Finally, Divorced

Yes, after 3 long years, I am officially divorced. After all that time, I was reluctant to announce it quite so clearly until I held the paper with its official seals in my hand.

What took so long? Not child custody and visitations schedules. That was all sorted out years ago.  Part of the blame goes to my state’s requirement that couples must be separated for 2 years to go in front of the master who is responsible for finalizing the financial settlement. I guess because we might change our minds.

The other reason? Financial settlement.  Not what I was going to receive. What I was going to pay out. That’s right. It wasn’t because my ex-husband was a stay-at-home dad. I paid the financial settlement because of the discrepancy in our incomes. These are the facts. There’s obviously a lot more to it, but I’m not going to get into all of that, at least not right now.  But I wanted to be free and I found out the price of that freedom.

What would I do differently? I would have a stronger pre-nuptial agreement, one that protected me and my financial future more completely.  Perhaps more importantly, I would listen to my heart. Not the heart that was in love, but to the heart that saw discrepancies between what I wanted in a life partner and the man I was attracted to, the man I married.  The heart that I ignored when we had arguments and fights about things, like money, that really matter, that really mattered to me. The heart that saw how differently we approached life and relationships with people. That heart.  The heart I am healing today and listening to more and more.

Today, my friends, I have peace and quiet. My house is mine, my life is mine, my brain is much quieter, my kids are doing well. And on 1/11/11 Baby R turned 4!

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Study: The State of Middle Class Unions in Disarray

I believe we have chatted about this before, but more affluent and educated people are most likely than any other social class to be blissfully married, according to a study covered by the Huffington Post.

The divorce rate is now at 38 percent for middle class couples with no college education.

The data sparked the conclusion that “the United States is devolving into a separate-and-unequal family regime, where the highly educated and the affluent enjoy strong and stable households and everyone else is consigned to increasingly unstable, unhappy, and unworkable ones.”

“The State of Our Unions” attributes the change to an overriding shift in values. Once the most socially conservative part of the country, middle America now appears to be becoming more socially permissive and less marriage-minded. For example, whereas 76 percent of adolescents in highly educated households would be embarrassed to get someone pregnant, only 61 percent of moderately educated people felt the same way, and only 48 percent of the least educated believe that is so. Furthermore, while 81 percent of 14-year-old girls in highly educated households lived with their mother and their father (a number that has jumped by a percentage point since the 1970s), 58 percent did so in middle America–a whopping 16 percent drop from the 74 percent who reported they lived with both parents in the 1970s.

While the most affluent sector of society has held onto marriage as a defining social unit, the study found that the rest of the country is suffering, at least in part because they are having trouble doing so. Marriage–”an institution to which all could once aspire,” has become “a private playground of those blessed with abundance.”

So why sound the alarm bells over these findings? Because when marriage is at risk, so, too, the study argues, is the very foundation of our society: “Marriage is a core social institution, one that helps to ensure the economic, social and emotional welfare of countless children, women, and men in this nation.”

While the HuffPo article implied that the middle class was devolving into the “low class” because of promiscuity and other dubious values, I have a different take. One, the recession and our regressive tax code is creating a gap between rich and poor, which is taking its toll on middle class families.

Also, despite our country being known as the Land of Opportunity, we still archaically view marriage as a way to make people middle class or affluent. With a good safety net and real opportunities for everyone, individuals should be able to pay their bills without a spouse. What say you?

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Not sure what is going on at the Huffington Post, but it ran a lot of stories about divorce yesterday. First, Nora Ephron wrote a funny and irreverent column about how her divorces once defined her. But the part that struck a nerve with some readers was what she had to say about children and divorce:

I can’t think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can’t kid yourself about that, although many people do. They say things like, “It’s better for children not to grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage.” But unless the parents are beating each other up, or abusing the children, kids are better off if their parents are together. Children are much too young to shuttle between houses. They’re too young to handle the idea that the two people they love most in the world don’t love each other anymore, if they ever did. They’re too young to understand that all the wishful thinking in the world won’t bring their parents back together. And the newfangled rigmarole of joint custody doesn’t do anything to ease the cold reality: in order to see one parent, the divorced child must walk out on the other.

