Getting divorced sucks. It’s an all-around bad time for anyone that has to go through the ugly experience of court, lawyers, money talk, and the excruciating idea of dividing up time with your kids.
The legal jargon, structure, and rigidity of it alone is enough to make you sick. And that doesn’t include the emotional distress.
Divorcing someone you once loved hurts. Divorcing someone you no longer love because they are madly in love with themselves is in a whole new realm of torment. It’s debilitating, mind-blowing, crippling at times.
Any person with any empathy at all knows that literally no one wins in a divorce. Even the most amicable divorce brings hurt, grief, and pain. Your life as you know it is vastly different. Your home, your daily routine, EVERYTHING about your existence utterly changes. This is not a win in anyone’s book, except the narcissist.
Any potential threat to the narcissist’s self-esteem is perceived as a highly personal attack, even if your approach is civil. And to a narcissist, divorce is a sign of weakness, of failure. The ultimate ego bruiser.
Once the papers are filed, everything becomes a game to be won to the narcissist. And only they get to decide when it’s over. Every move they make is a calculated one and no issue is too ludicrous or too minute to raise hell over.
Nothing is off limits when the narcissist’s self-image is at stake. He will literally do whatever it takes to maintain the façade of the injured party, without shame or remorse. Even if it means sharing private, intimate details of your lives, or making you look like an unstable and incapable parent. If it were up to the narcissist, you would have no rights as a parent (or a human being, if they had it their way) at all. They may proclaim an intention of peace and amicability, but their goal is, without a doubt, to win.
Money unquestionably becomes insignificant. They will drain your accounts and any equity you might share, and when they are done they will move on to family and friends they can exploit for help because they can’t back down. Peace doesn’t fuel the narcissist.
In the end, you will have collectively wasted 70k fighting over an old, broken microwave.
And that’s just the beginning.
The narcissist will take every last ounce of energy they think you might have left and drag it through the mud, depicting you as a complete piece of shit. Be vigilant. Because no matter how the cards fall, this (whatever *this* is) is going to be your fault.
They will take every single thing you do and twist it into something it’s not just to paint a bigger picture of the monster they want to portray you as. Because surrender without complete destruction is just not an option for the narcissist.
And even though it’s a battle to the death of your sanity, it really doesn’t matter in the end if they actually win what they are fighting for. They have a plan to explain that away too. It won’t be because of their shotty tactics or inappropriateness. It will be because of the unjust court system, an unfair judge, or a “bad” lawyer. They will have a thought out and exceptionally detailed list of the “wrong-doings” that happened to them because a narcissist never accepts blame or responsibility. He’d rather take everyone he’s ever loved down with him than show any sign of feebleness or fault.
It won’t feel like a “win” to you either after the battle you’ve just fought to get out of a living hell. Even if you do walk away the “victor” in this relentless personal encounter with psychological warfare, you will have convinced yourself you don’t deserve it, because all along the narcissist has been telling you so.
And he’s not done yet.
Narcissists are amazing, manipulative story tellers. And they will tell their stories to anyone that will listen. Long after the show is over they will continue to spread their elaborate lies until they are fulfilled with enough sympathy or applause to fuel their vainness.
Lies and deceit are their playbook. You find yourself documenting EVERY.SINGLE.INTERACTION to back up the absurdity that’s become your reality because you’re sure no one will believe you when you tell them. And the narcissist has convinced you that you’re crazy, so you need reassurance. Someone to agree that this is not how things should be. Ever.
It’s really hard to talk to someone who can’t reason with logic. You continuously try to show them how out of control the entire situation is, but you’re wasting your breath. It’s useless. And to other people, it looks as though you’ve given up, or given in, but in reality, you’re just trying hard to save your sanity on the brink of what seems like a never-ending pandemonium.
Trying to stay quiet and be the “rational” one while all of this is going on might be harder than divorce itself. Because he will intentionally try to push you over the edge so he can justify his actions and build evidence to back up the picture he’s painted of you along the way.
The smallest lull in chaos might give you hope. You yearn so badly for things to calm down, finally get better. However, it’s an unfortunate truth that with a narcissist, things will never not be in complete mayhem because this is the bane of their existence. Without havoc, they can’t function. Can’t exist.
If they find that things have settled or that they have been “found out” they will seek out someone new to disrupt and dominate. Because they thrive on it.
Divorce is terrible. Nobody gets married thinking that one day this will all come to an end. It hurts enough all on its own. But when you’re divorcing a narcissist, hurt doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s unimaginable, humiliating, and exhausting.
