I am a member of one of the approximately 50% of American marriages that result in divorce. Knowing this statistic that nearly half who say “I do” will wind up in divorce court I often find myself wondering where all of the other divorced moms are?
I’m acquainted with plenty of other women in their 30’s and 40’s who are still married to their college or high school sweethearts, and many others who waited to marry until after their career was established, in their early to mid-30’s (so they just now have very young children). I know the other divorced moms, juggling drop-offs and pick-ups of children with their ex, are out there somewhere, but why do I never find them?
The first time I really found myself struck with frustration about not being acquainted with other co-parenting mothers was when I tried to get my daughter involved in Girl Scouts. About two years post-divorce I was fumbling to get my children involved in activities. By this time, I had already discovered that any activity I identified for the kids would fall apart between the one week at-at-time shuffle between mine and their dad’s homes.
I couldn’t make him bring the kids to swim class, karate, ballet, or anything else when it was his time; so, the best I could do was try to find activities that happened to fall on my weeks; otherwise, they would miss half of the classes or meetings and I would be throwing money away. The problem was that I could barely find anything that matched up just right, and I mourned the fact that my children would miss out on so many opportunities and experiences because their dad and I couldn’t work it out! So, when I did find an activity that worked in our schedule, it was like striking gold!
Back to that attempt at Girl Scouting…I was a Girl Scout and I loved it, and I hoped for my daughter to have the same wonderful memories and enrichment. Let me first say that I have never expected anyone to bend and accommodate my crazy life. I know that it can be a mess, so I am just grateful if anyone even makes an attempt to find out if an event will work for my family to make sure my kids can also be included.
My encounter with the Girl Scout leader represented numerous interactions, both big and small, over the years with others who made me and my children feel like oddities or second class citizens because of our brokenness. As we introduced ourselves to the leader and began discussing schedules and activities, I became aware of the tangible chill in the air and her strained attempt to “be nice” as she stiffened at our dysfunction that threatened to soil her pretty little troop.
It certainly wasn’t my daughter’s fault that she had a mommy’s home and a daddy’s home and went back-and-forth between the two. I wished for my daughter to have a positive experience where she could just feel “normal” and be a little girl instead of being exposed to the intrusive questions and snotty attitudes of the “perfect” moms who couldn’t understand our family dynamics. I found myself wishing for the non-judgy divorced Girl Scout troop where everyone totally got the bouncing back and forth and wouldn’t flinch at conversations about “dad’s girlfriend” this and “my step brother” that…
Over time I have managed to find plenty of things to get my kids involved in. I gave up on trying to do anything that fell over my ex’s week, which has limited the options; but, they’re still involved in a church youth group, 4H, attend various camps, play in the orchestra, and participate in events at the library, and so on. One of ways I’ve found to combat the schedules that don’t mesh with ours is to volunteer to lead activities myself or communicate with the leader in advance about our availability.
We still don’t have what I would consider to be a “community” of people who understand the concepts of co-parenting, blended families, step parenting, and so on; so, we still manage to stand out.
My question, then, becomes why it is that the “perfect” married moms of intact families tend to give us divorced moms the cold shoulder treatment? While the vibe they exude is more along the lines of “you’re trashy because you’re divorced,” I suspect that it’s more of a fear factor. I was once that seemingly perfect mom leading Boy Scouts and teaching Sunday school. People I knew were genuinely shocked when my ex-husband and I announced our intent to divorce. Of course, no one was aware of our pathetic existence behind closed doors; but, as far as anyone who knew the public us was concerned, we were solid and made to last.
Perhaps a divorced mom, such as myself, hits a little too close to home for the married moms out there who look down their noses and bristle at what I and my family represent. Maybe we are living proof that no one or no marriage is invincible because a 50% marriage failure rate is a pretty tough statistic to run from. I don’t profess to be a model of anything but living real, so of course my children and I make our mistakes.
If we have earned the reputation as “trashy” for other reasons, then so be it. I won’t, however, accept being branded as some sort of failure or loser because I have survived a divorce. The fact that I have survived bears witness to the fact that I know the pain of accepting the loss of something once dear that must now be sacrificed for the greater good. I hate to say it, but the divorce reaper will eventually claim its share of victims from the “perfect” club and they will learn the truth for themselves.
So, to my original question: where are all the divorced moms? Am I the only one of my kind who I encounter because others like me gave up from the same frustrations I’ve encountered? Did the broken family shamers run the others into the shadows? The numbers support the fact that I should know and have opportunities galore to rub shoulders with other step moms, moms from blended families, and single moms all making a special kind of magic happen.
If the rest have thrown in the towel, I am urging them to come back out, unite, organize, and benefit from one another’s strength and wisdom. However, if you are all out there somewhere doing all the usual things that any family does, but with the unique patience and understanding of a divorced mom, please let me know where you’re at!