The best divorce is the kind where there are no children.

I wonder what Ephron would say about this: I know couples that have or are waiting for their children to leave for college to get a divorce. In the meantime, they are stuck in loveless marriages. Here is a question for you all to ponder: Is it better for children to wait 18 years for their parents to split, or is it better for the parents to get it over with? What about couples who never married to begin with? Is a split somehow less painful or disruptive for their children?

In related news at HuffPo, Laurie David wrote about an unconventional divorce arrangement she had with her ex-husband, in which he would spend two nights a week at her home so their children would have both parents at mealtime. They have similar arrangements over the holiday breaks.

Here is more food for thought: Joan Williams, who writes a lot about workplace and family-friendly policies, just wrote a poignant column for the Washington Post on why Democrats lost the midterm elections. This column, by the way, is worth a read! She pointed out that unlike Sarah Palin, Dems have done a poor job of wooing white males without a high school diploma. The most interesting point she made, IMHO, is that working class people resent higher wage earners, but not rich folks who are that way because of inheritance or unearned income. Interesting.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Friday Morning Open Thread

(Bear with me as I took this photo with my iPhone. From left to right: Kyle de Beausset, Matías (last name not listed), Lisbeth Mateo, and Yahaira Carrillo, at the “Illegal” Organizing panel.)

On my first day at Netroots Nation, I attended so many interesting panels such as the Latino Caucus — my report on it is coming up next — and the panel pictured to the right: “‘Illegal’ Organizing: Lessons from the Migrant Youth Movement.” For video of the discussion, click here.  

The four young adults pictured are brave. They have “come out” — their words — as undocumented and have been arrested for civil disobedience. They have sat in Sen. John McCain’s office, Sen. Harry Reid’s office, have stood front and center at immigration rallies and have even been detained. One of the speakers said she believes they have not been deported because it would be “bad PR” for immigration officials. When people discuss “illegals,” the image of a young person in a cap and gown, assimilated and speaking English, is not what immediately comes to mind. Yet, passage of the DREAM Act would grant a million of these youth temporary permanent residency in the only country they call home.

“We are visible and upfront,” activist Yahaira Carrillo said. “We get personal attacks, personal e-mails and personal messages on Facebook and Twitter. But (coming out) also has its benefits.”

Unlike their parents, Carrillo and her fellow panelists represent a new mentality among undocumented youth. They are not afraid of declaring themselves undocumented, signing online petitions and attending rallies.

Lisbeth Mateo said they survive through their creativity. They have started their own businesses, been hired anyway — they are educated and speak English — or depend on donations for their activism. In other words, they have the work ethic and drive of Americans.

“Some people call it naive or foolish,” Carrillo said. “But we call it fighting for our lives.”

One way to help their cause is to call your members of Congress and have them support the DREAM Act.

In non-Netroot Nation news: Laurie Puhn at the Expecting Words blog wrote about how our partner’s flaws — and our own flaws — can blow up in our faces once we have children. She offered tips on how to fix them. Also in the Expecting Words blog: Laurie just attended the Smart Marriages Conference in Orlando and learned a bunch of factoids, like, the No. 1 predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict. (Here is the source.)

The Associated Press had an article about a controversial school board measure in Raleigh, North Carolina, that critics say will re-segregate schools. Warning: do not read the comments as they are downright scary.

A writer at Mamapedia wrote about life after foreclosure.

In celebrity gossip break (that’s what it’s become!): Mama Palin supposedly doesn’t approve of daughter Bristol and Levi Johnston’s engagement, according to Reuters.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

A study of more than 12,000 couples in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948, has found that couples are 75 percent more likely to divorce if their closest friends break up, according to the Daily Mail in the UK.

Congrats to our Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids, whose new book Why Great Teachers Quit was officially released this week.

