For the last year I have been knee deep in family court with my ex-husband. My life has been filled with constant drama and rivers of tears. The stress has unbearable at times. Every conversation has been nearly impossible. Something as simple as a grown up conversation about kids shoes, ends in a war where both sides become casualties. I have learned a lot about myself, and everyone else involved in this hard chapter in my life. I have struggled just trying to stay afloat as this storm passes.
Since the best lessons are best learned the hard way, I thought I would share some of my best lessons.
1. You have to separate your past relationship from your current obligation as a parent. Your marriage ended, things suck for a while either before, during or for a bit after no matter who left whom. You just have to grit your teeth and make it through. Be grown up enough to seek counseling if you need it or a shoulder to cry on.
2. Both are to blame. News flash, it takes two to tango. No matter what happened, there are two people at fault in a divorce and guess what, each one thinks their farts smell like roses so don't look for the other person to mend your wounds or kiss your boo-boos t any point in the process.
3. Stop being self-centered. This isn't about you. Yes, ending a marriage is about the people involved but it's a million times more about the children. They suffer when parents can't get their heads out of their rears and parent together.
4. Stop putting the kids in the middle. The worst thing you can do is put your kids in the middle of your grown up shortcomings. They don't need to know who was at fault; because again if you refer back to number 2 it's going to be each other anyways.
5. Your kids are apart of BOTH of you. No matter how much you hate one another now or what has transpired, the kids were created from both sides. Don't lose focus of that. No one is going to love your kids like the other parent does; so, no matter if the other parents is referred to as "the bitch down under" keep that them in focus.
6. Put yourself in their shoes. Your kids think the sun rises and sets out of BOTH of your asses. How do you think it feel to have the two most important people in their lives at war with each other? If you have to, grit your teeth and ask how the other parent is. If you have to fake it, smile when they talk about them. They just want their lives to be peaceful and happy.
7. Compromise is not a foreign concept. No matter what happens you are not going to get your way in everything. Divorce and child custody is no different. There has to be compromise from BOTH sides.
8. Kids are not prizes to be won. The expensive gifts, trips and toys do not replace time spent and conversations with your kids.You can try to buy them everything and spoil them but you are creating kids that feel entitled and demand more. Stop trying to buy love and just show it.
A year later, I still have to consult with attorneys and end up on the other end of conversations where I am screamed at by someone who has long since labeled me the enemy. I hope in the next decade, I can look back and think how silly all of this was and how dramatic it didn't have to be. But, until that time I am stuck in the trenches of a war that seems to have no end. I am balancing a million different sides and trying to keep my kids happy and myself sane. So, for those of you in the same boat, welcome to divorce... the life of lawyers, custody and tears.