Another September has arrived for me and my children. Another start of a new school year, more back to school nights, and more visible reality that I am no longer married, no longer living in the marital home, and no longer “accepted” by a lot of people. If I could write a “back to school” letter, it would look something like this:
Dear Parents of My Children’s Friends and Teachers Who Will Be Teaching My Kids,
The start of every school year brings a great deal of anxiety for me. It is the annual reminder that I am no longer married and my children are between two households. This time of year brings me back to the very start of our separation.
Why? Because I still seem to encounter so many people who view divorce as “bad” and “wrong”. The “how could you do that to your children?” attitude still runs rampant, that is why. I would like to take this time to remind you all that there are a few things you could do to alleviate my anxiety.
1. When I see you at any back to school night or school function (even if you are sitting next to my ex-husband) it is perfectly OK to say “hello” to me in the hallway. After all, I have known many of you since my kids started kindergarten.
2. You can stop asking me (with the pretend look of surprise on your face) “where are you living?” By now you know my ex husband has the marital home and I do not.
3. Teachers it is possible to have TWO email addresses, TWO telephone numbers, TWO home addresses!! And you should contact each parent and treat them equally. I love how so many past teachers email my ex-husband and assume I will also get the message. Just because my ex husband is living in the marital home it does NOT mean my home is less important. I am the mother!!
4. Stop picking sides. This always amazes me since no one really knew about my marriage except me and my ex. I moved out. I am renting an apartment near by. For a lot of people I know that equaled abandonment of my kids and being selfish. I am neither selfish nor did I abandon my kids!
5. Do not assume since I am divorced and working (and I worked when married also) that I can no longer volunteer at school. The type and quality of mother I am has not changed! I still love my children and I want to be involved in all their activities.
6. And finally, try not to judge me anymore. It really is hell. My first year of separation felt like I had lost every friend I had. If I had been given a quarter for every time one of you said to me, “why can’t you wait until your youngest graduates high school?” or “do you know what you are doing to your children???” I would now have college funds set aside for my children.
Soon I will be attending those upcoming back to school nights. I am working on approaching it with a positive spirit and open heart. I will diligently write my name, email, address, and phone number and make sure that it is understood there are two households again this year. I will still smile at all the parents I have known for years and who pretend not to know me anymore. I will try and rise above the judgements and smile.
Divorced but Loving Mom