Life After Divorce
When my sons, Jacob and Isaac, were just 3 and 1, my husband and I separated. As a child of a divorce, I'd always sworn that I'd never put my kids through that -- yet as it turned out, living paycheck to paycheck and trying to do our own growing up while raising a family proved to be too great a strain on our marriage: It bent, cracked, and finally broke.
I flew through the first couple of months after our separation in an adrenaline-powered blur. But things like finding a place to live and paying for it all by myself, taking care of almost all the day-to-day parenting of two small children, and trying to find a job when I'd been out of the workforce since college terrified me. I felt like a flake -- not a strong, capable mother who was going teach her children to succeed despite the obstacles ahead.
Single Moms Need a Tribe
When I was married, we were just like all the other families: our own tiny self-sufficient universe. Even if my husband and I didn't get along, we were both still deeply invested in the minutiae of running our family. Then one day, my best friend and co-parent was gone from my life. Though I had always paid lip service to the "It takes a village" idea, it turned out that, while there might have been some "village" people out there, we had been too wrapped up in our own lives to get to know them.
It really hit me one Friday night. I was driving through a bad snowstorm with my little boys. What if our car skidded off the road into a ditch? Would anyone notice? Okay, that was an exaggeration -- but it's how it felt at the time, and it prompted me into action. I decided to check in every night with another single mom. Then I made a conscious effort to invite friends over for dinner, ask a neighbor to help me move my couch, and chat with the other moms at drop-off. Slowly, my sense that I had a contagious disease lifted, and I found myself expanding my definition of what makes a family. "It's crucial to explain to children that family is defined by people who love us and whom we feel really close to," says M. Gary Neuman, Parents advisor and author of Helping Your Child Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way.
The Ex Files
Suck It Up and Get Along with Your Ex
When my divorce was new, talking with my ex was painful. We were angry at each other, and, let's face it, looking for ways to hurt each other. But no matter how right I felt I was, deep down in my heart I knew: Being in constant fight mode was horrible for my kids, and it was making me even more miserable. "You have an obligation to your kids to stay friendly -- or at least civil -- with your former spouse," says Neuman. But this is easier said than done. So, I tried my hardest and used the greatest gift to divorced parents everywhere: e-mail. Hashing out sensitive topics this way allowed me to cool down before responding. "Sleep before you send," advises New York City family-law specialist Peter Bienstock. "Read the e-mail again in the morning, and make sure it says exactly what you mean." Don't be snide, angry, or sarcastic. Try for a pleasant and courteous tone even if you don't feel that way. It's easy to fake it electronically.
The dishes are done, the kids are asleep, and the toys are put away. Wouldn't it be nice to curl up in bed with a good...man? As fulfilling as being a mom is, we all need a grown-up playdate once in a while. But finding a nice guy can sometimes feel like climbing Mount Everest, and you need more than a compass to find your way through the duds and dorks of the dating world.
Are You There Yet?
"You're ready to be back in the dating game when you don't feel like you need a man, but you feel like you want one," says Sharon McKenna, author of Sex and the Single Mom. When you're done obsessing about your relationship with your ex, you're generally ready to get on with your life.