’t I too old to be caring about this crap anyways?

So there you go. Trying to shift from Eeyore into Jem (she knows how to have a good time, right? SYNERGY!) is not easy. But I am trying. And hopefully I will enjoy my awesome weekend and accomplish everything I want to– enjoy the gala, crochet, hang out with the BFF, do the Google+ hangout I have planned, study, see my other friends, build Baby’s bike, ride my bike, and enjoy alone time with Stallion (yes pervs, that’s exactly what I’m hinting at).

What are YOUR plans this weekend? How can I make an extra $25 a month so every other month I can get pampered with an awesome mani/pedi? Why don’t my nails look like that when I do them myself? Have you ever put your kids in therapy? What’s it like when kids get therapy? Am I being silly and stressed for nothing? What do you do when you’re being silly and stressed for nothing? Am I asking too many questions? Do you ask this many questions? This is too many questions isn’t it?

Child Support Surrealism

This is me calling Child Support Enforcement. This is after speaking to the rep and waiting for the supervisor. Can you read my mind?

This is me calling Child Support Enforcement, on hold for a supervisor. Can you read my mind?

To call or not to call, that is the question.

Oh Miami Dade County State Attorney’s Child Support Enforcement Office, I just can’t decide if you improve or deteriorate my quality of living.

I called them today. I’m still unsure whether or not that was a good idea. I’m still unsure whether or not my calls actually matter to anyone other than myself. I’m still unsure whether my calls affect anything else other than my sanity.

I was on hold for 27 minutes which I guess isn’t bad compared to the record of one hour and one minute hold time in December. This time, it was Warren on the line which brought this to mind

Empire Records

Empire Records

Warren let me know that the gorbellied common-kissing jointhead (thanks Will) went into the Enforcement Office on January 23. He went in to negotiate a lower payment to have his license reinstated and was denied because when they pulled him up in the system, he had multiple child support obligations.

Pause. What!?

Apparently there is a note in the file that they denied him renegotiation because he has other cases that are delinquent. As in other children.

Now listen ladies and gents, this clouted fat-kidneyed boar-pig maybe a compulsive liar with a penchant for pulling cons, but if there is one thing I am 99.9% certain about him is that there are no other children. Previous pregnancies prior to mine? My understanding is yes and that it was terminated. Warren was all skeptical of me and my insistence on this and I knew with this horrible cold feeling in my gut this must happen all of the time, so I dropped it.

Warren said they were still waiting on that Income Deduction Order to go into effect. He also reassured me that they made sure to tell him he had to continue making child support payments until the Income Deduction Order went into effect. Ohmygodthankyousmuch for telling him that!! I bet you anything you guys changed his ways and made him realize what a horrible misunderstanding it was!! And clearly it worked well because I have gotten zero payments except for the $100 payment he made that day to get his license reinstated.

So you know, I had to wait until March but then not really because at that point they would send a follow-up letter giving the company another 20 days to comply and do you guys know what they do after that? They… send another letter… giving them another 20 days to comply. And then they would go and try and find a different employer he might be at. Oh and by the way, little known fact here– when an Income Deduction Order is pending, like this one, all other enforcement efforts stop. In other words, even if he doesn’t make the payments he was instructed to, they cannot proceed with enforcement until the total 100 days have passed.

So I’m all dismayed and stuff and about to hang up and then I’m like, “I need a supervisor please.” And then Warren was like, “Not a problem but I need to explain to the supervisor what the call is about” which I think is their way of asking “Sh!t am I in trouble? You’re not gonna tattle on me are you?” And then I was all like, “I just want to go over this enforcement stuff and the thing with the multiple obligations stuff or something.” “Oh ok sure” which means “Oh my god I’m not in trouble thank you lord jesus”.

So then, I got put on hold again but was so dismayed I didn’t even care about how long it was for and took that picture up there instead because I felt like this was crazy and worth documenting and it wasn’t even that long really before Ray was on the phone.

