When Your Parenting Style Clashes with your Post-Divorce Partner’s

keep-calm-and-parent-on-4

Recently I had the experience of witnessing what happens when two people in a relationship have different parenting techniques that clash and overlap one another. Whether you’re married or dating it can be difficult to raise children. But when you new beau and you have vastly different parenting styles, watch out!

It’s no secret that parenting is easier when both adults share similar parenting styles to make things flow and mesh well. However, what if you are dating post-divorce and your significant other and you do not share the same parenting ideas for discipline and one of you over steps the other’s authority?

I witnessed someone taking that step with their partner’s child and so I had to share this experience because I am guessing this isn’t the only case where someone over steps with their partner’s child(ren).

I am curious as to how other people, especially young divorcees, in these situations handled it?

Did they instantly jump to the defensive or did they wait it out and see if the person’s parenting style or technique worked? Obviously, no one wants to argue in front of children.

I have never thought it was appropriate to have adult conversations, throw a partner under the bus, so to speak, while children are the audience, and I definitely do not think fighting of any sort is tolerable when children are present or could overhear.

In the situation I watched unfold, the parent whose authority was over stepped watched as the other person disciplined the child who refused to cooperate by tasting a new food. Now I agree, some children are strong willed and it may take some serious actions to break certain bad habits of kids at any age. Granted, the technique the parents used worked on the child it was not with the consent of the other parent and possibly a conversation should have occurred before the overstepping because prior to this event the two parents had never had a discussion about each other parenting or disciplining the other’s child(ren). In this situation the parent waited until the kids were asleep and they could discuss it privately.

This is often a fine line in any relationship even for married couples. It’s as if the parents (usually us mom’s) become territorial over the children and like any mother lion we become defensive and extra protective of our cubs. This is something many dads I’ve asked feel less compared to us moms. This may explain why men can and are typically the harder disciplinarian and authority.

It doesn’t explain what one should do about it though when two people have two different styles or parenting. If it isn’t discipline, it will be something else that arises with children that could have the potential to be an issue. If one allows cookies for a snack when the other only feels fruits are acceptable, how do you compromise with your kids in the middle?

Is this a deal breaker of there is two completely different parenting styles in a relationship?

How do you address this before and/or after someone over steps?

Meshing Two Nests: How to Handle Moving in Together When you Both have Kids

il_570xN.353427798_k1rx

It has occurred to me recently that my boyfriend and I may or may not be 110 percent “ready” to live together yet, although I do find myself wanting to take that next step. Regardless, it’s a huge step in any relationship and adding kids into that equation is another whole story. While my boys are aged seven and four and my boyfriend’s daughter is seven also, it still makes for a reasonable concern we both have when considering the idea of joining our two homes. Moving in together without kids is hard enough but with the addition of children who will be affected by this it isn’t a light-hearted decision to be making.

This is not your typical overnight bad situation; it requires several conversations with your mate on the topic. While yes, it’s going to cause butterflies and give you both some excitement, it is also going to mean some real hard facts and figures about finances and rules.

Here’s a list of suggested topics you may want to discuss together before taking the plunge.

1: If possible, pick a new place to move into so you both have your must have needs meet. It is important to each find a place that works for you both separately as well as together. Making sure you come together and compromise when and where needed, will go a long way to a healthy relationship from the start of your new adventure together.

2: Along with #1, this includes adding your own personal touches to decorating the new place, too. Having representation of your own styles is going to count for some brownie points. You do not want one personality over powering the entire space.

3: Something new and something borrowed means that you each may want to consider having a family air loom or something of each family background to represent each of your own family’s history or traditions. For me this has been the small things, like family pictures hung or religious items that are showcased.

4: As someone who has struggled with keeping my finances private, I understand how scary this can be. Sharing your money and budgeting with someone can be a little intimidating.  The thought of sharing things like utilities and bills is just one step closer to the “I do” possibilities. This is critical to talk about because otherwise you risk running into an episode of Jerry Springer. Some experts say you should keep your finances separate. I really cannot say which is right or wrong but do think at the very least a discussion is a must.

5: It’s no secret men and women alike can have some pretty unusual, quirky, or even intolerable habits.  Know these before you make the final arrangements. This could save you both time and money. Plus, better to know what you can and cannot live with. If you get into the situation however, where you learn a new habit after moving in together, I suggest you find a reasonable and fair compromise that doesn’t involve sleeping in different rooms or him being banned into the guest bathroom. This move is a huge mistake many women have made for generations that I have personally seen ruin marriages. (Unless one of you is sick of course, then ban the sick one for preventative measure.)

6: Learning to compromise isn’t a born talent I have so it has taken me thus far 30 years to even begin learning it. I’d like to think and boost that I have come a long way in leaps and bounds. Maybe some leaps have looked more like skips or the occasional stumble but hey, it’s a learning process right? Right! Experience is the best teacher and this is no exception to the rule. Learning to compromise, talk things out and even share house hold duties, chores, responsibilities or costs is going to be important and being prepare for the time will help you. Take baby steps; learn to share the remote or take turns walking the dog. These may seem like silly things but from my own experience, they can become big things if no compromises are made. I liked the idea of one person cooking and the other cleaning up after the meal. This has proven to be a successful method and a good compromise.

Now let’s delve into the issue of meshing two families when moving in together now that we have covered the very basics. This is a sensitive time when kids are involved so I’d suggest putting on your “mom hat” and maybe the baby gloves, too.

Since my boyfriend and I have only lightly batted the idea around over a few text messages this is not something I can give much personal experience on however, I will give you my personal opinions, advice and my heart felt action plan for myself for the “if and when” comes.