They are so in love with themselves that they simply can’t fathom the fact that someone doesn’t feel the same. The only way to come to terms with this is to completely self-destruct and carry their loved ones through the ruins. No matter the cost.
Divorcing a narcissist made up the worst year of my life, hands down. But it has to be said, I would do it all over again after truly seeing what he was capable of. I just might do things a little differently this time around.
When I was a little girl I had a dream. A dream of growing up and being free of the know-it-all but know-nothing-at-all dorky, embarrassing parents of my own. Little did I know I was on my way to becoming them….
I had visions of never having to share any of my shit with anyone ever again, playing whatever song I wanted in the car, or putting whatever the hell I wanted on the TV because I was a damn adult and I could do what I want. When I want.
It’s almost endearing to think how wrong I was.
If someone told me years ago I would be arguing with a toddler about how to put a sock on (I’m doing it all wrong, apparently). I would have laughed in their face. Adults have it all under control.
So many thing I did NOT see coming as an adolescent with aspirations as far as the eye can see. Such an idiot. The list of experiences with children that have hit me like a torrential downpour on a sunny day are literally endless and growing by the millisecond. You can still feel the sun on your skin but you’re suddenly soaking wet and wonder, “where the fuck did that come from??”
That’s basically the narrative of my life now.
If I would have been warned that no matter how much I protested, I would listen to the Frozen soundtrack OVER AND OVER AND OVER until my ears were bleeding just because it was a more pleasant emotional assault than screaming children, I would have said NO WAY. Not in my car.
Paw Patrol is the new Jersey Shore, in my house. I can sing the lyrics to pretty much every children’s animated show just by hearing the first note. And don’t even get me started on the viral shark family. I’m ready to do my own rendition including homicidal shark, no fucks given shark, and perpetually exhausted shark.
Who would have thought that as an adult my new life motto’s would be #getyourshoeson #thisisMINEDAMMIT #becauseIsaidso or #areyoukiddingme?
I quit a job as a server at a restaurant shortly after I found out I was pregnant with my first. I did a whole Half Baked eff-you exit pointing fingers and cursing the staff on my way out the door because I was about to be a mom and EVERYTHING would be different now.
The owners must have felt so smug with their little kids and parenting experience thinking “God bless her, she really has no clue”. I didn’t. Here we are, years later, and I’m an order taker, short-order cook, AND bus boy and I do it all for disdain. Or hugs…. If I’m lucky.
Getting anywhere on time is like a unicorn sighting. There is absolutely no speed my kids are capable of moving in other than sloth. Even on a good day when the sock isn’t tickling their foot and they were able to locate BOTH shoes quickly, it’s still an episode of Frazier (slow, boring, mildly humorous) getting to the car.
Showering used to be something I looked forward to. My daily release where I could feel renewed, fresh, clean. If I chose not to shower it was because I was being progressive and “hip”.
Not because I was unable to lock my kids into an episode of some mind-numbing cartoon long enough. Or I hadn’t put thought into charging the tablet to a percentage that would “babysit” my kids until I finished.
Now I have to plan my showers. If there is any part of my life that resembles a successful business executive, it is the way I schedule a shower. And that’s about it.
“Bedtime” used to happen for me after a night of dinner and drinks with friends. I would reminisce about the hilarious events that had unfolded while I brushed my teeth and set my alarm. Now, I haven’t used an alarm in eight years and doubt I’ll need one anytime soon considering my little refusers-of-sleep are up at the ass crack of dawn (or before) every.friggin.morning.
This includes the weekend. The time when I swore as a teenager when I “grew up” I would mosey around the house all day and lay in pajamas on rerun binges if I chose to, because adults have that option without someone hounding them to get up do something productive. Ha! Yeah, right. It’s almost cute how stupid I was in my visions of the future.
Bedtime has become a complete shit show charade of song and dance, stories, and endless excuses as to why it’s not that “time” yet. Begging for snacks and back rubs while someone sobs (usually me, sometimes them) because we are all exhausted and if they don’t go to bed soon I’M GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT.
Parenting is like a domestic partnership. Only you didn’t walk into it agreeing to share anything and everything from this day forth, till death do you part. You are forced to or all hell breaks loose.
This includes your belongings, your money, AND your sanity. What’s yours is theirs and what’s theirs is theirs. Forever and ever, Amen.
Honestly, I love my kids with every ounce of my being. I would be lost and devastated if anything changed in our family. But there are days where I wonder how I keep it all together. And that’s what chocolate and wine are for. Cheers.