Do you remember Ray? I remembered Ray. Ray was the supervisor I spoke to the day I had a horrible experience with one of the customer representatives who was just telling me complete and utter nonsense and acting like she knew exactly what she was talking about when it was obvious she totally didn’t. Ray was all like “What the hell is going on with this case and why are people telling you crazy stuff!?!?! I will fix your case!!!” Which you know, A for effort on that one Ray but…

“Wow this case has only gotten $100?” he asks me. Yup. Ray turns out to be my senior case analyst and I really like him because he digs and finds things out and makes me feel like someone is actually caring about my case and is going to help things get done but it also makes me completely curious just how the hell these people do their job because no one knows what anyone else is doing and yet it seems like fifty million people can affect one particular case.

So Ray gets caught up with the case, because let’s be real– the guy hasn’t looked at it since the day I called him in November for sure. And then Ray lets me know what really happened. Are you ready? Are you sure you’re ready? Do you have a tasty snack? Do you want to get a cool beverage, or a hot one if you’re freezing your bum off somewhere?

And get ourselves a snack!

And get ourselves a snack!

Ok

On January 23, the beslubbering beef-witted barnacle did indeed come to the Child Support Enforcement Office. They updated his information because he informed them the Employer information they had on-file (yes the one with the pending Income Deduction Order) was out of date and he gave them new Employer Information. He said he needed his license back. They told him that was fine, he just had to pay $1028.00. He said he didn’t have that kind of money. They said too bad. That’s where the story should end. Right there. But it doesn’t.

He explained that he has a new job but that without a valid license, he could not have this job. He probably explained what the consequences of not having a job would be as far as possible future child support payments go. Maybe he lamented the economy and told them about how much horrible stress he’s been on lately and how absolutely dreadful he feels about not being able to support his dear children the way he wishes he could, nay the way they deserve.  I don’t freaking know. But whatever he did, he convinced the person to take it up with a supervisor, who is not Ray because these negotiations happen “downstairs” and they are not involved with them, and then he convinced the supervisor to help him out.

So they said if he paid the $100 he claimed was all he had, they would reinstate the license. This is the bit where they also explained they would be sending the new employer the Income Deduction Order but that he must make child support payments until the Income Deduction Order went into effect. They probably thanked him for coming in. They probably wished him good luck with this new job and hoped times would be better for him. I don’t freaking know.

All I know is he walked out of there with a reinstated license and put a freeze on all enforcement efforts again for up to another 100 days. For $100. With an arrears amount over $19k and a past due amount that is now over $11k. After going six months without making any type of payment whatsoever.

Did they verify his claim of employment before agreeing to his offer of $100 to reinstate the license? Did they verify the other employer is indeed invalid? No. They don’t do that. They take their word for it.

They. Take. Their. Word. For. It.

They take their word for it!!!!

There are a couple more minor surreal notes to add to this already surreal story.

First of all, I explained to Ray that I know crazy things happen all the time but I was pretty confident that my children were his only children and that I was concerned that note was on the case file because what if it were to start complicating other things? Ray was hesitant and he clarified he could only discuss MY case information with me. But he looked up his social. And guess what????????

My kids are his only kids. So what is that note doing there? Was it an error? Did someone just look up his name, which also happens to be kind of common? Or did he maybe lead them to believe he had other children he was having trouble supporting? I have no idea but someone put a total bullshit note on my case file.

Second of all, he went to the Child Support office on January 23rd. He gave them the information for the new employer which most likely triggered the close of the other employer’s case. They sent the Income Deduction Order today, February 15. Twenty three days later.

He has had a valid license and a new job for twenty three days, has made no payments at all, and they just sent the Income Deduction Order that gets the 100 day process started, today. So he got himself, potentially, 123 days.