Obviously it goes without saying but I will say it anyway just in case those butterflies have laps judgments as mine do from time to time: It will be critical to discuss what type of blended family you each want to create. If you each want something different you need to stop before you start planning and evaluate not only the idea of living together but also the relationship’s future.

Tips bullet points for meshing nests. The basics are critical to understand first and foremost.

1: With three children under age eight between us, I have begun researching helpful tips. I also have a wonderful pediatrician to whom I would not hesitate to seek advice from as well. Children’s counselors are also great advisors. It certainly won’t hurt to try any or all of these options. You may also want to explore the Internet for helpful tools and tips on the matter. There are some great advice topics like telling your kids you’re moving, how to help your kids with transition and family changes, disciplining with a new partner, boundaries before and after, and even quizzes to help you gauge your own readiness. There was even an article I found about creating a new blended family mission statement and having it on display.

2: If and when the time does come for my boyfriend and I to move in together, I have an action plan. It begins with talking to the children and making sure their their feelings are heard. Any time I have witnessed adults making these types of decisions I have seen all too often how children do not get a voice to be heard, which is sad. I feel that these kids will be impacted and affected so it seems ludacris to me that people do not give them a voice as well. I will want to ask these children questions like how they would feel, what they think some house rules could be, chores they would want to over, and house rules the adults will be enforcing. Rules such as “no jumping on furniture” maybe a rule that one parent has but not the other so it is better to get it all out there in the open beforehand so no one is surprised later on. This will also help the adults to determine if this is a good time for the kids as well. If there is underlining issues a child has with one of the other kids or an adult this needs to be addressed quickly and seriously. Allowing the kids to feel comfortable, safe, and valued during this transition will pay off.

3: Another thing I hope to do someday would be having it clear within the new meshed home of who is head of house. What is each person’s role within the home? Some experts say that a husband and wife or a girlfriend and boyfriend should never call each other “Mom” or “Dad” in front of children. They state it confuses children, especially young children about the role of each person. I again, cannot say if this is right or wrong but will admit on an occasion my boyfriend and I both have slipped and called each other “Mom” or “Dad.” I am unsure why so many people seem to do this but I know many who do and personally I haven’t seen a child question the role of a parent or adult as a result yet. Maybe I should calendar it in 20 years to locate the child (by then adult) to see if they feel it somehow screwed them up because their parents called each other “Mom” or “Dad” in his or her presence. That would make for a good follow-up.

4: Breathing techniques are required here. Kids are going to break things and create huge messes, learn not to sweat the little things and pick and choose your battles both with the kids and your partner. A bad day at work does not mean you can take it out on the other adult or the kid(s) so figure out what you each need in order to prevent meltdowns before they occur. A side note, never argue in front of children! Kids are super smart these days and one argument can send a kid into a frenzy or worse, a divide and conquer mode.

5: Kids will be kids, so this may be a good time to double check you each can handle each other’s kid(s). Sometimes it can be scarier if you each have different parenting techniques. Maybe try to discuss these beforehand and compromise here as well. If one allows his or her child to run around during meals and the other finds it disruptive, rude or even plainly annoying you must consider this and address it as soon as possible.

6: Making your relationship a priority during the transition will be as important as tending to the children’s needs. Let’s face it, we all get so caught up in the day to day routine we forget that our relationship has needs too. This is what I like to call relationship withdrawal when one or both of you forget to prioritize. My cure for this is simply, date nights. Date nights are a great way to make some “we time” and reconnect with each other as a couple. When my marriage failed I had to come to the hard conclusion that I forgot to be a wife. It’s easy to get wrapped up into parenthood that we forget to be a partner. That doesn’t make you a horrible spouse; it means you’re human. Get a sitter, get an eager grandparent, get away no matter how much preparation it takes. Do it from the start so everyone is accustomed to this date night early on.

7: To accompany #6, it is also going to be important for you each to still make time for your own families.  Creating a new blended family or home should not mean one or both of you neglect your own families. Make time, host a barbeque or small family dinner with family to make sure they still feel the love. Depending on how the families get along, you can do this together or separately. If your family doesn’t get along with your partner it may prove to be complicated and you may want to arrange some quality alone time with your own family.  From my experience, even if your family loves the new man or women in your life it’s still OK to take some personal family time without your mate. As an Italian, family is very important to me and this may mean a dinner per week for family time with my grandparents. Luckily, my boyfriend is appreciative of my bounds we share and super supportive of these relationships and their importance to still make time for them. It’s a balancing act at times, so tread with love and be honest with your partner about what you want when it comes to family time.

8: Chances are we all have ex’s that we don’t exactly like but because of our child or children we are forced to have some sort of communications with the person.  At some point it occurred to me that my boyfriend was right about how I should deal with my ex-husband and treat it like a business transaction and clear out my emotions and any expectations I had. When it comes to my boyfriend from the first introduction he has been nothing but cordial and pleasant towards my ex. When dealing with an ex my suggestion is to be as pleasant as possible because the kids will witness these little exchanges and make it much easier on them in the long run if everyone can play nicely. Respecting boundaries will also be helpful, know your own place and when to and not to get involved in any parenting disputes your partner has. Unless your partner asks for your assistance stay silent and just be there for your mate with a hug, a shoulder or just a sympathetic ear.

