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How We View The Divorced Parent

How many of you have seen a divorced parent and immediately proceeded to create an opinion about them based solely on the fact that you knew they were divorced. Maybe you went so far as to make assumptions about why they were divorced or how they messed things up.

Well, being divorced isn’t unlike being a parent. Unless you’ve experienced it, you simply have no clue of any aspect of it. None. It is not uncommon for those without kids to be quick to let us know how to raise our children or point out what we’re doing wrong. They’ve read all of the articles and seem to know what’s best for our kids and what they “need.” With divorce it’s probably not quite as harsh, but everyone is quick to let us know how we should handle our ex, what’s best for our kids, why we should do this or not do that etc. They tell us how much better off we are, that we need to get back on the saddle and that they wish they had our freedom.

But unless you’ve lived it and ARE living it, you have …  no … idea. It can be a constant battle to stay positive; to hold your tongue; to be599800_10152015305377908_614640456_n supportive; to put the kids first; to not over react; to not be resentful; to not blame; to not crash and burn. It can take all of your energy and then some. And unless you’re in the trenches immersed in the negative thoughts that are continually fighting their way through the positives, it’s impossible to truly understand what a unique experience it is and how challenging it can be.

If you see someone who’s divorced, man or woman, know that they’re doing their best with the hand they’ve been dealt; even if they were the one who dealt it in the first place. Chances are they themselves had no idea what they were getting into or what it would be like despite their best intentions. Regardless, divorced people have experienced a pain like no other. Some self inflicted and some completely undeserved. It is not an easy road. And all you can do is keep moving. For to stop is death. If you don’t keep your mind busy, it will sink into a muck of self torture. If you don’t keep your body busy, it will not only cause your muscles to fail you, but your mind as well.

If you see a divorced dad, and you see him loving his kids, getting groceries, coaching a basketball game, or even just sitting having a cup of coffee; take a moment to recognize that he is changing the definition of a dad. He is involved. He is trying and quite possibly even more involved now as a divorced dad than he was as a married one. Believe it or not, dads can multi-task, cook, clean, dress their kids and coddle them when they’re sick. We can organize a birthday party and get them where they need to be on time. We check home work and actually want to be on the school’s e-mail list. But for some reason, too often, assumptions are made and divorced dads are seen as the weekend babysitter. As someone with 50/50 custody I can assure you that’s not always the case any more. The landscape is changing.

So whatever you do, don’t judge him. I promise you, divorced parents are pretty good at doing plenty of that to themselves; virtually all day. I get it. Not all dads, divorced or otherwise are gems. But we don’t all personify the stereotype of the cheating deadbeat. We hate that we ended up here and work hard not to focus on the fact that this isn’t what we planned. There are plenty of aspects about divorce that we disdain. But they come with the territory and all you can do is carry on and attempt to do better.

So please. If you have a friend who’s a divorced parent; know that there’s a lot going on under the surface. Probably not unlike your own life, but a lot more intense as there’s likely an additional layer of guilt spread over it. But aside from the occasional jerk, which let’s face it exist both in divorce and marriage, there are more and more divorced dads doing the best they can and they’re doing everything in their power to make it better for themselves and their children. There are indeed a growing number of them who are stepping up their game and doing their part to change the way single dads are viewed.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Divorce

 

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The Weight of Unresolved Issues

Does this sound familiar? I have found myself remarkably overwhelmed of late. Stress and worry have consumed me at times to the point where I just shut down. It’s not like me. I mean, like anyone, I stress over things and worry. But not to the extent that I have been lately. You would think that after continually finding ways to make it all work, a person would learn to trust the cosmos a little more. But that’s hard, especially when you envision scenarios where it all goes wrong and everything comes crashing down.

Recently, while mulling over it in my head, I began to notice a pattern. While my life as a divorced dad and all that it entails; ie. juggling joint custody with three kids, maintaining a home that once required dual income, a full time job, freelance projects, schedules, groceries, dinners, lunches, laundry, etc., can be overwhelming; there’s one constant I began to notice. I seem to stress the most when I stop for too long and don’t take action on outstanding issues. I then focus so much on my outstanding negatives, I just lie there and stop dreaming, stop planning and stop acting.

