Q&A Monday Vol. XXVI: When Dad Abandons Ship

QandADear Lynn, My husband of nearly two decades decided he wanted out about three months ago. Out of the marriage, but also out of being a dad. He packed everything up, moved to a new apartment, and then left us a note. (That’s right! He didn’t even do it in person!) Our kids are eight and ten, so they definitely notice his absence. I suspect there’s another woman, because the whole thing was so sudden and before this he was actively involved in being a father. I am drifting and lost and I have no idea what I should be doing. Please point me in the right direction!  should be doing.

Well, holy shit. This is pretty much the worst thing ever, I think we can agree on that. So now what?

Step One: Determine your financial situation. If there is a joint savings account, transfer at least half into a separate one under just your name. Get your own checking account. Get his name off everything you possibly can, and if your name is on any of his accounts, get it off. Now. Look at any credit card debt, mortgage, all that stuff. Figure out how to pay it monthly on just your income. If you were a stay-at-home mom, all of this is harder, obviously, but that leads me to…

Step Two: Find a lawyer. File for legal separation if that is recognized in your state. Request child support, and if necessary, spousal support. Do not flinch on this.

Step Three: If you have family nearby, lean on them. Ask if someone (mom, sister, whoever) can stay with you for a week or two while you take care of step one and two. It’s great if you have someone who doesn’t mind handling the daily grind of cooking and cleaning up for two kids while you straighten out life. If not, take care of step one and two, and then if you can, go visit family for a week or two. Consider it a summer vacation. Try to turn off your brain.

Step Four: Go to sleep at night, wake up in the morning. Repeat daily. No one thinks they will survive emotional tragedy like this, and yet at some point, everyone comes out the other side, a bit bruised perhaps, but alive. Go through the basic motions of daily existence. Sometimes it might feel like you’re underwater. Sometimes you might find yourself staring into space for twenty minutes, in shock, wondering how this happened. But eventually, yes, you will come out the other side.

See you there.

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Time Does Not Expand

time

When I gave up television six months ago (more or less), I found myself with a sudden abundance of time and unsure of what to do with it. The kids were in bed, but it’s not like I could go get a drink with friends or something. I read a lot, and that was great. And then I got the bright idea to start blogging. It has been a much needed outlet for the emotional crap and a great distraction.

And then I got distracted from my distraction. I started other writing projects–some of them even paid money, which is always nice! The down side? I am still working in a 90 minute window. It turns out time does not expand to fit more life in.

So now what? I don’t want to give up blogging (and to the person who wrote me a rather heartbreaking email for Q&A, I promise I will respond to it next Monday!), but I do think five days a week is unmanageable for me right now. Maybe two or three is doable. That’s okay, right?

See you Wednesday!

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Living in Small Spaces: Thrive Tip #13

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Thrive Tip #13: If you live in a micro apartment, choose either kids or pets, but not both.

I have a dog. Annie and I have been together for 13 years, ever since the day she ran into my apartment, hungry, scared, skin flaking off from fleas and worms. (She was pretty gross, I’m not gonna lie.)

Dogs, even little dogs like Annie, take up space. Their stuff takes up space. I think if I weren’t a single mom, if I didn’t have to drag the kids along for her 6 a.m. walk and her 9 p.m. walk, I would try to make it work anyway, no matter how small the space. But it doesn’t work, not the way things are right now.

So for now, Annie lives very happily with my mother-in-law. We visit often, and I still do the vet visits and all that stuff. It’s not the same, but it’s the best thing for all of us right now.

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Q&A Monday Vol. XXV: The Step-Family

QandAHi Lynn, I’m divorced with two girls, and last year I met the love of my life–who is also divorced with two kids (a boy and a girl). Between the two of us, we have four kids aged five and under. We are planning on getting married next Spring, and I’m scared witless. Both exes are sane and reasonable people, so that’s not the problem. I just don’t know how I’m going to handle All. Those. Kids. We’re thinking about moving in together this fall, sort of as a trial run, to see how things go. Any advice?

My first thought was run, but after pushing back the feeling of panic, I figured that probably wasn’t a helpful reaction.

I was raised in a very large step-family. It was okay. I get along well with my step-dad, better than I get along with my mother, as a matter of fact. I’m not close to any of my sisters, step or other wise. The only advice I have from that experience is please, please for the love of God don’t force your children to accept the new person in their lives as Mom/Dad, because fuck that. They’re not. They already have one, so make sure everyone is clear that there are no replacements happening here.