9: If your blended family has similar interests and hobbies explore those together and participate as a family. These can be but are not limited to things like family game nights, outdoor activities or even special functions at schools or activities to support each other. This will keep you all connected and keep it fun for kids of all ages to feel a part of the new life.  Making new bounds with other children maybe a bit scary even if the kids already get along, this change may have you spending some extra TLC time on helping the kids to have a strong and healthy bond with each other. As another side note; I wanted to mention that though time together as a whole will be important that it will still be important for the children to not feel like their parent is too busy to be their parent first. I suggest making it a point to at some point routinely make some alone and quality time with your child or children. Parent/kid dates are a great way to do this so your kids know they are still important to you.

10: KISS:  Keep It Simple Stupid. Keeping it simple for kids is not rocket science and kids will much like the adults, get butterflies, be nervous or scared, but they will survive. They will adjust if you and your partner decide to move in together and mesh your two families and homes into one. This is beyond two adults and their decisions, it becomes one in which should be a family decision because meshing two homes could wind up creating a family unit as some point if a marriage occurs. Kids are resilient and bounce back easily too so making things overly complex or complicated may make it worse so I’d suggest keeping it simple and kid friendly.

Most of all do not get so wrapped up in the moment that you forget to breathe and enjoy this time and the possibilities ahead.  It is OK to take some personal you time in the process to help yourself in whatever ways you need to before making any major decisions.

So with all this in mind I would recommend your partner and you going to see the new Adam Sandler movie “Blended.” While the follow up afterwards should be a conversation it hopefully brings you both some laughs as well.

Expert Legal Guidance: Mark Baer Esq., Answers YOUR Divorce Related Custody Questions!

 

Ladies, today I have a treat!

Mark B. Baer, Esq. graciously offered to lend his professional advice to members of the Trash the Dress private support group.  I present the young and divorced mother’s edition of free legal guidance!

 

If you have joint custody of your child/ children is there anything that can be done when the “co-parent” chooses their lifestyle over their child? In my situation, he forgets he is supposed to call our daughter because he is either on a date or drunk, switches weekends by telling me there is something important that he has to do and in reality is going on dates or “forgets” he is supposed to have her for visits. I have to make joint decisions about her life with him and he doesn’t acknowledge any info I try to share about her life.

-Christina

Christina, it usually takes two to tango.  Before answering your question, I would like to rephrase it as follows:  “When parents have joint custody of their child(ren) is there anything that can be done when one of the parents chooses their lifestyle over their child?  In my situation, our daughter’s father forgets to call our daughter because he is either on a date or drunk, switches weekends by telling me there is something important that he has to do and in reality is going on dates or “forgets” to spend time with her.  We have to make joint decisions together about our daughter’s life and her father doesn’t acknowledge any info I try to share about her life.”

The words we use or think tend to impact the way in which we behave.  We must distinguish between the term parenting and parent.  Parents are parents, regardless of the quality or quantity of their parenting.  Therefore, I would suggest that you not use the term “my child,” since your daughter has two parents.  I would also not suggest referring to the other parent as “the ‘co-parent.”  The other parent is the other parent and in your case is your daughter’s father.

I would also propose that your daughter’s father may well not be choosing his lifestyle over his daughter.  It may appear as though he is making such a choice, but he may not be thinking clearly and may be too self-absorbed to realize what he is doing.  Children need parents who are bigger than their problems, including the “problem” of being single.  You might get better results if you encouraged him to be a good father.  You can do so by pointing out his strengths as a parent and father, instead of pointing out his flaws and shaming him.  I would suggest that you take a look at Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW’s work.  She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  If he is shamed into believing that he is a bad parent, he will likely be a bad parent.  Shaming someone into doing something is ineffective and very destructive.

The other thing to take into consideration is the fact that forcing people to do something often breeds contempt and lack of compliance.  On two occasions in your question, you said that he is supposed to do something.  He will call and visit his daughter if he wants to call and visit his daughter, not because he is supposed to do so.  The key is to engage him.  By the way, in order for a bond to form between him and his daughter, he needs to experience things first hand with her and not hear about them from you.

As Dr. Brown says, “blame is about discharging pain and anger.  Accountability is about understanding how vulnerable we feel, expressing that, and asking for what we need.”  Does it really matter what he does or does not do when he is not with his daughter?  What is important is how his switching weekends impacts you and your daughter.  Was your daughter looking forward to spending the weekend with her father and is disappointed that another week will go by before she sees him?  How did the schedule change impact you and your life?  After all, when your daughter is with her father, you have a bit of a respite, so to speak.  Also, don’t forget that he could not switch weekends with you, unless you agreed to do so.  Boundaries are good.  I am not suggesting that being rigid is a good thing, but don’t resent him because you did not maintain your boundaries.

I would suggest that you take co-parenting courses with him and/or try mediating your “issues” before resorting to coercion through litigation and the court system.  You cannot force someone to be a good parent, but you can do everything in your power to encourage them to do so.


My ex and I are supposed to joint parent. However, he doesn’t see my kids and treats them as if they are optional. Then, if I don’t include him, he threatens to file me in contempt of court. Is this possible? What’s the point of including someone in joint parenting when they rarely see their children or help financially with them?

-Lisa

Lisa, it usually takes two to tango.  Before answering your question, I would like to rephrase it as follows:  “My ex and have wonderful children together.  However, he doesn’t spend much time with our children.  Then, if I don’t include him, he threatens to file for contempt of court against me.  Is this possible?  Is it co-parenting if one parent rarely sees the children or helps out financially?”

