For some people, divorce is the culmination of a slow, gradual move apart and they will tell you that divorce didn’t have a huge impact on their daily life. For others, divorce is a dramatic, sudden change creating a seismic shift in daily life. Being a single parent, with full custody of a very young child makes that shift even more challenging and as Swati’s shares here, we do nothing to prepare for divorce:
[contemplate1] I do think that a lot of people still have judgment over a single parent and divorce and what it’s like. I’m Indian and I think there are some cultural biases as well, within my own community. I think that being a single parent is a role that you don’t prepare for. You prepare for motherhood, you prepare for marriage but you don’t prepare for divorce and single parenting.
I’m not sure I knew exactly what to do with it. I felt funny at social events and parties. I think it takes a while to settle into your role, and then you’re so busy, and exhausted. When I got divorced, my ex had my daughter one night a week. At work I had a global team of forty people and a $10 million project. I was working long hours but I wanted to take my daughter to school and pick her up and then I’d get her into bed and take out my laptop. I just remember the exhaustion of it and how hard it was.
Now we have this strange parenting schedule, and I’m trying to figure out a way to change it. My daughter is with him overnight on Tuesdays and Friday, and then she is there all day on Sunday, but I take her there Sunday morning and I get her back Sunday night. What that means is, seven days a week she has no days to sleep in, she’s never with one of us for an entire weekend. It’s very difficult. And then, he has a drinking problem, he had a drug addiction problem at one time, and now everything seems to be coming back, so we’ve been in and out of court again.
The schedule is very disruptive. That’s the next task on the list but he will not agree to anything if it comes from me. I need a therapist or somebody else to recommend it, which is not hard to do, but it’s hard to convince him without going back to court. We might need to waste a bunch of money on it, to get the schedule that ninety-nine percent of the world has.
He and I have not spoken in a very long time. He will not speak to me. In fact, outside of court, I haven’t seen him in two years because he sends his girlfriend, the girl he had the affair with, to do all the pick ups and drop offs.
But, despite how hard it was, it’s much harder to be in a bad marriage, and ours was really a bad marriage in the end. I would do this all again and if I could change one thing, I would actually mobilize faster.
Swati’s right about not preparing ourselves for divorce but I think that would take a major shift in thinking. I can hear the argument that if you go into marriage prepared for divorce then that must mean you don’t believe marriage is a lifelong commitment. It’s an argument often heard against prenuptial agreements. But I wonder what our society would look like if we did accept that marriage isn’t forever, accept that we might have two or three long-term committed relationships in our lives? Would it make us more selective about getting married in the first place? Would it make us all committed to being able to support ourselves? What do you think?
What this segment also highlights is the need to adjust parenting schedules around a child’s needs. Kathleen Christensen and her ex built their parenting plan around their daughter and it sounds like it’s a similar schedule to Swati’s. Kathleen said instead of looking at how to share their daughter’s time between them, they started with their daughter’s current schedule and what would make most sense with that.
The single overnight visits have never worked for my daughter who was a high school freshman when my ex and I divorced. Interesting, my son who is now a high school freshman also stopped the midweek visits at the beginning of the school year. I think it just became too tedious to take their school books and supplies to their dad’s and then to make sure they had what they needed at my house the next afternoon without having to cart it all to school. My ex accepts that the midweek visits are too disruptive and doesn’t enforce the parenting agreement and I think that tells our children that they do have a voice in all this.
It’s disheartening to hear that even seven years after divorce, the wounds between Swati and her ex haven’t healed sufficiently to allow for conversations about parenting. At what point do you just accept this for what it is or when do you try to improve the relationship?
Photo credit: gracobaby