So! Lily officially became a kindergartener this week. It’s been…strange. The schedule was completely whacked as they slowly transitioned to school. I guess they do this because not everyone went to pre-k, although I think it’s a safe bet that in D.C., every kid did pre-k and probably at least a year of school before that as well. (Welcome to the world of competitive parenting!)
We made a big freaking deal out of it, of course.
Two fishtail braids, per her request. There were donuts for breakfast and lots of pictures were taken.
Dan kept saying, “Spin! Spin!” which made her laugh, which meant we actually got a real smile instead of the serial killer grimace that usually appears when we take the camera out.
She picked out the backpack herself. Pink, of course.
It was a good day.
It’s really, really nice, the way you guys leave comments and emails telling me what an amazing person I am. I appreciate it. But! I’m not. I try to be a good person, and I think I succeed there, as long as your standards aren’t too high, but amazing? No, I am absolutely fallible. And because I know that, given the obscene divorce rates, there are many women like me, struggling to not make a bad thing worse and feeling like a miserable failure, I want to share this with you.
On Sunday night we went out to dinner to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday. Lily had a child sized pizza and oranges. Evelyn had chicken and fruit that wasn’t oranges. I know! It’s like I’m some goddamned rookie! Obviously Evelyn needed what Lily had, and so Lily shared. I told her I would order her some more oranges. (I don’t think Dan heard me.)
At some point Lily asked Dan to ask the waiter for more. Because that’s what she does–she keeps asking, even after we answer, even if we say yes. Anyway. Dan said she had to eat half her pizza first.
And that’s when I did the thing I try so hard not to do.
I could have told him I had already said yes. But I didn’t. Instead I put on my best what the fuck face that I usually reserve for people who like Vera Bradley, and told him that was absolutely ridiculous because pizza isn’t even healthy, and she could have the oranges if she wanted them.
That’s right. I undermined his parenting in front of a) his children and b) his own parents. I honestly can’t thing of a faster way to make someone feel like utter shit.
It seems like such a little thing. But it’s not, it’s really not. It tells our kids I don’t respect their dad. It tells them that their parents are not unified when it comes to parenting, when what they need is stability. It also tells their dad that he doesn’t have a parenting role while I’m around.
Imagine the damage if this became a habit.
My family–the one with my parents and my sisters–is irrevocably broken, in part because of things like this. I want something better for my kids. Even when a marriage is broken, the family doesn’t have to be.
Hi Lynn, Your blog is a really nice breath of fresh air. Most divorce/single mom blogs seem to trash the ex, and I like that you don’t (one day, your kids might read this, after all). So I want you advice on this. I know you aren’t dating, but is your ex? And if and when you both start dating other people, will you still spend time with your kids together? How? I’m in that boat right now, and I would really like to keep it from sinking! Thanks.
Whelp. Answering this question is like trying to predict the future, and that is surprisingly difficult. Right now, I don’t think he is dating. He could be, I suppose, and I wouldn’t know, but the important thing is that he is not bringing other women around my kids, or around me. That probably makes it easier for us to get along.
So. If he does start seriously dating someone, would I still be willing to spend birthdays, holidays, special occasions, etc together, even with the other woman there? Yep. (As determined right now, before I actually have to go through it, so…) It’s more important to me to spend every Christmas with my kids than it is to not be around Wife #2 or whatever.
But I’ve given this some thought, since you asked, because I don’t want to give you absolutely sucktastic advice. So here’s how I would handle it (again, from the safety of NEVER HAVING BEEN THERE).
1. Have a coffee date with the new SO. Just the two of you. Under no circumstances are either of you to discuss the ex or the kids. Consider this a first date.
2. Follow up with a second date. Dinner? Movie? Hit a museum? I don’t care. Find something to do with the SO, and do it. Again, just the two of you. Do not discuss the ex or the kids. Why? Because you need to see if you can like her, and get along with her, for her own sake.
3. Remember that she is not you. This means that when it comes to the kids, she will have her own ideas and want to do things her way (also known as the “wrong way”). And guess what? You have no say in it. It’s your business, because everything having to do with your kids is your business, but you can’t control what happens at the ex’s house. But that’s okay! Because even though she does things ass backwards, you can live with it, because you know she’s not a bad person. (Although if you discover that she is verbally/physically abusive, or otherwise a bad person, do whatever you have to and keep that bitch away from your kids.)
4. Do not ever discuss the ex with the new SO. At some point, if you are on friendly terms, she might want to talk. She might notice something weird about him, or that he is emotionally stunted, and want to know how you dealt with it, or if this is what caused the divorce. Keep your damn mouth shut. He’s her problem now.