That being said, blended families can be a very good thing. There’s no such thing as having too many people who love and care about your children, right?

As for the trial run, I have no experience with that, but since you asked…I think it’s a really terrible idea. I’m generally in favor of couples living together before marriage, but not when there are children involved. The familial relationships in their lives should be as permanent as possible. Obviously we all know that even marriage is no guarantee of permanence, but it’s at least more secure than just combined living arrangements.

So! That leaves us with the question of how to manage four children. Find a babysitter, now, before you get married. Get him/her comfortable with all four children. Find a back-up babysitter. Do the same. Once every two weeks or so, go out on a date with your fiance and leave the kids with the babysitter. Work out the kinks now, get in the habit of making your marriage work. Blended families are rough in any case, so start working now.

Good luck!

 

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All the Bad Things

bad things

So that image right there sums up my life these past two weeks. I don’t really go for all the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “you need bad to appreciate good” bullshit. I can appreciate a nice glass of pinot noir without drinking dog piss, thankyouverymuch. What I do think is that when things get tough, you can whine like a bitch while it’s all happening or you can wait until it’s over. You don’t get to do both, unless you’re two. It’s all over now, so please excuse me while I whine like a bitch.

1. The kids got sick. This is pretty much a given, once a month or so. This round was much better than it could have been, honestly, because there are some pretty terrible things going around the daycare right now.

2. I got into a car accident. Everyone is fine (the car is not), but man, what a fucking hassle. I wanted to yell and shout and just make a scene in general, but the poor kid clearly felt bad enough already, and my kids were watching. Dan showed up to watch the kids while we waited an hour for the police to write him a ticket, and I managed to be nice the entire time.

3. My toilet leaked and I had to replace it. Also, I still have no handyman skills, you guys. Luckily it wasn’t as expensive as I thought, but again…Major hassle.

4. I got sick. Do you know what it’s like to throw a birthday party for a five-year-old while your head is about to explode from a sinus infection? DO YOU? (Actually, it wasn’t that bad. We had it at the zoo, and they did most of the work. But it was exhausting. And loud.)

5. I got a zit. I know! Life really kicks you in the balls sometimes.

Anyway. I’m pretty sure I have a couple weeks of calm coming my way, so I’ll be back to blogging on the usual schedule, more or less. And even if more shit is coming my way…eh. I’ll survive.

 

4 Comments + Posted in: About the Kids, Single Mom Survival

Q&A Monday Vol. XXIV: How to Deal with the Other Woman

QandAHey there Lynn, So. My husband cheated on me and I filed for divorce. Our son just turned one. I just…I feel AWFUL. Like, worthless, ugly, fat, and a whole lot of other things. I know our marriage had problems, I know I had baby weight to lose, and I technically know that neither of those things is license to cheat. But still! My self-esteem took a serious beating here. Any suggestions on how to move past this?

You’re damn right marriage problems and weight aren’t a license to cheat. And yet I don’t know a single person who didn’t wonder if maybe their spouse would have kept it in their pants if those problems didn’t exist or they looked like Jennifer Aniston. (Oh, wait…it didn’t work for her, either.) We can tell ourselves that cheating is about him, not us, all we want–it doesn’t change how we really feel about it.

But here’s what will: Get stronger. You need to get stronger both physically and emotionally. Don’t just tackle one or the other; both are equally as important.

For the physical part, don’t concentrate on weight or appearance. Toss your scale if you have to, because that’s not what this is all about. This is about pushing yourself to your limit and coming out the other side. You will be amazed at how this will help your self-esteem.

I cannot emphasize enough that running really pulled me through some tough times. I am a stronger person for it. If you are already a runner, try tennis or the trapeeze. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it feels like a major accomplishment when you get through it.

For the emotional part, do something that is all about you. Think back to the days pre-marriage–was there anything that you loved doing, but life got in the way? Get back to it. For me, it’s writing. I never really stopped, but I do a lot more of it now, and with a wider variety. Spend time doing something you love. At the very least, you should treat yourself better than he did.

So. Do this. Keep it up for a minimum of twelve weeks, because you want this to be a part of you, so ingrained that you don’t even think about it anymore.

Will this stop you from wondering what if? Maybe, maybe not. But I guarantee it will make you care a whole lot less about the answer.

 

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Living in Small Spaces: Thrive Tip #12

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Thrive Tip #12: It could always be worse.