The words we use or think tend to impact the way in which we behave.  We must distinguish between the term parenting and parent.  Parents are parents, regardless of the quality or quantity of their parenting.  Therefore, I would suggest that you not use the term “my kids,” since your children have two parents.  I would also not suggest referring to the other parent as the “joint parent.”  The other parent is the other parent and in your case is your children’s father.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.  You cannot control someone else’s actions, but you can control your own actions and the way in which you react to something.

I would also propose that your children’s father may not be as involved with his children as he could be.  However, that does not mean that he treats them as though they were optional.  It may appear as though he is making such a choice, but he may not be thinking clearly and may be too self-absorbed to realize what he is doing.  Children need parents who are bigger than their problems.  You might get better results if you encouraged him to be a good father.  You can do so by pointing out his strengths as a parent and father, instead of pointing out his flaws and shaming him.  Who is harmed by your including him in certain events and activities?  If he is not interested, he will decline the invitation.  If he accepts the invitation, you may find that it may lead to his becoming a more involved father.  In addition, if you don’t do anything “wrong,” he would have no reason to threaten you with contempt of court.  After all, if you are in violation of a court order, you can be found to be in contempt of court.  Do you want to find out whether or not he files such a thing and whether his behavior impacts the outcome?  I would suggest that you take a look at Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW’s work.  She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  If he is shamed into believing that he is a bad parent, he will likely be a bad parent.  Shaming someone into doing something is ineffective and very destructive.

The other thing to take into consideration is the fact that forcing people to do something often breeds contempt and lack of compliance.  The key is to engage him.  If you succeed, it will benefit your children.  Also, keep in mind that while his financial help may be for the benefit of the children, they should not be privy to such information.  How does denying their father the right to co-parent benefit the children, regardless of the financial issue?  Isn’t it possible that if he felt more connected with the children and had less animosity with you, he may be more inclined to help out financially?  As they say, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I would suggest that you take co-parenting courses with him and/or try mediating your “issues.”  You cannot force someone to be a good parent, but you can do everything in your power to encourage them to do so.


 

What is the best way to sort a divorce? We’ve been separated less than a year, but for me there’s no going back. I’ve moved on with my life, he’s done too much for me to ever go back and I’m happy now. We have two kids.

– Kate

 Kate, no divorce process is perfect and what works in one situation may not work in another.  However, litigation is by definition an adversarial process.  The unfortunate byproduct of litigation is that it exacerbates conflict.  At the same time, it ignores the conflict in order to resolve the “disputed issues.”  You have two children together and will therefore be bound together as a family for life.  As I always say, “Like it or not, if there are children of the relationship (regardless of their age), the family still exists after the relationship ends.  The manner in which you end a relationship determines whether your family will be functional or dysfunctional from that day forward.”  I am therefore a strong advocate of consensual dispute resolution, especially when families are involved.  I would recommend that you look into mediation and collaborative divorce to see whether you might be interested in one of those processes before proceeding to litigation.

 


We are divorced and share joint custody of our son. My house is the “legal residence” for our son, meaning I put it on all forms for him, etc. My ex will be buying a house within the next few months and I have gotten word he is looking in less savory areas. Do I have any options to prevent my son from living in an unsafe neighborhood?

-Melissa

Melissa, while you referred to “our son” in the first sentence of your question, you referred to him as “my son” in the last sentence.

The words we use or think tend to impact the way in which we behave.  We must distinguish between the term parenting and parent.  Parents are parents, regardless of the quality or quantity of their parenting.  Therefore, I would suggest that you not use the term “my son,” since your son has two parents.  I would also not suggest referring to the other parent as “my ex.”  The other parent is the other parent and in your case is your son’s father.

I would also like to point out that your son is not the one looking to buy a house in a “less savory area.”  If your son’s father didn’t move to a “less savory area,” you would not have to worry about your son living in an “unsafe neighborhood.”  What is “unsafe” to you might be different than what is “unsafe” to your son’s father or to a judge.  Maybe he is looking for a house in a nice pocket in the “less than savory area.”  The only thing certain in life is death and taxes.  Rather than getting into a custody battle over the issue, doesn’t it make more sense to address the problem before he buys a house?

I would suggest that you try mediating this “issue” with him and sooner than later.


My question is about actions I can take to get my name off the mortgage. Our situation was different when we wrote the decree. I was living there but now he is. I have quit claimed my rights to the property so he could refinance but he is dragging his feet. He pays it on time but in order for me to move on financially I need my name off the mortgage. I live in TN and the mortgage is through Bank of America. Is there anything I can do to move things along? He just remarried a few weeks ago.

-Kathleen

Kathleen, the ownership of the house and the loan on it are completely separate issues.  The loan is held by Bank of America and a court cannot order Bank of America to take your name off the loan.  Unless you have very specific terms in your decree, a court cannot force your ex-husband to refinance the property.  Furthermore, it is always possible in today’s climate that he cannot qualify to refinance the property.  In any event, he may be “dragging his feet” because although you are divorced, you may never have addressed the conflict that led to the divorce.  Assuming he can refinance the property, he may be more inclined to do so if he had more compassion for you.  There is a difference between blaming or judging him and holding him accountable.  As Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW says, “accountability is about understanding how vulnerable we feel, expressing that, and asking for what we need.”  Also keep in mind that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I would suggest that you try mediating this “issue” with him.

 


What can I do to get my ex’s new address? He was living with his mom, but moved out in October. He’s claiming he takes my son to his mom’s during his visitation days, but I doubt that’s always the case. I asked him politely for his address and he won’t give it to me. I contacted the court and they have his mom’s and grandma’s address only. I have full legal and sole physical custody of my son. I just think I deserve to know the address. He knows where I live!!!

