Why I Showed My Kids My Tears During My Divorce

Some things happen in this life that whether in our control or not, are heartbreaking. Things that occur that we wish we could take back, or do differently.

Things that can break us, if we let them.

When I was divorcing my children’s father, I cried. A lot. Often. It was a depressing time for our family and my self-esteem. There were days when my 1-year-old would ask why I was so sad all of the time, and times when my oldest would cry with me because he was sad too.

And it’s because of that – I don’t regret my sheer rawness with my kids, because if I had a chance to do it all over again, I would. And I would do it the same.

Here’s why:

  • People get sad. It’s part of life. People cry. Man or woman, young or old, you are going to shed some tears at some point in your life, and I don’t ever want my kids to think that crying is something to be ashamed of or something they should do in private because I never cried in front of them.I want my kids to see that being sad is part of being human, and it’s ok. If they are sad, depressed, or struggling, I want them to know that this is something people experience, as human beings, and it is OK.
  • I want my kids to see that despite my sadness, I still did what I needed to do. I got up; I got dressed, I put “my face on” and I left the house. Whether I was taking them to school or dragging myself to work, I made sure not to neglect {too many} responsibilities. Even if it felt like I was dusting myself off and going back out into the world that I felt was swallowing me whole.They saw me crying earlier in the morning, but they also saw me pull myself together and take care of my responsibilities. I made dinner, I cleaned. I may have shed tears in between, but life went on, and it was vital for me to show them that.
  • I wanted my kids to know that their parent’s divorce was sad for me, too. I knew they were struggling. They couldn’t wrap their tiny heads around why this was happening and why things just couldn’t go back to the way they were. And I wanted them to see that I felt their pain too.Maybe not in the same way, but we were in this together, as a family. By sharing my sadness openly with them, I hoped it would encourage them to do the same with me. And in many ways it did.

    It also opened the door for us to have some cathartic conversations about what this change meant for our family, how we could get through this as a team, and what the future was going to look like for us.

  • Maybe most importantly, I wanted to show my kids later that there is life after sadness. Because you have the tools to change your life and how you react to it, but you must DO it. I wanted them to see that even if something happens in life that feels like it could be the end of the world, feels like it IS the end of the world, it doesn’t have to be. At least not forever.We are allowed to have our feelings, to feel our experiences, but we also have to take responsibility for our happiness. To do the work to dig ourselves out of the crippling sadness that is tearing us apart inside. I wanted my kids to see me do this so one day they can remember that our family experienced a dreadful event, and it hurt like hell, but we found love in each other, and we climbed out of the depths of depression together, and are stronger now because of it.

    That even if you feel like a devastating event cripples you, eventually, life WILL go on. And when that happens, you can be better; you can be someone with pride and resilience. Because you cried because you allowed yourself to feel the hurt, the pain, and the sadness but also to use it as a motivator to stop feeling sad.

I didn’t make a conscious effort to cry in front of my children at first. I was so overwhelmed with emotions and pain that it happened. In the beginning, I would be lying if I said I didn’t question how raw and open I should be with them about this.

I didn’t share intimate details of my divorce experience with my children, of course. But I did share some of my pain, most of my sadness, and a whole bunch of my tears. And if I had to do this all again, that is the one thing I would not change.

It brought us closer together. Helped us heal as a family, and gave me a chance to have some conversations with my kids. Ones that might not have happened so naturally, so organically, had I not given them the opportunity to see me struggling and in pain.

As parents, I think we tend to question the way we handle situations with our kids. Did we do this right? Could we have done better? Should I have or have not said this or done that? I can honestly say, this is one of those parenting moments that brings zero regrets.

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Sometimes It’s Hard To Remember My Kids Are Going Through Some Shit

I get so frustrated as a parent sometimes, as many do. I work hard, sleep very little, feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained much of the time.

And sometimes feel like I’m literally busting my ass to make ends meet to turn around and get snapped at by a tiny human who appears ungrateful, demanding, and entitled in the wake of my roller coaster day to day life.

Being a divorced parent is hard. Being a divorced parent with no co-parent is even harder.

So while I sit here and throw myself a pity party for spending my days making up for the absent parent in my kids’ lives, I really need to take a step back and remember… my kids are going through some serious shit.