It amazes me, time and again, how inefficient something critical can be. I called the company I had information for, aka the apparent now Former Employer (seriously I lost track of how many jobs he’s had since we split). The receptionist informed me that although she was new, she was pretty certain he didn’t work there because she couldn’t find him on her listing. It took less than two minutes. If I was actually calling for someone else as part of my job, I would have left a message with the HR woman she transferred me to just to be absolutely sure and to get some real closure on something.

I love technology. I love automation. I really do. But we must always remember that computers, as brilliant as they are, are actually stupid. And as efficient as automation can be, humans are not automatic. In other words, when applying technology and automation to a human problem, one cannot simply remove a human from the process. My frustration lies with the fact that I am working with a group that does not (for whatever reason) do the work needed to actually address the problem of non-paying non-custodial parents. Every time I call, I am forcing a human into the process. And there is resistance. That is why the first layer is the representatives who answer the phone. My experience tells me they are often poorly trained, have no power, and don’t really comprehend the majority of their job. It is almost as if they are trained to be the buffer against reinserting humanity into an automated process.

This issue burns me up. It’s not even on a selfish, personal level either. Every time I call and deal with the incompetence at the Enforcement Office I am reminded me of the (now cruel) words of the intake coordinator who processed my case in the beginning– “Oh your case is an easy one!” And the fact remains, despite the insanity that I have been going through with this case, there are by far worse situations that end up there. There are non-custodial parents who flee the county, state, even country. There are non-custodial parents with children with three, four, five different custodial parents. There are non-custodial parents who intentionally leave the workforce and go on benefits to not pay child support. And so I burn inside for those cases too. Because if they can’t get mine straight and mine is really not that complicated, then surely there is no way a meatier case ever  gets close to resolution.

And so I hate calling because there is just never a positive experience with Child Support Enforcement. But I also must call because no one at that office cares about my children and their needs and no one at that office is doing the actual complex work that needs to get done to care for the children of this state. So I’ll keep nagging and pushing and escalating. I’ll keep getting worked up and I’ll keep fighting those frustration tears and I’ll keep trying to make a connection with someone, anyone, there.

A Moment Over Coffee

I was in the kitchen rounding up the breakfast supplies. Eldest walked in, opened the dishwasher and grabbed a cup.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re dirty.”

“No, the sign said ‘Clean’.”

“You sure about that?”

“Yes”

“OK then.”

He pulled out the cup, closed the door, and glanced at the sign. He pulled the door open again. I smiled as he put the cup back.

“Never doubt your mother in the morning when she’s drinking a giant cup of coffee,” I teased him.

“Coffee is so yummy.”

“Yes it is. Do you want a sip?”

“Yes please.”

He came to my side and carefully took the giant mug in his hands. He was so big, easily standing over the stove. I wondered if he was pretending to ignore how hot it was against his hands or if he found the warmth comforting. He would die if his friends saw him drinking out of a giant pink mug with Sleeping Beauty on it.

“I know why Daddy wants you to pack a pair of jeans for me.”

“Oh yeah? Why?” I thought maybe his dad had planned something special for them and had told them.

“Because he doesn’t have any.”

“Oh. He could buy you a pair.”

“I know.”

I smiled at him. He smiled back.

“Did you pack them?”

“Yes.”

“And Baby’s sandals?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. Go brush your teeth.”

He walked away sipping his cup of water and I spent the rest of the day wondering if I had slipped and said something I shouldn’t have.

Single Parent Stories: Bubblegum On My Shoe

Cari Wegner writes the blog Bubblegum On My Shoe where she chronicles her adventures as a single mother of two children, one of which is diagnosed with Autism. Her blog is her escape from the stress and pressures of every day life and is filled with funny, sweet, and random anecdotes. This is the first time she discusses her single parent story.

Before I throw all my dirty laundry in your direction, I have to thank the Supermodel herself for letting me air it all on her blog.  This post is probably the most vulnerable article I have written about my personal journey through divorce and single parenting.  I use my blog as an escape from the crazy life I call “my reality”, so I haven’t even revealed my entire story to my own readers.  Lucky kids you, let’s begin.