– Heather

Heather, before answering your question, I would like to rephrase it as follows:  “What can I do to get the new address of our child’s father?  He was living with his mom, but moved out in October.  He’s claiming he takes our son to his mom’s during his parenting time, but I doubt that’s always the case.  I asked him politely for his address and he won’t give it to me.  I contacted the court and they have his mom’s and grandma’s address only.  I have full legal and sole physical custody of our son.  As a mother, I should know where our son’s father lives.  He knows where I live!!!”

The words we use or think tend to impact the way in which we behave.  We must distinguish between the term parenting and parent.  Parents are parents, regardless of the quality or quantity of their parenting.  Therefore, I would suggest that you not use the term “my son,” since your son has two parents.  I would also not suggest referring to the other parent as “my ex.”  The other parent is the other parent and in your case is your son’s father.

Think about why you think you “deserve to know the address.”  Is it because he knows where you live?  Is it because you have “sole legal and sole physical custody” of your son?  Is it because your son spends time with his father at his place of residence?  If so, why is it important for you to know where he lives?  I am not suggesting that such information is unimportant.  I am merely suggesting that if you were better able to communicate with your ex-husband, you might find him more receptive.  I can promise you that shaming him by pointing out that you have “full legal and sole physical custody” of your son only makes things worse.  If he is living elsewhere, the question is why he is not being forthright with you.  Might he be angry with you?  How does such conflict between the two of you benefit your son?

I would suggest that you take co-parenting courses with him and/or try mediating your “issues.”  If you are unable to get your ex-husband to provide that information voluntarily, you can always hire a private investigator to determine where he lives.  I don’t know that I would recommend using that as a first resort.  You can also speak with an attorney about getting a judge to order him to provide such information.  How much will it cost you do to that and how will it impact your ongoing conflict?

 


Thank you to Mark Baer Esq. for lending his services to broke twenty-something divorcees across the world. 

More information:

Mark Baer Esq. is Founder of Mark B. Baer Inc., a Professional Law Corporation and divorce. Mark has been practicing family law for over 20 years and is one of the foremost legal authorities in the country. He specializes in all areas of family law including but not limited to divorce, child custody and support, spousal support, high-net worth divorce, property division and domestic violence.

Additionally, he holds the title of Southern California Super Lawyer in both 2012 and 2013, and was named as a Top Attorney by Pasadena Magazine in 2012, 2011, and 2012.

Mark earned his B.A. in Economics-Business from UCLA. From there, he went on to earn his law degree from Loyola Law School. He also completed extended studies in International and Comparative Law at Cambridge University in England

Finally, Mark is a public speaker and regular contributor and legal expert to a number of outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, REUTERS, TIME Magazine, The Pasadena Star News, KTLA Morning News as well as numerous ABC, CBS, NBC, CWand FOX affiliates around the country.

How to Live with your Parents (For the Rest of your Life)

There’s finally a show on television to which young divorced women can relate!

You must tune into ABC’s new comedy, How to Live with your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).

The series follows Polly, a newly divorced mom who leaves her husband because he can’t do anything right. Polly, portrayed by fan-favorite actress Sarah Chalke  (Scrubs | How I Met Your Mother), has no choice but to move back home and pray that the economy sways in her favor so she can get out on her own.

You’ll laugh and cry as you watch Polly adjust to sleeping alone, sneaking off on dates and trying to avoid her always-present ex because sadly, it’s like watching your life play out right before your eyes.

Let’s hope Polly really doesn’t have to live with her parents for the rest of her life – and that we won’t either!

I have faith.

Tune in Wednesday nights at 9:30 ET and check out the really fun Survival Guide on Facebook.

 

Reasons to be glad you’re not pregnant

Baby fever is hitting the Trash the Dress private online divorce support group pretty hard.  We know, when the time is right, it will happen. There’s no rush. Kids are a lot of work and suck away your social life. Yada, yada, yada. That doesn’t stop us from wanting them. But here’s something that will stop us from wanting them right this very second:

To make our clocks tick a little slower,  read this Skepchick blog, “What Pregnant Woman Won’t Ever Tell You.”

 

 

Guest Blog: How Michal Found Post-Divorce Love with Former High School Sweetheart

Trash the Dress private support group member Michal has a story too adorable not to share. This is proof that people are in your life for a reason, even if you don’t realize why at the time. And I think all the single moms with little boys will have a laugh towards the end. OK, stop reading my thoughts and start reading Michael’s guest blog:

My story begins in high school. I had a serious boyfriend. We dated all through high school and off and on through college.  I was always hesitant to take out relationship to the next level. I was the product of divorce after all, and did not want to end up divorced and alone like my mother.

Plus, for some reason, my boyfriend always felt so, well, boring! He was all I had known as far as dating guys and I felt that there had to be “more” out there. No one ends up with their high school sweetheart, right?

So after college I got a “real” job, dumped my boyfriend…and boom, met who I thought was the love of my life, right in the office break room!  Who knew he was so close?  Before I knew it, I was completely infatuated. Like, crazy-head-over-heels-can’t-be-away-from-you-for-ten-minutes infatuated. Then our company reorganized and he was transferred halfway across the country. We gave the long distance thing the ol’ college try. We flew out to see each other on weekends, sent emails and flowers and after about six months, it was shit or get off the pot time. So I jumped on the sword.

I quit the job I loved and left all my friends and family to go be his everything. That should have snapped me out of it. Why was I dropping everything important in my life to go be someone else’s other half?  He certainly wasn’t willing to do that for me.  But it didn’t matter; I loved him so deeply I would have (and did) do anything for him.