On the rare occasion when we drive to work, we pass by the Embassy of the Philippines. They recently had a shack displayed, to show what living conditions are like for a large percentage of their population–a real concern during hurricane season.

“That’s the smallest house I’ve ever seen!” Lily exclaimed.

I told her that many cultures all over the world live in houses just like that.

She thought about that for a while, and then said, “So do chickens.”

Our place might only be 600 square feet, and one bedroom shared with three of us. But we have so, so much. I am grateful for that.

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Q&A Monday Vol. XXIII: Getting Along with the Ex, Again

QandAHi Lynn, My ex and I will be spending the Fourth of July together with our kids. We go to my parents’ lake house every summer. This will be the first one since we separated. We are actually in a much better place than we were last year–it was like an ice storm. We didn’t speak a word to each other the entire time. I am shocked my parents want us to come back this year, after how awkward it was. But we really want to do this. Our kids look forward to this every year, and with all the changes we have been through, I didn’t want to take this away, too. Anyway! We do get along much better now that we don’t live together, but how do I make sure this doesn’t start World War III?

Good for you, keeping your family together for a tradition that everyone (usually) enjoys. And make no mistake, your ex is still family. But I think you already get that, or else you wouldn’t be asking how to make this work.

It’s a good thing you are getting along now. If you guys were at each other’s throats, then maybe this wouldn’t be a great idea–destroying each other with your kids as witnesses is probably guaranteed to rip your family up even more.

So! How do you get through the weekend without killing each other? Repeat after me: “It’s not my problem anymore.” When you’re married, you’re obligated to try to work through your problems. If he never changes a single diaper or washes a dish, you need to find a way to deal with it–if you want to stay married. If you constantly point out everything he does wrong, you have to find a way to talk without that happening–if you want to stay married.

But you aren’t going to stay married. That’s what a separation is, after all: The precursor to divorce. (Although this article says there is a very slim chance of a couple reuniting after a separation until the three year mark.) What this means is that you are under no obligation to fix him. You can put up with just about any behavior for three or four days, right? (Barring abuse, of course. If that’s the situation, run. Duh.) It’s not like it’s a daily thing, the way it was when you were married. That’s probably why you get along now, when you couldn’t get along when you shared a roof and a bed. Even if you have to share a roof for the weekend, you don’t have to share a bed.

Also, allow the nostalgia to creep in, even if it hurts. This might be the last year your kids will get to spend at the lake house with both their parents. One or both of you might start dating, and let’s face it, unless you live in a Gwen Stefani song (wouldn’t that be nice), exes and current loves don’t really want to spend holidays together. Try to enjoy this while it lasts. Your kids will thank you one day.

(That is a lie. Kids are never grateful. Thank god they’re cute.)

 

 

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How to Run When the Heat and Humidity Make You Want to Die

running

Those three snowstorms we had back in March made me really excited for warm weather and outdoor runs. And now that the warm weather has finally arrived, I’m thrilled to be able to run around the Mall and the Zoo. (Hooray for baby lions! So cute.)

But you guys. I almost died on my run last Tuesday. Somehow I was not prepared for the 90 degree, sticky weather. The air was so thick I was choking. We started at the Washington Monument, and by the time we got to the Capitol Building, we had to walk. That’s about half a mile. Pathetic.

But today I’m prepared! (Actually, today is cool and rainy, so I’ll be inside.) Here is a roundup of tips to get you through the hot, humid summer.

1. Acclimate. Cut your intensity by 65 to 75 percent, then slowly build back up to your regular intensity over two weeks. (Active.com)

2. Try mid-morning. Don’t assume mornings/evenings are the best times to run. Humidity is often highest in the morning. (Runner’s World)

3. Drink up. Just because the air is full of water doesn’t mean you are. All that sweat is still coming out of you. (Fit Girl Happy Girl)

4. Use the treadmill. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I avoid the treadmill like the plague, so it’s good to have a reminder. If the weather is especially humid, and you have a tough run planned, do it inside. (Women’s Running)

5. Avoid excessive protein pre-run. Metabolizing protein creates extra heat. (Shut Up + Run)

3.

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Five

I don’t know how it happened.

One day she was this.

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I blinked, and then she was this.

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Suddenly she was two.

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I tried to tell her to stop, but she turned three anyway.

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And then four.

Lily 2

 

Today she turned five.

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Goddamn, I love this kid.

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