Here are two more articles I’d like to highlight from Parents magazine. The first one, “The New American Dad,” was about fathers who are the primary caregivers in their families. Currently, 25 percent of preschool-aged children have their dad as their primary caregiver. And 28 percent of U.S. wives between the ages of 30 and 44 have more education than their husbands. The remaining 53 percent of couples have the same levels of education.

Another article, “Battling Tattling,” touched a nerve. (I could not find the article online.) It is a miracle I have not run out of my house screaming from all the tattling that goes on here. “Ari hit me!” a three-year-old Eli complains. “No! She hit me first!” a 6-year-old Ari retorts. And then a battle ensues, and usually, one or both kids cry. It is getting on my last nerve.

Fortunately, in the car, we have three rows of seats. Ari likes sitting in the last row, while Eli’s carseat is in the second row. At least there’s peace and quiet there. Whew!

But at home is another story. I tried one of the pieces of advice doled out by the magazine, which is to ask the child why they are telling on the other kid. “Are you trying to get your sister into trouble?” I asked Ari.

“Yeah, she knocked down my legos!” There goes that idea.

What do you do to combat tattling in your home? What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Q&A Falling Apart in One Piece – Stacy Morrison

I recently reviewed Stacy Morrison’s new memoir of her divorce Falling Apart in One Piece. She was gracious enough to answer some questions for Mothertalkers:

Q First, mama brag – how old is your son Zack now and what are his latest accomplishments/milestones?

A My son, Zack, is six—almost seven!—and he is a really interesting, high-energy, sensitive and passionate creature. Right now he has what we’ve been calling “shark teeth“: his new front teeth are moving down, but he still has his little baby teeth behind them, all crowded and crooked, so he looks like a shark, with rows of pointy teeth. It will be so sad when the little ones finally give up the ghost. He’s an avid reader (the TinTin series is his latest addiction) and we go on fun mother-son scooter adventures on the weekends. Once we surprised his father by scootering all the way to his house, two neighborhoods away!

Q What is the most difficult question Zack has asked you about your divorce or relationship with your ex-husband and how do you handle it?

A I don’t think there’s any one “most difficult“ question, because, lordy, they are all difficult. But I stick by a great piece of advice I published in Redbook more than once, which is to answer only the question that he asks, and not get pulled by my own guilt or grief into fleshing out more of the story than he’s ready for. I mostly just tell him that Mommy and Daddy decided we couldn’t live together anymore, even though we love each other—and then I remind him that that will never happen to him. That Zack and I are a permanent deal, and there’s no such thing as divorcing your parent. But Zack is confused by the friendship Chris and I share; he keeps insisting to me that Chris is “my husband,“ even if we aren’t married, because Chris is his father, and I’ve basically just had to give up on that one for now.

Q How do you think your divorce and being single has changed your parenting? How has your co-parenting relationship with your ex-husband changed since the divorce was finalized?

A My parenting was barely formed when Chris ended the marriage, since Zack was just nine months old at the time! But the reality is that I learned a powerful lesson in the months after Chris moved out, which is that he was not going to parent like me, period. And if we’d still been married, I’m sure I would have been badgering him to parent more like I do. Cut the fruit the same way I do, make the same lunches, adhere to the same bedtime routine. With the divorce I had to accept that Zack would get totally different things from our different parenting styles, and that that simply had to be okay—and, more importantly, it was okay.

The co-parenting relationship has changed tremendously since the divorce, as Chris and I started living more separate lives, and as Chris and I both gained confidence in ourselves as parents. When Zack has a crisis of one kind or another, we tend to pull together and have a lot of family meetings to make a plan, but in general, our lives are much, much more separate now than they used to be. Letting go and falling apart is a process; it takes time. I’m just so happy we got to do it slowly, even though it hurt like hell. I learned a lot in those years we were still so closely connected, even though we weren’t a couple anymore.