You know that asshole. The one that thinks the rules of the pickup line don’t apply to her. The woman who doesn’t socialize and chat or catch up with other parents while waiting for the bell. The mom that doesn’t allow her kids to stay after school and play at the park with their friends.
The one who’s always in a hurry. The one who pulls in where you’re not supposed to and who’s kids are running and jumping into a moving vehicle because she didn’t get there on time to actually find a parking spot. Yeah, that asshole. Guilty as charged.
I’m the mom everyone hates at pickup, and frankly, I don’t even care. I have overheard myself being referred to as the “van lady” (as if there aren’t about 79 “van ladies” at an elementary school dismissal), and it was most definitely not a term of endearment.
But now that I have revealed myself, let me explain before everyone comes to my house with pitchforks and burns me at the stake. Because inside the “van lady’s” car, there was a story.
When my son started school I had three kids aged 5, 2, and 1. You know, the really “fun” ages. The ones where no one is sleeping, and one is always whining because they are hungry, tired, their sock seam is tickling their foot, or someone won’t stop “copying them”.
The same year my oldest began Kindergarten, my middle child started preschool and he was the type of child we all (as parents) hope we don’t have when we send them off to school. The child that wails and clings to your leg, that is in hysterics when you have to forcibly hand them over to a new teacher they barely know. The one you hear crying for you after the traumatizing hand-off while you sit in the hallway and pray they will get over this so you can leave and they can actually enjoy their time in school.
I would drop my son off at kindergarten and spend the ride to preschool fielding all of the fake illnesses by my very intelligent and manipulative preschooler in an attempt to stay home and then prep that child repeatedly that we were going, this was happening, and it was going to be okay.
But that wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg that was our home life at the time.
This was also around the period my marriage was falling apart. My ex was no longer living in the house and his absence was starting to spread to all aspects of our family lives. So… I’ll just say it, I was depressed. Life sucked.
I didn’t know it at the time, because I was so focused on taking each day at a time, but I was learning how to be a single mom.
During this time, our lives were upside down. Every day was a new struggle and between regular kid chaos there was court, attorneys, finances to figure out, and confused and sad kids to console. Friends and family that wanted in on the drama or explanations as to why things were coming to an end.
And me, living in hell with a soon-to-be ex who was sick and emotionally unwell. Spreading rumors like wildfire about my personal life to any and all that would listen while simultaneously harassing me as if constant contact and mental abuse and manipulation would force me into submission. It was an exhausting cycle and if I’m being honest, there were many late nights crying, had by all.
School pickup came every day faster than I expected. I spent the day trying to get affairs in order so I could put my focus on my kids when they came home from school without (hopefully) having to deal with my overwhelming emotions or any legalities.
I would try to get all the tears out while they were gone so I could plaster a smile on my face and pretend everything was okay for the rest of the day, and the school hours would fly by. I would look at the clock, run out the door, grab my kids and rush to do something, anything to keep all of our minds off of what had been going on at home. And then, we would go home to sleep and do it all again the next day.
I wish it were socially acceptable for me to unleash and explain to the parents that referred to me as the “van lady” that my life was an absolute shit show. That me and my kids had cried ourselves to sleep the night before because we were all hurting, struggling, and trying to come to terms with a completely new life none of us had expected. That trying to explain addiction and divorce to a child is damn near impossible, and incredibly heartbreaking.
We had been late because we woke up many times in the night scared, alone, and cuddled up together to fall back asleep. I had barely slept at all some nights because I was the only grown-up in the house and I had trouble killing a spider, who was going to protect us if someone broke in?
I wish I could explain that we were all trying. We all wanted so badly that year to just be “normal”, whatever the hell that is. Had it been reasonable to declare to the world what we had going on inside the “van” I would have shared that we were lonely. We were lost. That my poor kids’ mom was depressed, their dad was struggling with an addiction and their lives had been turned upside down. Divorce was a big deal, but for my family, it wasn’t just separate houses.
I am now trying to strike up conversation with parents during school pickup that have been builing relationships for years. Making “mom friends” is difficult enough as it is, but being the “van mom” and coming out of the woodwork trying to show everyone “hey look at us! I swear we are normal we just had a bad couple of years!” is just freakin pathetic.
Yet, here I am. Smile on my face, abiding by the rules of the pickup line and trying to get there early intentionally so that I can ACTUALLY interact with other parents. I’m just hoping by the end of the year when people are gossiping about me it’s because I’m socially awkward and say inappropriate things at the worst possible times. Legit complaints. And hopefully they will start calling me the “crazy lady” instead of the “van lady”. That’s got a better ring to it anyways, dontcha think?