I might be the “single” parent in this parenting duo, but they have went from a family with two parents, with a semi-normal home life, to a family with one parent completely removed. Living in the house they grew up in but with a new man, who they don’t trust yet, don’t know as a dad, don’t feel the same love or connection with.

While I’m struggling to navigate life with new dynamics and a new partner they are trying to mourn a dad that is still alive, but they don’t get to see. The parent that used to be the “fun dad” who over exaggerated every event, every holiday, every big moment in their lives and now forgets to call on their birthday.

I feel worn down and complain about money, lack of support, and missing days of work to stay home with sick kids because I am their sole parent. But I forget that while I’m cuddling their feverish body and stressing about being stuck home and not at work that they are remembering what it was like to cuddle their other parent. Or maybe, they are stressing too because enough time has passed and they might not be able to remember it as well as before.

I have to remember that even though I got to experience my son’s amazing belt promotion, my daughter’s first gymnastics team, my older son’s baseball and academic achievements and cheer them all on and beam with pride, they were likely (if even for just a moment) yearning for the person missing. The one who should also be there to congratulate their big accomplishments.

I have to remember that if my kid seems like he doesn’t like any of the gifts he got for his birthday, even if it’s EXACTLY what he asked for, it’s not me. Or the gifts. It’s because the one true gift he wanted isn’t something that can be bought at all.

He told me his one wish this year. That his dad would come back and be the dad he was years ago before his demons took over. And my only saving grace is that someone reminded him days later that if you share your wish, it won’t come true.

My kid may never tell me his wishes again.

While I’m simultaneously making sure that my kids get to continue their sports, have birthday parties, the tooth fairy shows up, Santa is good to them, and everything is *somewhat* normal and like it used to be, they are wondering what magical being can step in and “fix” this.

When I am exhausted and overwhelmed at bedtime and fighting back tears because my kids have heard two songs, been read three books, and had multiple bathroom breaks, there are nights I bet they’re also wishing their mom wasn’t the one ALWAYS putting them to bed.

There is likely a place of common ground in the root of most of our mutual frustration.

My kids have it pretty rough for kids that on the outside appear happy, carefree, friendly, and smart. The guise they wear sometimes fades and the sadness pours out, but sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time, it doesn’t. At least not in obvious ways.

On those days I forget that they are battling with feelings and thoughts and fears and worries that *most* kids their age don’t experience at such a young age. Or ever. I have to remember that my kids, even if they seem fine, might be really struggling on the inside. 

I have to keep in mind that they aren’t aware of their feelings yet and aren’t mature enough to express them and so they manifest in ways that look like ungratefulness, attitude, or anger towards me.

I have to be vigilant that even if my kids are smiling, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fleeting thought about the thing they all miss most. The PERSON.

I also have to remember that while I’m over here feeling sorry for myself in my position as mom AND dad, that they most likely want a break from me as much as I do from them sometimes, but that break is nowhere in either of our immediate futures. I just have to keep reminding myself…. my kids are going through some serious shit right now.

 

If this article connects with you here are some others about my relationship struggles:

Divorcing A Narcissist Is No Joke

A Transformation On How I Perceive Drug Addiction

5 Things I Learned About Dating Apps

 

 

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Does Being In A New Relationship After Divorce Mean You’re Not A Single Mom Anymore?

When I was a newly single parent trying to navigate how to handle life with kids, but without a partner, I remember getting really annoyed, and frankly hurt, when I would see women complaining on social media about being a “single parent” because their husband was on a fishing trip. Or a work trip. Or whatever. He was gone for a short time and suddenly they understood what it was like to be a “single mom”.

But they didn’t. Their situation was temporary. Their partner is coming back (eventually). As a single mom, your situation is forever.

Or maybe not.

Maybe, sometime in the future, you will find someone new to share your life with. And then what? Are you not a “single mom” anymore?

Once I found a new partner and things started getting serious (meeting the kids, living together, and eventually engaged) I had been told by a handful of people that I should stop defining myself as a “single parent” as if I’m alone. I’m not a single parent anymore. I have someone.

And I get it. I understand someone who is TRULY single being annoyed by someone like me. A not-actually-single-single-mom. I would venture to guess that had I come across this situation during my new singleton life, I probably would have been vexed by someone bickering about being a single mom with a partner to share their life with.

But I am here to say, just because you are not “single” anymore, doesn’t mean you’re not exactly living like a single mom anymore either. Maybe just a different breed of single mom.