When they say love is blind, I fully understand the meaning and am here to share my full testimony to such.  So to say I didn’t see it coming isn’t a cop-out, it is truth.  In hindsight the warning signs were all there, but life in suburbia with picket fences shields you from a case of the, “that’ll never happen to me(s)”.  I was a stay-at-home Mom with a workaholic husband.  A husband I had been married to for 9 years and built a business with and had two young children, 4 and 2.  Things weren’t all roses, show me a marriage that is, but it wasn’t bad.  There was definitely a disconnect between us, but I thought that was because my husband worked a crazy amount of hours; hours that he reminded me were for us and our family.

Our lives had just been turned upside down when my 2 year old son was diagnosed with Autism.  My perfect vision of what life would be, the dreams I had for my child were slowly crumbling before me.  I felt helpless to help my son, uneducated about his disorder and relieved.  Yes, relieved, because now I had answers, and could move forward and do what was best for my son.  And so I did, and still do. (And he is amazing!)

Two short months later, the abyss deepened and widened.  My husband was in a terrible car accident which left him in a coma for 2 days and almost claimed his life.  Only by what I can say is a miracle did he leave the hospital 2 weeks later with only a broken leg and some fractures.  The 2 days he was in a coma were the most terrible of my life.  Without him to cover up the lies, I discovered his accident was a suicide attempt.  He had been driven to such by the guilt of his 5 year prescription drug addiction and gambling addiction which had left us and his business bankrupt.  Within two weeks I lost almost every material possession I owned, house, cars, jewelry, even my diamond wedding ring.

Eventually my Ex was forced to treatment, he never fully committed himself to treatment and was kicked out of various programs and now lives in another state with no custody of the children.  I was left to figure out what parts of our ten years together were truths and which were lies.  I found myself dependent on other people not because I wanted to be, because I needed to be.  I went to therapy to help me as I redefined myself and my life.

Divorce is like death in a way.  You grieve the death of a love that once was, dreams that once were, and guilt for things left unsaid and done.  But you can either become a prisoner to the lost or a warrior of a new life, a new beginning.

I’m not going to sugar coat this, single parenting sucks.  Hard.  It will mentally exhaust you, it’s lonely and it may drive you to drink.  Here is some of my advice:

  1. Shut down the guilt:  Your divorce might be for the best, it doesn’t mean you still aren’t going to self-blame and feel like a loser for many days.  LET IT GO!  What is done is done, reliving the anguish, picking scenarios apart and wondering if you did the right thing for the children will be your eternal hell on Earth otherwise.  I can’t say I have a 5 step plan to letting it go, just breathe in and out every day to start, once you have that down, you can move on to bigger things like showering and before you know you won’t be crying yourself to sleep.  You can do this.
  2. You are a great Parent because you try:  So divorce and single incomes bring financial strain, not to mention less time to spend with your kids, especially if you are in a joint custody situation.  But when your children are grown, they won’t remember that they didn’t have the coolest new trendy so-and-so, but that you took time out of your life to just listen to them.  No matter how busy we get, show them that they are the most important thing in your life by talking to them, playing with them, for 5 minutes or 50 minutes.
  3. Put the brakes on getting back out there:  Before the divorce papers are even signed everyone you know will try to set you up with the “other” single friend they have.  Don’t feel like you have to jump back into the dating game right away.  Come to terms with being alone for a little while.  Learn to feel good in your own skin again.  Know that you are enough even without someone else.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “I don’t know how you do it”, I could offset the back child support I’m owed.  But we do it because what other choice is there?  We do it because we are capable, beautiful, and love our children.  My divorce brought great pain and great upheaval in my life.  But it was a chance at a new beginning, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.  In times of great pain, there is amazing grace.

One in 88 children is diagnosed with Autism, if you have concerns or need more information please click here or visit my blog for more information.