I want to preface this by saying – I am in no way trying to compare my experience today with an awful tragedy some have experienced. My kids are all safe at home and sleeping soundly in their beds. And, they were safe all along. But there were moments where I wasn’t so sure…..
Today was like any normal, chaotic day. My kids woke up slightly late, were running around like maniacs trying to get themselves presentable for picture day. We had countless arguments on the way out the door this morning about who grabbed who’s snack and put it in the wrong backpack, why someone couldn’t find their shoe, who still hadn’t brushed their teeth or combed their hair (despite me nagging them to for at least an hour), and who changed the YouTube channel (even though we are literally walking out the door). You know, the normal morning shit-show routine.
I dropped my kiddos off at school and spent the day cramming in work, cleaning the house, doing some laundry — caught up on the really “fun” stuff parents get to do when they work from home or stay at home during the day while raising kids and find themselves with some downtime.
I actually had thought quite a few times today about how nice it is to have a free day to myself for a change and not have to entertain at least one kid for 8 hours straight. I daydreamed about how I could take a nap, if I wanted to. I could meet a friend for lunch. I could go shopping, alone. I could go for a run (HAAA!) Ok, that’s a stretch, but you get the point. So many things I was appreciating today as I sat home and worked, cleaned, and folded in peace.
And then, before I knew it, the time had come to leave so I could get to school early enough to park in pick up lines and start rounding up my kids from various schools.
I left the house, drove my normal route and about a block away from school I started noticing lights blinking. As I got closer, the sirens were starting to register from each direction surrounding my car. I could see more and more police presence, but not enough to cause panic… yet. I take a main road in town to get to my first child’s pickup and so traffic stops were not extraordinary or unusual considering the police tend to stake out these areas for speeders, especially during the school hours when kids are present.
I still wasn’t going to let my irrational anxiety get the best of me. Not yet. But as I went to turn down the quieter, calmer street that directs me straight to the school I realized it, too was blocked off. Multiple police vehicles and what looked (to me) like riot gear being pulled out of the back of one of the squads.
Ok, WTF is going on? Now I’m nervous. But still trying not to let myself completely lose it. I hadn’t heard anything from the school, or other parents. Certainly if there was an emergency parents would have been made aware? Right?
I drive around the block only to find that the other side (and the only other street I can take to lead me to the school) is also blocked off by multiple police cars and NOW I panic. What the fuck is going on here? IS MY KID OK? Why has no one warned us about this?? And… IS MY KID OK???
Being the crazy, loving, borderline mother I am I run out of my vehicle in the middle of the road and start flagging down the nearest officer I can find because I NEED details! And that is when he assures me that my child is safe, all of the kids inside are. But there has been an incident at a home near the school and the school is on lockdown. To keep the children safe inside.
Parents are congregating on the outskirts of the school. People were in tears, others were telling nervous jokes, I was calling my mom on redial over and over to help me round up my other kids who’s bell was about to ring on the other side of town and I was not about to leave this scene.
I needed to SEE my kid. To touch her, to smell her, to love on her as much as possible. I immediately regretted any feeling of peace or relief for my free time earlier today.
I was beating the shit out of myself for even letting those thoughts cross my mind. I should not be thanking my lucky stars for 8 hours sans kids. I should be thanking my lucky stars for every single goddamn moment I have with those sweet angels because it could change in a SECOND and there is no taking it back. Time does not go in reverse.
I was mad at myself. Haunted by the scene I couldn’t tear my eyes from because not one officer had come back over to talk to us about any of the details of the situation yet and the kids were still locked up inside. What if there is a bomb? What if they weren’t in a house anymore at all but right by the school? What if….. what if…..
I woke up this September morning reflecting on the events that took place on 9-11 and what I was doing the day the twin towers were hit. I was reminded of the sadness for the loss of so many strangers and the fear for the future of my country. And by the middle of the day a real horror was almost unfolding before my eyes.
The situation was eventually under control and all of the children were released, safely and a man was taken into custody for discharging a gun near a home very close to the school in an unrelated-to-school incident.
So tonight I am thankful that what happened to me today was nothing in the grand scheme of things. A story I might tell as this “crazy thing that happened” but not more. It won’t change our family. We aren’t grieving or missing anyone tonight because today was a freak coincidence.
