Ten-minute car naps and self-care are the secret to this life.
Remember the opening to that old MTV show, Diary? “You think you know, but you have no idea.” Ever since I became a divorced mom, that phrase comes to mind a surprising amount.
People think they know what this life is about, but unless you’ve lived it, your ideas about it are the same as my ideas about what it’s like to screw George Clooney: pure speculation.
Sure, I have some strong opinions on the topic, but sadly, I don’t actually know. And just like there are some things only Stacy Keibler and that cocktail waitress from Vegas understand, there are some things only us divorced moms understand. Unlike those lucky ladies, we’re sharing our knowledge with you. (You’re welcome.)
1. It’s easier to go it alone than with an unsupportive partner.
When you have a partner you can’t rely on to do a damn thing, you spend a lot of energy negotiating with them, arguing with them, having a lot of feelings about them, and trying not to feel completely let down. Yeah, it’s hard to do it all alone, but to be honest, you were doing it alone anyway. And at least now you don’t resent anyone for not helping.
2. The intense loneliness can be crippling.
A lot of the time, we’re happy. But sometimes, there’s the lonely. When we have to go to yet another function alone or as the third wheel, or when we bring a girlfriend but have no one to fold into during the slow song—or when a bad day leaves us wanting little more than someone to lay in bed with us; when there are no birthday flowers; when our kids are being devastatingly funny or maddeningly terrible—the loneliness is there.
This is different than the loneliness we felt before marriage because it’s served up with a massive helping of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
3. We can be lonely, but happy to be alone.
That’s all there is to it. It’s strange and also true. Loneliness passes, but the joy of being free of a broken relationship never does.
4. We’re always tired.
Like, SO tired. Exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally, just … toast. We’re doing the work of two people with just our own selves, and it’s never done. Parenting is hard. Parenting without backup is superhuman. Because of this, we’re also masters of 10-minute car naps and well-timed espresso shots that keep us from collapsing in a heap of nope.
5. We’re our own cheerleaders.
That metaphor of the oxygen mask on the airplane? This is the key to survival. We would all have meltdowns if we didn’t find small ways to show ourselves big love. After all, there’s no one else to do it for us. Nobody’s going to tell us to sleep in or send us to the spa; we have to have our own backs. It’s the ultimate lesson in being kind to oneself.
6. We’re bittersweet about our free time.
Married friends often remark at how great it must be to have kid-free time … and it is. It’s great. But it also sucks balls. There’s a huge portion of their lives that we don’t get to participate in anymore. Imagine that for a minute: half your kids’ lives, a near-mystery. One big reason we stay so busy with fun plans when our kids are gone is so we don’t think too much about the fact that our kids are gone.
7. Spending holidays alone is depressing.
Few things will rip your heart into pieces like your first significant holiday without your children. It’s surreal and deeply depressing, especially if it hasn’t occurred to anyone in your friend or family circle to extend an invitation to you. It doesn’t get much easier as time goes on, but you get better at making plans.
8. Even with the best ex in the world, it’s complicated.
All that history and all those complex feelings can be so very raw, even when you’ve done the work to heal and move on. You thought you would spend your lives together, and then something changed. That’s heavy stuff for lighthearted pleasantries at kid exchanges.
9. We have to learn to let go much quicker.
If there is one lesson you learn as a divorced mom, it’s to let things go. Don’t like the way your ex parents? Not much you can do about it. All the school volunteer opportunities conflict with your work schedule? Your kid probably won’t notice anyway. Dinner came from the freezer or the drive-through? Hey, at least there was dinner. Messy house? Bad date? Life gone off course? Breathe through it and let that sh*t go. It’s going to be fine.
10. We appreciate parental love from non-parents.
Few things will melt a divorced mama like seeing a person step up and open their heart to someone else’s kids. We know precisely how daunting this parenting gig is, and knowing that there are people who have no obligation to take it on but do anyway? Our hearts become puddles of hope and relief and tenderness, thinking maybe one day our kids could be loved like that, too.
11. We feel like all-powerful bad*sses.
When you’re one hundred percent in charge and you’ve got it handled? When the bills are paid because you paid them, and the money is in the bank because you earned it, and your kid’s science fair project is at least passable because yeah, you pretty much did that, too? It feels like winning, in the realest sense of the word.
12. We know the fairy tale doesn’t exist … and that’s OK.
Life’s made it abundantly clear that there’s no Prince Charming and nobody is going to whisk us away to live out our days in a castle. Our stories might not be tidy or traditional, but they’re interesting and empowering and full of plot twists. We’re the heroes of our stories, and that’s something we’d rather teach our kids, anyway.
Gwen Hutchings is a contributor to YourTango.
This originally appeared on YourTango. Republished here with permission.