So over the following year, I learned to do everything as he wanted. I didn’t have any friends or family around, so what else was I going to do with my time, anyways?  He began drinking heavily.  I turned a blind eye, just like I turned a blind eye to his frequent indiscretions.

I remember the night before our wedding.  I sat at a table with my sisters and mother and looked them in the eyes. I asked, “Am I doing the right thing?  Should I be getting married?”  My questions were met with silence. So the next day, I walked down the isle and said my vows.

It was two weeks after my wedding when everything finally came to a head. It’s hard to turn a blind eye when you are forced face to face with the “other woman.” As it turns out, she was one of many. I moved out. But a week later I was back home with him. I meant my vows and loved this man and he said he loved me, too. So it was off to marriage counseling we went.

That’s where he effectively charmed the pants off our therapist. Man, this guy was good.

Then I found out I was pregnant.

There I was, no family or friends but a philandering husband.  I was too ashamed to tell anyone what had been going on.   I convinced myself I would make it work. I would do whatever it took to keep our family together for my baby.

Two weeks after our son was born, I realized this had to be the end. He had lost his job, so there was no reason to stay where we were. I convinced him to let us move back closer to my family. Once there, (around my support system) I carefully planned and waited for the exact moment I could leave- the moment where I could muster the strength to do what I knew I needed to do.  I let my family in on what had been going on.  When my son was six months old, I finally kicked him out.  My priority was getting my son and myself into a healthy and happy living situation.

I somehow got myself through the next year. I swear there were days when the only reason I got out of bed was because of my son. I had to get through. I couldn’t lie in bed and be sad my marriage ended. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I had to get up and make funny faces and sing songs and try to be the best mom AND dad for my little one.

My ex moved away and has little involvement with his child. I was a divorced, single parent.  A 28-year-old scared, divorced single parent. All my friends were getting engaged and married and here I was: the epic buzz kill.

Life went on for months like this. It sounds cliché, but I swear everyday got a little easier. Not necessarily in that order though. Some days were harder than the day before and some were easier. But it eventually got to the point where I had more good days than bad. I do think that having my son helped me.  It forced me to not dwell on the past. It forced me to get up, get out, and laugh. His smile made me smile. Even when on the inside I felt like crying.

It’s been just over two years now.  My son is thriving. My life is finally starting to look like a life again!  I made a career change, moved into a new place and effectively started over.  Only now I don’t feel like my life got screwed up and made me start over. I feel like life HAPPENED and I was given a unique opportunity to change it- to be more authentic and more empathetic.  I’m even dating again.  Remember the serious boring boyfriend from high school?  Well, as it turns out, sometimes you need a little boring ;).  This boring boy turned into an amazing man. One who lifts me up, adores my son, and would never want me to leave the things or people I love.  He’s helped me believe in love again. It’s out there probably in the last place you expect to find it.

Every now and then I think about my marriage and what “went wrong” and the “signs” I ignored or missed completely.  Looking back, I can see that I had what I would consider an unhealthy infatuation with him. I was willing to give up too many things that make me who I am just to please him.  I made mistakes. Lord knows he made mistakes. We BOTH made a mistake in getting married. Sometimes just because you have a strong connection with someone, or a lot of passion doesn’t mean that you are compatible.  Going through this has been traumatic, sad, hilarious, awkward, and enlightening.  And what do you know?  I’m standing on the other side now and I’m still alive!  Cheesy as it may be. It’s the truth.

Now I get to the hard part.  I made it throughout the divorce. Can I make it through raising a strong, independent, courteous, loving, kind, smart, stand up little man by myself?  I think I’m up to the challenge.  It will be hard, and I won’t always get it right, but I owe it to my son to do the very best I can.  We have already started our first challenge: how to potty train a boy when you haven’t got a man at home to show him the ropes! (At first I just was having him sit to pee, but the boys at daycare stand, and he wants to be like them). So last night, he peed all over the toilet seat.

Single mommy lesson #1: Don’t forget to put the toilet seat up or else you will be cleaning up pee.  Lesson learned.  I am sure this is just one of many things that will come up on this crazy ride, and if I’m lucky, I will be able to handle them like I handled the pee- a moment of shock, a minute to process, and explosive laughter.

 

Oh,You Pesky Little Inspirational Pin!

The less you give a damn, the happier you will be.”

One day when I probably should have been working, I found this little gem on Pinterest (follow me at PerkyJeepGirl), instantly I re-pinned it to the appropriate board, and then that little pin got me thinking. How does one care less? How do you stop caring in general? How do you not let things get to you? The first thing that popped into my head, was my little voice saying in a sarcastic valley girl tone, “You don’t.” Stupid broad, she doesn’t know me. I can try not to give a damn! Right!? Well, I don’t know. But, this is going to explain what I’m learning right now, what I went through and how I’m coping. I’m divorced.

I’m 25; I have a handsome adventurous crazy little boy, a wonderful career that I worked very hard for but yet, I don’t have a college education and I am independent.  (Don’t you worry Dad; I’ll get my degree before you die.)

Occasionally there is that one person who looks down at my hand, will ask me if I’m with the father or if I’m married and I’ll say “No, I’m happily divorced,” then that same person apologizes. Now sometimes I get annoyed by this little apology. Why are most people sorry for my divorce? What most don’t know is that my divorce was the best thing to ever happen to me.

They don’t know that I’m not “stay at-home mom” material. (Shout outs to the mommas who are!  You guys kick major pa-tootie). Should I be ashamed I’m not a stay at home mom? Nope. Just wasn’t my thing.