Q You have a pretty interesting co-parenting relationship with your ex. You wrote about it in Falling Apart but also in the NT Times Modern Love column.  One of my reactions to your essay was that “my ex would love this, with me doing all the work. No way.“  What kind of response did you get to your co-parenting relationship (and that column)? Why do you think yours is a different relationship than many other divorce couples, even those who are relatively amicable?

A Well, I’d be the first (and my ex would be the second and my boyfriend the third) to admit I am a control freak. Not in the typical way, meaning I don’t get obsessed with what Zack eats or his sleep schedules and his play dates, but I wanted to be in as much control as I could of when I get to see Zack. I always feel like I’m “stealing time“ with Zack, meaning pinching off an extra hour or two here, an extra long weekend there. And part of the way I got that—which was so necessary for me because of the traveling I do for my work—was by being willing to be the one who did the work that made it easy for us to have such a flexible schedule, like groceries, laundry, managing the childcare, etc. If two of us had been managing that, or having a power struggle over that, I wouldn’t have been able to be so breezily able to say, “Hey, I was thinking of going away with Zack this weekend, is that cool with you?“ But mostly, I think my co-parenting relationship is different because Chris is different: he didn’t feel like he had to erase me or negate me when he left me—he allowed himself to just decide he didn’t want to be with me anymore—so we don’t have a power struggle over the stupid stuff because the two of us were locked in a pointless duel.

Q  One thing that helps you through your divorce is your friendships, many long lasting friendships.  You describe a difficult vacation week that you take, with your son then about 2.5, on Cape Cod with your friends Tina and Matt. You describe the growing tension with your friend Tina illustrating just how different you are as a parent on your own with a toddler from a married couple parenting  a 1 year old. What struck me were not just the differences between your marital statuses, but also how the differences in your children’s ages can impact friendships. How did your divorce and your own changes/growth affect your friendships?

A Yes, the children’s ages were definitely the key factor in why that vacation didn’t work out. Who would have guessed? (Anyone who’d tried it before; that’s who.) But divorce completely changed almost all of my relationships, except for my work relationships. Work was where my life felt stable. But as I joke in the book: What’s a double date with a single mom? Nothing! It’s too weird! So it did take me almost three years to rebuild my social life, and much to my surprise, I ended up starting to date just to have something to do with myself on the weeknights Chris was with Zack! I wasn’t dating to meet a guy; I just needed someone to go to the movies with! In the end, though, that was actually the perfect way to go back into dating, with that kind of mindset. It kept the bar low and allowed me to tiptoe into something that felt very scary. But it is true that my friendships were my anchor; even though I couldn’t hang out with most of those friends on a Friday night, I felt their love and support and concern for me, and it’s what made me believe I would survive, and that I deserved be to loved. And, you know, that’s what we want to teach our kids, right? That they deserve love, and that they can survive anything hard that comes their way. I’m proud that I lived that for my son to see with his own eyes.

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Book Review: Falling Apart in One Piece – Stacy Morrison

I finished Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison a couple of months ago. I discovered it through her Modern Love essay the Ex-Husband Who Never Left, which left me feeling jealous on one hand and wistful on the other hand. My relationship with my ex isn’t like hers and won’t be. The ongoing conversation I have with myself about this goes like this: “if we did communicate and work that well together, we probably wouldn’t be getting divorced.” Yet, this new relationship that Morrison forges with her ex-husband is the result of her divorce process, one that takes her through her son Zack’s infancy, grief, sadness, and anger to optimism and life with a preschooler.

I’m not one of those people who is obsessed with my own divorce and spends my free time, what little there is after making lunches, supervising homework, washing endless piles of laundry and working full time, talking about divorce & reading divorce memoirs. But now that I do see a wee bit of light a the end of my personal tunnel, I like to have a peek now and then at how other people, usually women, coped and make their ways forward.

Falling Apart in One Piece describes her life with her ex-husband, Chris but she doesn’t focus on the past, the mistakes she, or he, may have made. She uses the passage of time and introspection to acknowledge that “yes, this could be the reason things didn’t work out” but she is focused on getting through.