And here’s why…

I spent the better part of a year alone with my kids, working on my marriage (but apart) and then realizing it was ending, and going from having my kids all the time to most of the time to all of the time again.

I dated.

I did the daily grind of ALL.THINGS.KIDS. every day, all day.

And then I met someone.

And eventually it moved to the next level. And things are great.

(Side note: Blending families, especially when you have kids from divorce, kids who have experienced a parent’s addiction and mental illness, kids who are already annoyed with their blood siblings and now have more kids around A LOT, is really fucking hard. It’s almost (dare I say) harder than keeping a marriage together when you’ve built your life, your family, together. But the difference is, now you have had the experience of hell that goes with breaking up your family. And so you’re either going to put in the work to make it last and be beneficial for everyone involved. Or you’re not.)

But regardless of how much work you put in or how “normal” you try to make your family, it’s just not the same. And it never will be.

And here is where I say, being in a new relationship doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a single mom anymore. In some situations you might be more comfortable, you might have help, but in almost all cases you will never share the same type of relationship you had before, especially when it comes to your kids.

You can love someone’s kids as much as your own and they can love yours just the same, but your experiences with your kids that started from the first positive pee-stick aren’t shared like they were with someone else.

Your history with this new person starts years later. And eventually, the goal would get to a point where all of those “before” experiences are water under the bridge. But it’s going to be awhile before you get there.

And despite their ability and desire to help, there are just some things that they simply can’t do (or your kids won’t allow them to) that your previous spouse was able to step in and be a part of.

My kids are young, their needs are still ever draining on a parent. I still wipe butts, give baths, cut food into little bite sized pieces, make snacks, tie shoes, get them dressed, open juice boxes, (etc, etc, etc….)

Some of these things, sure, my partner can help with. But so could one of my friends if I needed it that bad, when I was single. Other things? Even if he wanted to, he just can’t.

Any sort of major parenting decisions we weigh as a team, yet…. he’s not their dad. He wasn’t there from the beginning and so oftentimes I find myself doing more explaining than discussing.

He can’t give my kids baths, tuck them in, kiss their boo-boos or do my daughter’s hair. They won’t allow him to. It might be never that he is the someone they feel comfortable with confiding in, so the burden of all of the heavy stuff weighs solely on me. Maybe in time that will change, but for now, it’s mine to bear.

Financially, his job in this family wasn’t to come in and support me and my kids. That’s my job. And they have their own dad. But what if their dad is not contributing like an active and responsible parent? It’s not his responsibility to pick up the slack, that load falls on me too.

If my kid does something I find super quirky and cute, I’ll share it with him. But the reaction I get isn’t the same because he wasn’t there years ago when my older child did something similar and we laughed and laughed.

And the moments that my kids have that used to be endearing reminders of their father, now are terrifying indicators that his genes are still alive and strong within them.

If one of my kids gets sick I’m the one who has to call in to work, not him.

If there are conferences, meetings at school, doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, play dates to be made, birthday parties to plan… he will join in the fun, but he’s not taking care of those things for my children, and he shouldn’t have to. But that doesn’t mean having him around makes my life “easier” as I’ve been told it should.

The discipline is my job, and so is the explosive reaction I get if/when that discipline is met by an angry child. As much as he would like to step in and help sometimes, ultimately, it’s not his place.

So despite not technically being a “single mom” anymore, I find myself still feeling overwhelmed at times. Wishing I could get some help. Some support. And what’s strange is I have it, but it comes in a different form and not one I’m entirely used to (yet).

People don’t seem to understand that just because you have another adult in the house, all of your struggles and responsibilities as a single parent don’t vanish.

Everyone feels and experiences their situations differently. I am starting to think I shouldn’t have been so quick to feel stabby and wronged by the mom claiming to understand my life as a single mom because her husband was absent for a weekend on a business trip. Maybe she was feeling really alone.

Being a single mom, completely raising my kids ALONE was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Having someone around definitely helps make the days go by faster. I feel less overwhelmed, less tired, less lonely than I did when I was doing this thing all by myself.

I refuse to be a sanctimonious mom that claims I have the same life as a true single mom that is raising her kids completely solo. I’m not. At least not anymore. But as a mom who has done that before and lived to tell about it, I gotta be honest… the way I’m living now with a new partner is (some days) not that far off. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

 

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