If you enjoyed this story as much as I did, I hope you’ll read past contributions to this series. I also hope you will be bold and contribute your voice to this series. Please contact me to share your single parent story. Single parents can, and do, create loving and healthy environments to raise wonderful, happy, and loved children in. Single parent households are also created in a myriad of ways. Here are the past contributions to this series:

Single Parent Stories: Tech Savvy Butterfly

Stephanie Van Pelt is a single mom I met through Google+ (Seriously why aren’t you there yet? Connect with me!) who writes the blog Tech Savvy Butterfly. There she writes about technology, parenting, and how technology affects families for better or for worse. She also discusses these things on Google+ so if you’re new to the platform and interested in these topics, circling her is a must. This is her single parent story.

My journey to single parenthood was so exciting I decided to do it twice. I’m twice divorced with 2 sons, one from each marriage. The journey itself is full of bad decisions – my own and those of my exes. Low self esteem coming off of marriage #1 resulted in an even more disastrous second marriage. Let’s just say that no one was truly innocent in either of these matrimonies other than the children and move on.

This results in two very different single parent scenarios. My older son spends one week with me and then one week with his father. While we still bicker from time to time, we managed to keep our relationship cordial and later even friendly. I’m actually pretty happy about the fact that we’ve demonstrated to our son that even though we couldn’t live together as a couple, we have still been able to work together to raise our son.

My younger son hasn’t seen his father in more than three and a half years. At first this made me very, very angry. Now I’m grateful and to be honest, this is my preference. In his current state, ex #2 is not fit to be around children. He may never be. This leaves me as my second son’s sole parent, both more challenging and simpler in the same moment.

Who am I now? What is single parenting like for me today? It’s frustrating when my first ex doesn’t meet my expectations. But then again, that’s hard enough for married couples. While divorcing I think that’s the hardest thing to understand. Co-parenting is difficult in even the very best of relationships. We always have differences of opinions and those early angry days certainly compounded those differences. I have to remind myself that he also loves our son and is just doing things the best way he knows how….as am I.

By contrast, I don’t have to consult anyone when making decisions about my younger son. I also don’t have anyone else to help with the responsibility of raising him. That fact alone can be very wearying. Knowing that there’s no one else to tap out to – no one to call and say “Your son did XYZ!” I fear my younger son will not have appropriate role models or take on the absences of his father as his fault.

Through it all I’ve learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of achieving and I’ve grown into a better person. The key things I’ve learned:

  • Develop a strong support system. It’s pretty much impossible to parent well completely solo. Develop a team of people to help you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Meaningful relationships with your family, your ex’s family, other single parents and other whole families matter. When you have a sick child, there’s someone to lend a hand. When you have a win, there’s someone to celebrate it with. You don’t need a spouse/partner but you do need that village. And it provides you with a little welcome relief and sanity.
  • You will be amazed at how strong you really are. I had no idea I was such a strong woman until I became a single mom. At the end of the day, the responsibility of my boys rests solely on my shoulders. You know what? I got through it – I even managed to do it a bit gracefully. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when push comes to shove and it’s your children at stake.
  • I have three main responsibilities in life and only time to do two of them well. Family, work and home. The house can wait. I’d rather read bed-time stories to my kids. Work gives me something of my own, outside of my identity as Mom and provides me with the income to support my boys. The boys are the light of my life. I can have a clean house when they’re not there anymore. We have too much fun being messy right now.

If you enjoyed this story as much as I did, I hope you’ll read past contributions to this series. Single parents can, and do, create loving and healthy environments to raise wonderful, happy, and loved children in. Here’s more proof:

Single Parent Stories: The Brainy Babe

Meg Winkler is a freelance writer who keeps the blog Brainy Babe where she talks about books, writing, and of course the single mom life. She has been through two marriages and maintains a good relationship with the father of her daughter. This is her single parent story.

I didn’t set out to become a single parent; although, how many of us have? I was married and happy and we were surprised with a precious little girl who—I kid you not—from the womb has always been the biggest sweetheart I could ever have been blessed with. And then the marriage fell apart.