Morrison chronicles the history of her relationship with Chris, her husband and now ex-husband, which parallels her career in New York publishing, one that culminates with her being named editor-in-chief of Redbook.  It’s impossible to separate the two, they go hand-in-hand during Morrison’s post-college adulthood and working life. Talented and ambitious in a way that her husband was not, Morrison becomes the primary breadwinner. The editor-in-chief position at Redbook appears just as her personal life is falling apart — both her marriage and her newly purchased Brooklyn house. Once she moves in with her husband and newborn son, the house – both roof and basement – leak badly every time it rains. But like many of us, Morrison can’t quit work to deal with her personal problems.

so after a few minutes of giving myself permission to wallow in all that was falling apart, I pulled it back together. I dove headfirst back into the comforting rhythm of meetings to attend, decisions to be made, story ideas to approve, photographs to edit, focusing on bringing my readers the best ideas of what life can be, to inspire in them optimism and comfort. This, in turn, comforted me as well. I have always believed in what I sell, and I sell only what I believe in. And so I spent those long, busy days at work making the magazine more honest and real as well as brighter and happier.

As much as she loves the house, the house must be sold for the divorce. Morrison has to go through an extensive and expensive process of fixing the house, working with plumbers and engineers to find the source of the problems, so that she and her husband can sell the house, split their assets, and finalize their divorce.

The house leaking-marriage ending symbolism struck a strong chord with me. I too got a message that my life was about to change radically, profoundly.  My metaphor was my feet. In the years leading up to my decision to end my marriage my feet started hurting. So much so that in the last year before we separated I could not take any long walks;it was too painful. I became acquainted with the connectivity between feet and calves and knees — a connection I never knew about before. I spent months going to physical therapy learning how to stretch — hello Metaphor Central? I got it! – and strengthen my feet, ankles and calves. I could not walk happily again until I accepted that I had to do these exercises. Message: I had to come first before I could take care of anyone. It’s a lesson I have to repeat a lot.

Even as she figures out how to parent her son Zack alone and with Chris, she discovers that old friendships, even as they endure the divorce, as not the same. On one summer vacation with old friends on Cape Cod finds Morrison with the only toddler amongst babies, the only solo parent amongst couples.

When all of us were together in the house, I felt very self-conscious about Zack’s classic toddler behavior, which didn’t bother me in quite the same way at home. here I felt as if it were unsettling the household’s calm order in a way that wasn’t welcome. We kept bumping into rules that I didn’t have at home and that Zack wasn’t prepared for. On Wednesday, he put surface scratches in a much-loved coffee table when we were playing in the living room with Julia, despite the fact that Tina had put a towel on the table to try to protect it; he took all the toys out of the toy basket at once, spreading them around the playroom, while Tina quietly picked up behind him because Julia played with only one toy at a time….

I kept thinking, I hate being a parent alone. If I just had another person here, this wouldn’t be so hard. I needed someone to help entertain Zack. Someone to help discipline him. Someone to distract him. I wonder when I would stop missing my lost partner. I felt weak and worthless that this was where my brain went, and i cursed myself that free time only created the space for me to feel all my fears, all my loss, still. And I felt even more foolish that I had dared to believe that I could let down my guard, relax, be safe.

When I started this memoir, I worried that because I was the one who made the decision to end my marriage, I would read it on the defensive. Would she condemn me, through her husband’s action, for ending my marriage? I didn’t feel that way at all. When Morrison is this blunt, this honest, about her feelings, I see how similar we humans. I too, live with this burden of parenting alone. As the school year ends, I feel a small sense of relief. My children will be spending more time with their father and while I will miss them desperately, I will also get a break from the routine, to breathe a little more slowly. To relax and feel safe.

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

A group of us in the Bay Area and Sacramento plan to meet up for a River Cats game in Raley Field in Sacramento on Friday, July 2. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.. Children and partners are welcome! If you are interested in going, please purchase the $7 “lawn” seats here. The seating isn’t great, but it will allow for all of us to sit together and the kids to run around and have fun. Thanks pat of butter in a sea of salt for the idea!