I’ve continually written about the need to stop once in a while and breathe. To get rest when your body tells you it needs it. To give yourself a break once in a while. And I maintain that all of that is an essential part of maintaining your sanity. But like everything else, it’s about balance. It’s about giving yourself a break and then getting back up on your feet and moving again.

Where I’ve found my stress and anxiety becomes unbearable is when I’m not tackling issues. When I leave too many things hanging over my head. Those times when I simply stop checking 2012-12-22 13.47.03things off the list and become one with the couch for way too long. Unfinished business that needs to be finished begins to pile up and it all gets messy and complicated and if I go too long without attacking the issues, they can tend to get bigger than I can handle. And it’s simple stuff like when I put off paying a doctor bill to ensure I’ll have enough for groceries. When I let the house get too out of sorts. When I allow the “to do list” to get too long. When I start sitting waiting for life to happen, at some point my calm river becomes a series of rapids and I start to lose control of the boat.

That’s when I panic.

The problem is, it’s true; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Getting up and taking off that first bite of the elephant can be excruciatingly difficult. But that’s really the only way to get going. Get up and start with one simple task. Then another. And another. And another.

I tend to do well when I’ve got momentum. Once I get going I almost hate to stop because I know how difficult it is to get going again once you sit down. The feeling of “gettin’ it done” is so empowering. But at some point I need to stop to recharge. Then I can’t get going again. It’s a never ending cycle. One that takes practice, faith, effort and a continued belief in your ability to keep it rockin’.

So if you’re lying there with thoughts about projects, finances, kids, schedules; all causing you to freeze up and shut down; pick yourself up and maybe go for a quick walk. Get a cup of coffee. Make the bed. Pay a small bill that has been sitting there for a while but won’t break the bank. Meet your challenges head on, but start slow and give yourself a chance to pick up steam again.

Life will continue to pile it on. It just works that way. And at times it will appear as though you can’t pick it up as fast as it’s puttin’ it down. It can be exhausting. And that’s OK. There will come times when you’re knee deep, times where you’re struggling to keep your head above water and yet other times where you’ll feel completely on top of it all. It’s never the same game twice. The secret is finding the balance and recognizing that no trend is absolute. Bad weeks will come and go as will the good ones.

Each issue in our life carries some weight. Combined it can cripple you and force you to your knees. When it gets too heavy, just start with the little items and work your way up. Eventually you’ll find yourself tackling the bigger items with more confidence and strength. But never, and this is the important part, NEVER stop dreaming.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go on Zillow and look for a 75 acre farm with horses, a pond, and a 4 bedroom house . Then I think I’ll start another load of laundry.

Peace!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in full schedule, Staying Positive, stress

 

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Wait! I’ve Got a Coupon!

Quick tip for those of you grappling with finances and looking for ways to stretch every dollar as you figure out how to afford life as a divorced dad. I’ve written before about the need to write out a monthly budget and the power of just knowing what it’s costing you to live.copon One thing I’ve learned is there are little secrets here and there that can save you a buck or two which can really add up month to month. It may be buying sporting gear for little league, buying shoes or even something as innate as buying eyeglasses on-line. Well recently, I became aware of an amazing tool for shoppers; on-line coupons and coupon apps.

Example: One day my kids and I walked into Michael’s (an arts/crafts chain). We spent around twenty minutes looking around and after each kid picked out their project of choice, we headed for the check out. My eldest tapped me on the shoulder and handed me her phone. “What?” I asked her. She just said, “Here.” Again, trying to focus on the transaction I asked, “What, can’t it wait?” She pointed out that on her phone was a coupon. Being in the midst of herding cats I was a little indifferent and responded with a quick, “whatever” and moved on. So she handed her phone to the cashier who proceeded to scan her phone. “DING.” The total for child number one’s project suddenly went down by 50%. Sure enough. There on her phone was a coupon for 50% off one item at check out. Amazing.

After proclaiming her my new favorite I asked her  what other coupons she had on her phone. I quickly learned from my daughter, as well as searching on-line, that a lot of stores have apps that allow you to collect instant savings at checkout. Who knew? Target for example has their Cartwheel. This one’s great for those of you with tween or teen daughters who continually find that “one” sweater they don’t have. 30% off adds up over time and all it takes is a quick look before you check out to see if an item has a coupon.