The reasons behind the collapse of our marriage are more involved than I care to go into, but we were married for almost seven years, separated for the last three. Even with that separation, it was hard—one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. To make matters even more difficult, my first husband was (and is) in the Army. He’s deployed fairly often and at the best of times he’s still at least a few hours away. At the time of our divorce, he was literally on the other side of the world. And I had this three-year-old for whom I was suddenly primarily responsible. Her dad’s always done everything he can to help out, but living close by has just never been a reality and I was granted sole custody because of our mutual living situations.

I sold our house—I had to according to the divorce agreement. I ran the gamut of all the legal stuff and honestly for a while I felt completely ashamed over getting divorced. On top of all the embarrassment, I had so many decisions to make. I had to decide what to do with my business. Should I continue pursuing my master’s degree? How was I going to get along? I was scared.

At around the same time, an old friend popped back up in my life after several years of silence and we fell into a very quick romance. I wasn’t a single parent for long and I married the second husband much sooner than I should have. That marriage ended after just about a year together. That’s when it got hard; that’s when it got interesting.

I was a single parent for quite a while. I lived with my parents for a bit, and without their help I think the little one and I would have learned what it’s like to live out of a car. I didn’t date anyone; I focused on finishing school, finding a good job, and getting my feet back underneath me. I had to find what made me happy. After going through two “failed” marriages, I had to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

I’d married the first husband when I was just 20. I was just a kid. In many ways we’d grown up together, but that also meant that I had to stop and look at things from the point of view of what I wanted out of life as a grown up. I asked myself what made me happy. I changed religions, and therefore a large social set. I got a new job and finished my degree. I started really writing, I mean really pursuing it. And finally I started dating again.

Being a single parent has been difficult, but it’s also been an enriching experience. And I’ve learned a few things:

  1. You can’t do it all: I never absolutely bought into the “it takes a village” philosophy until I became a single parent. When there’s just one of you, suddenly this support structure means so much more. You rely on extended family, teachers, and friends in ways that you didn’t before. You also become hyper-aware of how this village influences your kid.
  2.  All the hard work is worth it: Sure, there are times when you want to throw in the towel. There are days when you seriously just want to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a chick flick (or a beer and a football game). This is okay. This is normal. And this doesn’t make you a bad person, which leads to my last point:
  3.  You have to put yourself first: Of course your kid is a top priority, but not your only priority. Take advantage of grandparents who want the little one to spend the night–go out with your friends. Take time to paint your toenails. Don’t beat yourself up when you really just want to hit the drive thru at McDonald’s because the work day was rough. If you remember to put yourself first, you’ll feel better and be a better parent. It’s easy to get dragged down by single parenthood. Take some time for yourself; your kids will see this and be happier for it.

Today my life is different. I met the love of my life a year and a half after the second divorce. When I met him, I’d already figured out what I want out of life. I’d learned what makes me happy. I discovered a few things about myself and finally returned to the person I feel like I was before I was married the first time. My relationship with my daughter was solid and I’d buried all the hatchets with her dad. I’d gone through those struggles of having to deny my little one a toy or ice cream in lieu of a new pair of shoes or actual, healthy (read: boring) food that she needed. I’d learned how to prioritize things and I’d learned what’s most important.

And the reality is that I’m no longer a single parent. Sure I take on all of the big responsibilities of parenthood for my daughter, but I live with my boyfriend and a roommate (his nephew) and we form a kind of non-traditional family. I’ve always believed family is who you choose, not who you’re born with. I learned a while ago that we have to do things our own way, not dependent upon what society, friends, family, or the media tell us. For some, single parenthood is the way to do it. Being a parent is hard—I don’t care who you are and who you’re with. But it’s worth it. In the end, it’s worth more than you know.

If you enjoyed this story, I hope you’ll read the other contributions to this series. If you’re interested in sharing your Single Parent Story, please email me.