Once again, Newsweek came out with its top U.S. high schools list, based on advanced placement college-level courses and tests.

I would be mortified if this happened to me. A fourth-grade teacher at a Christian school in Florida was fired for having premarital sex, according to the TODAY Show. But that’s not all. The principal actually told the staff and called up all the families of her classroom to tell them the reason for her firing.

Latinos, both documented and undocumented, are leaving Arizona in anticipation of SB 1070, according to USA Today. This quote by a school superintendent captured my feelings exactly: “They’re leaving to another state where they feel more welcome.”

In a comprehensive health study of the gay community, Boston researchers found that gay men were 50 percent less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be obese, according to MSNBC.com. Among lesbians, it was the opposite, making them more vulnerable to heart disease.

In belated celebrity gossip break: first Kristin split from her husband, then Al and Tipper announced a separation. Now oldest daughter Karenna is the latest Gore to separate from her hubby. According to the Huffington Post, Karenna Gore and husband Andrew Schiff have agreed to separate for two months while they go through with counseling. The couple has three children.

Actress-model Jenny McCarthy is poised to get her own TV show, according to MSN. Let’s hope she stays away from the vaccine wars.

I loved this quote by Barbara Walters, which I also found in the Hybrid Mom magazine newsletter: “Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

Ha! So true.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Wedding Ring Cemetery

Because I am divorced, I no longer wear my wedding ring. I put it away and really didn’t know what to do with it. Should I wear it on my right hand? Should I pawn it? Should I melt it down and make something new with it? I wasn’t sure what the protocol was – so I decided to put it away and planned on giving it to Karina when she’s older.

Then I began to wonder…what would Karina do with it? Would she even want it? What is the right thing to do?

Then I came across an interesting ad for those facing the same predicament. The item advertised is a wedding ring coffin. Yes, you read that right – a WEDDING RING COFFIN.

The Ivory Wedding Ring Coffin is a new addition to our product line.
The burgundy interior is a dramatic contrast to the ivory finish. Like our mahogany coffin, it is ideal for burying the past and putting a marriage and divorce behind you.

You can even include a personalized plaque to your coffin, such as:
Bury the past and move on to a new tomorrow
Rest In Peace
Gone and Forgotten
I do….NOT!
Six feet isn’t deep enough

I don’t know. What exactly are you supposed to do with the coffin once your ring is in it? Are you supposed to bury it? Perhaps this process can be therapeutic to some people, but I just don’t think this is me.

What about you? Do you have a wedding ring? Do you wear it everyday, or just on special occasions? And if you’ve gone through a divorce (like me), what have you done with your previous wedding ring? Would a wedding ring coffin be something of interest to you?

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Friday Open Thread

Happy Friday! We have been enjoying such lovely weather these last few days and I’m planning on making the best of it this weekend! Maybe I’ll take my kids to Disneyland? Maybe the beach? Perhaps some window shopping? I haven’t decided yet, but I do know that we will be outdoors! What about you? Any interesting plans for the weekend?

Now, onto some interesting stories that caught my eye…

We all have been told not to believe what we see on the magazine covers, as the people on the cover are photoshopped – sometimes beyond recognition. We’ve been told that acne is removed, hips and arms are thinned, cellulite is removed. But have you ever heard of a model being photoshopped to look fatter? Yes, “Healthy” magazine photoshopped some 40 pounds onto the cover model because she didn’t look “healthy” when she came in to the photo shoot. Ironic, dontcha think? Most people wonder, why not actually hire a healthy looking model? Duh.

According to this post in the Daily Beast, there are 15 ways to predict if divorce is in your future. I read the list and found a couple that would have predicted the demise of my marriage.

If you’re like me and worry everytime your child is feeling a little under the weather, then you should take a look at this Parenting.com article, which lists eight times you should call your pediatrician.

Of course, this is an open thread and you are free to discuss whatever you wish. What else is going on?

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