Friday, 23 November 2018

Single Parent Christmas advice wanted!

Over the past week, I've found myself thinking about Christmas and getting weepy. I think of our Christmas traditions... I get weepy. I've attempted to be practical about it and discuss it with the children's father... I get weepy. I've tried to make a plan, which has been my fallback for the other days when his absence will be felt... and I get weepy.

Now, I have nothing against a good cry, but choking up every time I think about Christmas is about to get really inconvenient and tedious. (Not to mention it will cost me a small fortune in tissues.)  It's not like I'm the only person this has ever happened to—and that thought made me realise that I could just ask more experienced people how they handle the single parent Christmas, and/or what they recommend for that first Christmas (or other family-oriented holiday) after the break-up. Hence this blog post!

I'll accept general advice, but I have a couple of particular dilemmas:

What do I do about my stocking when there's nobody to fill it?
Option 1: Fill it myself, just for the sake of participating when we open stockings. - This sounds really hollow and depressing.
Option 2: Don't bother hanging up my own stocking and just do the kids'. - Down side is this may create questions about Santa Claus, but honestly, that's a pro in my Santa-hating book.

Current but vague plan would have the kids with their Dad for Christmas morning, so option 2 is the most probable one, but I'm curious as to how other single parents deal with this?

What do I do on Christmas Day?
Going by the afore-mentioned vague plan, the kids will open presents with their Dad and have dinner with me. Not quite sure when the crossover will be, but there are going to be some hours of Christmas Day when it's just me, and I have no idea what to do with myself. I won't have any family in town this year. Secondly, what do I do about dinner for just three people, two of whom dislike turkey, gravy and roast potatoes?

Option 1: Go to my friend's Mom's house - My friend's mom does not know I have been invited yet, but we are assuming she'll be cool.

Option 2: Invite other similarly at-a-loose-end people over to our place to increase the number of diners/company.

Option 3: Dump the children with their Dad for a few days, and visit friends who don't celebrate Christmas. - Honestly, right now, this is the most appealing. I'd be perfectly happy to enjoy the Christmas season but skip celebrating the actual day this year. Granted, I don't know if their Dad can take them for that long, but I have a number of Jewish friends. At least one of them could put me up for a few days, right?

In more general encouragement terms, what are people's solo traditions for Christmas? And/or what are the advantages of being by yourself on this day?

(For the record, being British, I don't really celebrate Thanksgiving, but I took the kids for an overnight trip to Mt Vernon just so we'd be doing something special, while everybody else was posting heartwarming things to social media. We had a great time.)

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Open letter to my husband's girlfriend

The time has come for us to talk directly to each other. All year, I’ve been avoiding you. I’ve been trying not to get involved. As I hope Rich has told you, I believe you should have no part of our divorce. The relationship he has with you is none of my business, and the divorce is none of yours.

However, you are not comfortable with being kept out of this.

I don’t entirely know your motives. I know you have taken things personally that I never meant personally. I know that I was the one to end our friendship, but I originally did so to avoid the grief of seeing the person I loved with somebody else. I know that despite this grief, I did not end my friendship with Rich. This was not so much a personal choice as a practical one… Owing to the children, I cannot sever ties with Rich.

The relationship between you and me has broken down further since that original moment of grief. We’re both angry with each other, and it seems we’re both wary of each other’s motives. Because we’re not talking, because we don’t see each other, we are able to assume the worst. I hope that by resuming some form of direct communication, we will demystify ourselves a little and understand the human emotions and fears affecting us.

I have a tendency to ramble—I’ve already done so, but I will try and break down my perspective on this into bullet points.
  • My role in Rich’s life is not “the ex-wife” but “the mother of his children,” and I’m going to have that role for the rest of our lives. One of our main objectives ever since this started has been to remain amicable, so that we can co-parent effectively. Even once the children are grown there are going to be events and gatherings when they will want us both to be there. We want to be able to do that for them.
  •  I understand that you’re not comfortable dating a man who is still married to somebody else. With all due respect, you made that choice back in February or March. You knew how recently we had separated (i.e. an immediate divorce was not an option), and you knowingly entered a situation with two emotionally volatile people who had yet to adjust to the massive change in their lives.
  • You are afraid of him going back to me. This is a natural fear. A lot of people do try to patch up the marriage within a few months of ending it. I have a couple of points that might help.
    o  He wants you, not me. I don’t think you’re convinced of this, but I am.
    o  I don’t want him back. I have learned this year that no matter our intentions, Rich and I can only hurt each other. We are enabling each other’s worst behaviors and our personal relationship is very damaging. Another reason to focus only on our role as parents.
  • I do have some sympathy for your situation. I ask that you have sympathy for mine.
  • I’m not just losing a husband, I’m losing a home. I have to make a new life for myself and for my children in the UK. The prospect of moving was overwhelming for me. I wasn’t ready to deal with the realities of divorce at the time you first asked Rich to file, and that took an emotional toll as well. While you may have intended to move proceedings along, it is more probable that you are slowing things down.
  • Nevertheless, I am leaving the States in June 2019. Before you were involved in all of this, Rich and I agreed that (if we couldn’t save the marriage) I would stay in the US for another year so that I could finish my teaching qualification and prepare for the move. We promised the children that they would have one more school year here. I know I can’t move on emotionally until I start life in the UK, so I am not interested in staying here beyond what I promised the children. If it wasn’t for them, I would be gone already.
  • It is my preference to stay married until June 2019. This is for the purposes of keeping my visa / permanent address and my health insurance. I know there are alternative options for either, but these will involve extra time, effort and money in what is already a difficult and expensive process. Staying married for another eight months is by far the simplest option.
  • You wish for the divorce to be finalized as quickly as possible. I can assure you that our marriage is a legal rather than emotional status at this point. It has no practical effect on your life, but it does on mine.
  • I am making progress with the end of the marriage even if you don’t see it. I have fallen far behind my intended completion date, but I am still working on my teaching qualification and still hope to finish it this year. I will start looking for jobs as soon as I complete it.
    I am arranging a three week trip to the UK in February / March 2019 to visit potential schools and get my UK driver’s licence.
    o   The children and I talk often of what will happen when we move, and we make plans for our new lives as a way of coping with our fears of the unknown.

    All of this furthers the divorce, even if no lawyers or mediators are being involved.
  • Making demands of me slows things down I am behind schedule for a move which requires a lot of planning. I am also managing a household, which has plenty of demands in itself. Divorce proceedings and financial arrangements are not only time consuming but they are another source of anxiety. All these things need doing, but I’ve been feeling overwhelmed since I got back from the UK. Pressuring me is increasing my anxiety levels to the point of panic attacks, and that completely kills any productivity.
  • For things to go faster, I need practical assistance.
  • It is not in my interests to stall. If I am not ready to move over the summer, then this will have many negative ramifications on my life and the children’s. We need a job, school places and a place to live lined up before June. We need to have everything moved and unpacked in the new house before school starts in September. In order to do this, I will need to agree on financial arrangements with Rich in the next few months.

That is my perspective. You are welcome to explain yours.

My request is that you allow us to delay all legal proceedings until next year. Before we go any further, I wish to finish my course and start making job enquiries. It is my intent that Rich and I complete all mediation, i.e. we are agreed on the arrangements, before my trip to the UK in February.
If you have a problem with my plan or if you feel there is something I have failed to take into consideration, I would welcome hearing from you directly.