I have often been considered among my friends and family as “put-together,” the one who no one has to worry about, always able to bounce back without help. This was not actually the case, but that was apparently my image. When I announced my separation from my first husband, with whom I had a four year old son at the time, I was met with thoughts and comments like “wow, I always thought he was such a good guy!” and friends expressing a feeling that their gauge for ideal future marriage and kids was now broken.
I was left coping with not only my next difficult chapter, where I had to accept giving up half of my time with my son in exchange for leaving a marriage I had outgrown, but also having to help my loved ones understand and deal with their feelings about it. I was left feeling like I had to justify to each person I cared about, individually, why I needed to move on from that relationship.
I took my time in the relationship I’m in now, with a long-time friend. We dated for eight years and had two children together before we walked down the aisle. We recently celebrated our one year anniversary and welcomed another child during summer of 2013 to our happy blended family.
The process of going through my divorce, learning who I am in this world, and processing it all helped me to grow and become the healthier me that parents better, loves better, laughs heartily, communicates honestly with loved ones, faces my fears, and follows my dreams.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way that supported my awakening to a more fulfilling life, which required me to embrace my imperfections.
-Be your own best friend. Don’t depend on others to give you the words of encouragement you need in a low moment. Depending on others to give you the exact words you want may disappoint you. Tune in to your inner voice, figure out what you need, then say it to yourself.
-Self compassion is key. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself the supportive, constructive love that allows for growth and celebration of that growth, but also allows for mistakes and forgiving yourself.
-Be honest with yourself about scars from the past and how they may be affecting you. Parenting brings up unresolved issues from childhood in the form of quick tempers, disconnection from our kids, and other emotional responses that may be getting in the way of our best relationship with our kids. I had to face my losses, scary moments, and other things that were affecting me. The result allowed for stronger, deeper connections between me and my children, as well as my ability to support a strong bond between all of them as siblings.
-Remember that mistakes have big purpose if you pay attention. What pushes your buttons and why? Step back and reflect on your emotional reactions to things. They can offer insight that supports improved self-awareness, and ultimately better relationships.
-Know your limits and respect them. We are often chasing the “work-family balance,” and get very stressed in the process. Essential tasks for the day—look for ways to enjoy them (even if you never have before), while putting off other items that you’d like to get done, but can honestly wait.
-Condition yourself to be ok with a mess sometimes. If you’ve entrusted someone else to take care of the dishes or laundry, allow them to do it and don’t hold your breath. Relinquish some control and trust, even if it’s not happening on your terms.
-Give yourself permission to prioritize self-care! Take a bubble bath or go to that monthly PTA meeting? Guess what? You can get notes on what you missed from the meeting. No one can take that bath for you. Well, if your partner’s ready to join you, that’s great, but you get my point. J The bottom line is, everyone needs a little time each day for quiet, relaxed enjoyment-- whatever that is for you. And yes, no matter how many kids you have, it can be done!
In conclusion, I’ll own up to some of my imperfections, in hopes that this is freeing for others (and maybe you’ll feel empowered to claim your own with pride).
I never bake cookies or bread from scratch
I sometimes pretend I don’t see the “no turn on red” sign
I don’t always choose the right words to let my husband know he’s getting on my nerves
I’ve picked boogers out of my toddler’s nose with my finger
Organization does not come naturally for me
I’ve worked hard to enjoy life, including daily life as a parent. It did not come easily.