But, I am aware enough to know that there are people in this world who have witnessed that same scene at their child’s school as the unthinkable was going on. People who have lost and hurt and had their hearts ripped out of them because someone had brought harm into a place that was supposed to be safe. For learning, for socializing, for independence and support. Not for fear, worry, and trauma.
I’ve never been so scared in my life, and *nothing* serious even happened. But it was a terrifying reminder of the world we live in and the real possibility that things could have been very different.
Tonight I am hugging my kids just a little tighter, reading the extra story they ask for that normally annoys me, and making sure if they want some water, I’m getting it… WITH ice. And with a smile on my face. When they call me back into the room because they forgot to tell me they love me, I will give them ten more kisses before bed instead of telling them to go to sleep. And when they ask me to come check on them, I will. Many times.
Funny thing about mom guilt. It’s OURS, not theirs. Our kids are not going to remember these little things that eat us alive throughout the day. These moments that we look back on and feel shame and loathing for ourselves for not handling differently. The things we did (or didn’t do) that make us question if we are slowly raising little criminal masterminds because we didn’t react better.
But our kids? They have already forgotten about it. That’s the great thing about kids… they are constantly absolving, forgetting, and moving on. They are the embodiment of forgiveness. We should learn a thing or two from them, and forgive ourselves.
I have mom guilt for all sorts of reasons. For feeling like working is taking time away from my kids, for having medical issues from time to time that have physically prevented me from doing more than I would like with my kids while they are little, for not seeing my son’s cries for help as he basically screamed for almost a YEAR that he was transgender and I just didn’t see it. For getting divorced, for their dad not being in the picture. For being crabby, tired, yelling at my kid to put her shoes on faster when she just wanted to find a cute pair to show off her freshly painted toe nails (way to go, mom). Or for letting them eat pop-tarts for dinner because I just “can’t even” anymore today. The list of reasons I have to feel like an absolute shit as a mom is virtually endless….
I can pin point the exact day that my mom guilt kicked into full gear and never went away. Since that day it’s only morphed into a more potent form of guilt that makes me replay scenarios in my head all day and night that I f*cked up. Times I wish I could rewind, repeat, do better.
My oldest was an only child for only 2.5 short years. A few months before his third birthday my second came into the world and I. Was. Tired. I was overwhelmed, I was nursing and awake all night and I had some post-natal issues after that threw me back in the hospital and caused extra recovering time weeks after delivery that I hadn’t prepared myself for.
During my pregnancy I remember feeling like the literal walking dead. Every day was a struggle to make it to 7pm before I would pass out, mouth open, drooling, wherever my ass happened to land. I slept on the couch, in a chair, in my son’s twin bed more times during that pregnancy than I have in my entire parenting life. Throughout the nine months of
hell pregnancy bliss I lived off of “movie days” with my son and tried to make my exhaustion as fun as possible for him.
Once my second took us by storm, I was even more depleted and midway through the day I needed a break. I remember setting up a movie for my toddler like I had countless times in the last 9 months, telling him it was time to chill out, and once the opening credits began I walked into the adjacent room to lay down and nurse the baby. He was so confused. Quickly toddling behind me asking, “but mommy why??”. It was quite possibly the saddest, most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen, and yet…. he literally has no recollection of this.
I, however, have let it take tiny bits of my soul every time this moment replays in my head (which probably happens more often than what any good therapist would consider “normal”).
His glum little face, his crushed soul, the sweet whimpers asking me why all of a sudden just because the baby was here did I not want to lay with HIM and watch the movie together? And it’s not that I didn’t. I just had a fussy baby who woke up to every move, every loud noise. One that only seemed to sleep on when it was within my scent and in MY bed.
As I replay this day I think, I should have never walked away from that time with him. I should have sat my happy ass on the couch and let him cuddle up next to me while I nursed his sibling. I should have came back the second he showed any discontent, instead of telling him to go ahead and lay down, without me.
I should have….. wish I had…. if only I could go back….
I assume many moms have a story similar to this. A day that culminated all of their guilt as a parent, even if it was just a moment. But it’s one they wish they could take back, do all over again. And yet, as much as this day will forever haunt me and constantly remind me that I am a very imperfect parent, my kid is not an aspiring serial killer because of it. He’s completely normal, loving, compassionate, and none the wiser to the day that established all of my future “mom guilt”.
Maybe we should all be just give ourselves a little break and be a tad more understanding of our own faults as parents, as humans and stop analyzing everything we do that isn’t perfect as if its ultimately causing our kids irreparable emotional damage.
I think that you’re doing a great job, mama. And your kid? Your kid is lucky to have you.