5. If you are the one with a new SO, I probably wouldn’t suggest that your ex and the new SO have coffee dates. I really don’t understand men at all, but I’m pretty sure it would be a disaster. I do suggest the three of you having dinner, sans kids, maybe even a double date. I don’t know. Is that too weird? I really feel like both you and your ex need to be able to spend an hour or two with the new people without anyone dying.
Anyone else have advice?
The hardest part of being a single mom is undoubtedly the constant demand for attention when you need to get shit done. Shit like cooking dinner. Or vacuuming. Or taking a shower.
Usually I find ways to work around this problem. I make dinner in advance and freeze it. I vacuum on my telework days. I take a shower before they wake up, or after they go to bed. Or I just…you know…don’t shower at all. Single motherhood: Sometimes it’s gross.
But the other day, not showering was not an option. I had finished a very sweaty run before I picked the kids up from daycare, and even waiting until after they went to bed seemed just too gross to contemplate.
So I took a shower. With the door open, of course. There were a few shrieks, a few tears, but nothing they couldn’t work out themselves. At one point I heard Lily say, “What do you want me to draw for you, Evelyn? A flower?” I smiled to myself. How sweet these two are, I thought. I’m so glad they’re sisters.
And then I realized…OH FUCK. THEY HAVE THE ART SUPPLIES.
Good thing my walls are dark!
Also, this happened.
But hey. At least my hair smelled good.
Well, this is awkward. I like reviews. I Google the hell out of everything before I buy. So it’s no surprise that I’m doing a review here. The awkward part is all that disclosure stuff. In this particular case, I’m not sure what to say. Parachute sent me a discount code, after I first mentioned these sheets on the blog, but guess what? I had already ordered the sheets. So I guess what I am disclosing is that yes, I was given a coupon, but no, I did not use it.
The Item: Parachute Percale Sheet Set in Powder
The Price: $129
The Company: According to their website, Parachute sheets are designed in L.A. and made in Italy. Thread count is not disclosed, but I’m not sure how much I care.
The Good: I. Love. These. Sheets. They are soft but not silky (I ordered percale, not sateen, because I prefer crisp sheets). The packaging is a nice touch. The sheet set comes with a sack to keep it all together. I guess that’s classier than shoving everything into a pillow case, my usual move? A bottle of lavender linen spray was also included. There was also a handwritten note thanking me for the purchase. This attention to detail and little extras matter to me.
The Bad: I had to wait ten weeks for these sheets. TEN WEEKS. That’s ten weeks of sleeping on my old flannel sheets in the middle of the summer. Not cool, pun intended. That’s four weeks longer than the original six-week schedule.
The Verdict: Were these sheets worth the ten week wait? No, of course not. No sheets are. Would I buy from Parachute again? Yes, absolutely. I like the idea of buying from younger, smaller companies that have a commitment to quality that I can get behind. I understand that this means there will be the occasional hiccup.
I spent last week in lovely San Diego. Beaches and perfect weather? Yes, there are worse things in life. I went for work but managed to squeeze in a few hours of pleasure here and there. (Speaking of work, and this will be the first and last time I do so, some of ya’ll have figured out who my employer is. For those of you who think you know my politics, morals, and job description based on who I work for, you are 100 percent wrong, and you don’t seem to know much about my agency, either. Moving on!)
You know what is good for the soul? Running. You know what else? The ocean and salty air. Combine those two and damn. That’s some good healing, right there.
I got in two runs last week, both at Sunset Cliffs. Magnificent is an understatement.
The people who live in those houses had better be grateful every damn day, or I will find a way to adverse possess that shit. (Side note: When I was in law school and then studying for the bar, my husband used to say this a lot. It still makes me laugh.)
BTW, running on sand is super hard. Most of the sand/dirt was packed down and easy enough, but the parts of the trail that were loose made my calves burn.
Don’t know why this bit of mosaic was here, but it was pretty.
I also enjoyed a grown-ups only dinner with a co-worker and my sister-in-law, who drove two hours just to visit with me. (I’ve said this before, but I married into the best family anyone could ask for, and it breaks my heart every day.) We went to Draft for dinner, drinks, and the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Who goes to a beer restaurant and orders wine? This girl.
And then I came back to my two favorite people.
Dear 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: And this is a big one. Your kids are old enough to realize dad is not there. They are also old enough to hear everything you say, so make sure you only say good things about him. I know that’s hard. I know he doesn’t deserve it. But your kids do.
Step Five: 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.
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!
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.
Hi 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.