Can I see myself with my ex-husband? Uh no, I can’t see myself with my ex-husband at all, well not anymore. I went through that phase, where I thought I might want to get back with him. . . but anyways . . . I digress.  When that one person asks me—which happens more often than you think– if I’m with the father, I start to care a lot. I get self-conscious about myself. I start thinking about what I’m wearing: Do I look like I’m a mess? Is there food in my teeth? Is my son being a turd (he’s 4, he can be a turd)? Do I look sad?

How can I not care so much about what others think if I’m with the father or not? Lately, I just have been smiling when I tell people I’m divorced, and go on about my ex-husband in a 100% positive way saying he is a great father (he is) and that him and I get along just well (we do 90% of the time, other times I just don’t respond to text messages). That person will then looks at me and be like “Oh that’s great, good for you!” But I still stand there thinking . . . why is it a big deal?

I realized that I have a bad habit of over thinking things and that I just can’t stop thinking about “it,” whatever “it” is.  So here I am thinking to myself that I want to be a happier person. I need to be a happier person. I need to be perkier! It’s about time for me to let stuff go. The only one holding me back is me. I care too much what people think about me, I know it’s bad, I know it is toxic. So I’m going to try and care less. I’ll just shrug my shoulders, walk away and do breathing exercises.

Who are people to judge?  I know that at times I care too much about my job and the success of the business. I care if my department fails and trust me it has been failing lately. I haven’t been motivated, I have been caring too much about what others think of me and I have no one to blame but myself. See what I did? I cared too much, and I took accountability of what I have been doing.  I put the blame on me.  Placing the blame on myself right there didn’t make me happier, but it opened my eyes.

I have to work on things myself to let go, and not care. The first thing that I have to do is work on my self-esteem. I’m pretty sure this is all tied together.  So I guess the moral of all of this is true… the less you care, the happier you will be. Because when you care less, you have less to worry about. Less things to drive you up a wall, less things to pick apart, less things to scrutinize and more time to LIVE and BE HAPPY!

Hurdles, Hills and Humping

I haven’t done it for a while now so I thought it was best to get straight back on it….. Blogging that is, geesh you guys, get your heads out of the gutter!

If you haven’t read my blogs before, here’s a short background on me: I’m a 24-year-old nearly divorced, unemployed, mother of three.  This is the exact introduction/description I readily give out to sleazy and even sexy men trying to chat me up in the hope it will make them leave, but for some reason it doesn’t. This has interested me. Why do most men not care about this?

I’ve been doing the whole dating scene for a while now, if you have read my previous blog ‘Internet love v’s Internet letdown‘ you will know I’m up for trying anything to find love!

But the fact most men are not frightened away,  running and screaming to the hills when the dreaded  ‘D’ word is mentioned really did surprise me. Yes, it’s true being honest straight away does not scare people. It can shock them a little when you look so young like I do, but scare them, no. It’s a revelation girls, I was so worried I was going to be seen as ‘tainted’ and other nasty self put-downs.

If anything, I genuinely think it can be seen as an advantage and an attractive quality to have been married before. It shows good qualities. For instance:  you’re able to look after a man, you can be part of running a household, you’re mature, you’re not afraid of commitment and you’ve had a practice run and you have already seen where things might have gone wrong the first time and therefore learned from it. So don’t avoid telling someone you’re a divorcee-be proud of it and embrace it. If someone is put off by it they are clearly not the one for you and well done on weeding them out so efficiently and quickly!! The right one will not care!

Right, so you’ve met a nice guy he doesn’t care you’re a member of the divorced in your 20’s club and you both find each other attractive. The next hurdle you must face is sex AFTER marriage.

Is it adultery? Is it immoral or unethical? Does it go against everything you believed in?

The first several weeks were not a problem, but soon it did become an issue and the questions above slowly became less important.  As well as being a huge emotional barrier for me, there was also this stubborn competitive side of me that still wanted to prove I had fully committed to my wedding vows and technically win the marriage game by not breaking any rules and carrying on playing ’till I reached the winning square on the board. But after six weeks of dating I thought, “really what’s the point in playing when you’re the only one left on the board?” And if you played the marriage game where the other player was disqualified due to breaking the monogamy rule this may take away some guilt.

So you reached the final hurdle and let me tell you the first time is the hardest. Breaking down the emotional barriers of sex (that most men do not appear to have) can be  challenging to say the least and you may suffer with emotional turmoil for sometime. Once you get past this I assure you it will be fine. For me it proved my husband really didn’t care about what I wanted or needed and that we were living in a very selfish marriage. So why don’t you try and look at the positives that can be achieved? It can be hard moving on but for me it was the best thing I ever did! Just remember having sex is a normal thing and if you want to, it’s actually OK! No one will judge.

If you waited for your divorce to come through before engaging in the act of sex then gosh I don’t even know what to say apart from that’s very impressive of you! Even if you are holding that paper that says you are legally no longer married it doesn’t necessarily take away the fears and concerns about taking a new sexual partner for a spin. Being with the same partner for a long time and then being with someone new is the same feeling for all of us.

Anyway, Internet dating was a bit of fun and I was dating someone for about six weeks that I met through that momentary method.  But I ended up getting back with ‘rebound’ mentioned in ‘the search’ for his ability to achieve number 17 on my list. Oh how I missed number 17.  Oops I mean, him!