“What about you? Do you have a favorite app generated means of saving money at checkout? Here’s the place to share it!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in budgets, coupons, Divorce, Shopping

 

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Find The Good

During any school break, let alone anything over ten days, you get to know your kids on a WHOLE new level. During this recent time together I had noticed that my kids had fallen into the trap of finding everything wrong with each other along with everything around them. Just a constant bemoaning about every little detail. This then became combined with chronic bickering back and forth about every minute detail about every moment of their day. Eventually each became focused on what they disliked about the others. This then started to seep into their daily lives and I started to hear negativity regarding all kinds of things ranging from clothes to friends to the weather. “It’s blue!” “NO it’s GREEN!” “You’re dumb!” “You’re stupid!”

When you go through a divorce, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. It takes a lot of energy to retrain your brain to focus on thefindthegoodladdpositives and to recognize that the world isn’t in fact out to get you despite all evidence to the contrary. Once you do, negativity begins to take on the same attributes of fingernails on a chalk board and you begin to take steps to avoid it at all costs. So when I became surrounded by this never ending centrifuge of hostility toward the cosmos, I did what any calm, rational, reasonable father would do; I yelled and sent everyone to their rooms.

As I sat in the kitchen contemplating a month long grounding with all three kids subject to nothing but bread and water twice a day and no contact with the outside world until they came to their senses, I noticed the big black chalk wall we’d created this past summer. We had just cleared all of the Christmas messages and imagery that had been created over the past couple of months and it was staring at me like a giant blank canvas. I walked over toward it and picked up a piece of chalk and began to write:

“FIND THE GOOD!”

A simple and direct objective. Find the good. It exists in every person, place, situation, event, environment and circumstance. Sometimes we need to look a little harder to see it, but it’s always there to build on. And it’s up to us to train our brain to seek it out. I am by no means a master at this, but I saw this as an opportunity to offer the kids one simple task and see if I couldn’t get them to recognize that it’s their choice to focus on the positive. Throughout the day, simply find the good. Hone in on it. And then build on it.

We’ll see how it works. But it’s there in big bold letters for all (including myself) to see throughout the day. “FIND THE GOOD.” A gentle reminder that positive is so much more productive and fun than negative. I’ll likely start putting up a new task every week or every month. But for now all I want is for the kids to help each other find the good in their day, in their family, and in their world. Because despite what the world tells us sometimes, there’s a lot of it to be found if we’ll simply look a little harder.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Divorce, kids, negative

 

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Presence Not Presents

Perhaps one of the most stressful things about the holidays is the pressure that the world around us puts on buying gifts. Between the catalogues, TV commercials, billboards, e-mail blasts and Web ads, someone is in your face every thirty seconds offering you 20% off, 50% off, 80% off, buy one get one free, free shipping and every other incentive you can think of to spend your money. And of course it’s all so you can show someone how much you love them. As if money = love.

Let’s get real for a moment shall we?

Don’t feel guilted into buying your kids Christmas. Yes they have wish lists. Yes Christmas morning is a magical moment for them. There’s2014-12-08 21.24.44no question about that. But having been through three or four Christmas’ as a divorced dad I can tell you this. What they’ll remember more than anything are the moments. What they’ll appreciate most, is time together with no arguing, fighting or yelling between adults.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying don’t buy them anything. Just don’t feel like buying them a bunch of stuff because you feel guilty about the divorce is the answer. If you’re like me, you still have to be smart about how much you’re spending. It helps to put boundaries on purchases and to have a plan.

One thing I started doing that helped was I gave myself a budget per kid. What I knew I could afford. Some years it’s been more than others and yes, I typically go over it, but starting with a visual financial guide really helps. I’m fortunate to be able to communicate with my ex regarding the big picture and we establish what the kids are going to get. But even if you’re not that lucky, make a list of what you want to get them and give yourself limits. This will help you avoid all of the extras we typically purchase on a whim when we really have no idea what we want to get them.

But the most valuable things you can give them are laughter, family, fond memories and you. They’re already stressed out about the holidays whether you’re divorced or not. What they need and want most is to know they matter. What they really need is your presence not your presents.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, stress, Talking To Kids

 

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