A Newly Single Mom’s Checklist for Love

 

I think one of the hardest things about being newly single compared to being married is the loneliness that everyone experiences.  Although I am in a much better place than I was when my ex first left,  I miss having the connection with someone and having someone there to talk to.  I have my kids all day every day, so they keep me busy and entertained most of the day, however at night I sometimes start to think,  “Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? Alone on the couch on a Friday night, with a bowl of ice cream watching recorded episodes of Sex and the City?”

I want to find someone to share the rest of my life with and be happy with, but sometimes it feels like I will never find him.  Don’t get me wrong I am happy that I divorced my first husband; he was a liar a cheater and a master manipulator, and I am glad I got myself and my children out of that situation.  I have been doing a lot of reading and soul-searching ever since my divorce happened.

What do I want in a new man?  What qualities do I think I deserve?  What do my kids deserve in a stepfather?  These are all questions I have been asking myself.  Although some men seem to fit the description that I like, I have a hard time imagining them being Mr. Substitute Dad to my children.

Therefore, I decided to make a list of the qualities and attributions that I would like in a potential husband.  I should have done this years ago, because honestly, my ex-husband would not have passed the test.  I encourage other women especially single mothers to do the same.

 Here’s what I deserve in a potential life partner:

First, I would like someone that is financially stable, has a good job, knows what he wants in his life and his future and can take financial responsibility for himself.  I do not want the burden of having to pay another person’s bills or help them get out of debt.

Secondly, I would like someone who is genuinely good with children.  This one is a no brainer.  It is easy for men to say that they are good with kids, but are they really?  This one you have to witness in person.  Of course if they are a single dad, they probably pass this test. But even then, just because they are a father, does not mean they are a good father.  Witnessing a man with children he is familiar with and how he interacts with them will tell me what I need to know.

Thirdly, I would like someone who enjoys being with family and friends and doing things with the people that they care about the most.  I think this is a big one.  If a man has a lot of friends, is close to his family, especially his mother, then more than likely he is a guy you can trust, rely on and have fun with.  Why else would these people want to be around him so much?

Finally, I would like someone who is trustworthy, honest and caring.  This is an obvious one.  Every person wants someone like this, and you would think it would be easy to find, because everyone wants the same thing.  However, it is not easy to find.  Trust is hard to maintain and build in a relationship.  Even if your relationship started out on solid ground, there may be times when trust is tested.  This is the true test of character.  I think being trustworthy, honest and caring are all related qualities.  If you really loved someone, you would be honest with them because you cared for them so much, they would find you trustworthy.  My previous marriage lacked all three of these qualities, and should have sent me running for the hills.

I have lived and learned and I know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  If you caught him lying once, he will do it again. If you caught him cheating once, he will do it again.  Finding out why past relationships did not work out with your significant other, is a good indicator of what kind of person he is and how he handles relationship stressors.

Once again, these are my top qualities that I look for in a man. Yours could be totally different.  I do encourage everyone to make a list of qualities that you would want a man to have.  It can be a long list or short list, as long as it is what you want this time.

How to Juggle Kids and Kisses

 

Being a single parent has to be the hardest job in the world.  I never thought I would have to raise my children on my own, but here I am, raising my five sons by myself.  When you first become a single parent it is hard to navigate through the emotions of doing things with your children all alone, taking care of them alone, and not having the support a spouse gives you with child raising.

One issue that I find hard to find balance is dating and being a single mom.  I want to be there for my kids, be a good mom for them and have the soccer mom reputation.  However, I am single now and would like to find a man that I can share my life with.  So it seems like I have these two different lives, one with my kids, and the other my dating life.  I have been out of the dating game for quite some time, and trying to find the balance between what I want and what my kids need, can be tough.  I started to get back out there dating again about two months ago.  So far it has been going well; I have met some decent men, and some not so decent men.  I wanted to give other single moms some advice if you are just starting to get back into the dating scene.

First off, remember safety first. You need to protect yourself and your children.  I have met men through friends and family, but I also have met several guys from the Internet. When you go on these blind dates, safety should be your top priority, not only for yourself, but for your children.  Meet in public places for the first time or two.  Do not tell the men you are going out with what your home address.  When I usually go on a first date I suggest, coffee, drinks something casual, where we can get to know one another without feeling trapped or vulnerable.  Definitely do not bring men you do not know or just met to your house.  Get to know someone, and then decide if this is someone you feel comfortable in your house.

Secondly, find a good babysitter, one that you can rely on and trust.  Ask other moms at school, or family and friends if they know someone that does babysitting.  Referrals are always your best option, that way you know that someone else is familiar with them and knows that they are a good person to be around your kids.  I have a wonderful babysitter, she is 18 and she is very trustworthy, my kids just love her and she is always reliable.  I would suggest finding a sitter that is over 16, so they can drive themselves to your house and drive home.

Finally, do not introduce every guy you meet to you children. This just confuses them and as they get older they will resent you for this.  I have yet to introduce my children to any of the men that I have gone out with.  When I am sure that a relationship is going somewhere, then I might make that decision to introduce them.   It takes time to really get to know someone, and trust them on that level.  Be honest with the guys you date, tell them how many kids you have and that you are a single parent.   You would be surprised by how many men respect that.  Also make sure you are upfront with them about your kids, letting them know that you do not want them to meet your kids just yet, until the two of you know each other better.  Single dads are really great guys to date; they understand that your kids come first.  However, do not rule out guys that do not have kids, because I have found that there are a lot of decent single guys out there willing to date a single mom.

Just remember to have fun, and do not jump into anything to quickly.  You need time and your children need time to adjust.  It is hard to blend families together, and rushing things could get bad down the road. We are young and strong women and making good choices for ourselves and our children will help us later in life.