Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Blogging Hiatus June 21, 2013

I love this blog.

A little less than one year ago Sustainably Single Parenting (SSP) began. My goal was to be candid about my life as things progressed; from the end of my relationship with my abusive husband to whatever lied ahead for me and my kids. I was pregnant, in school full time, broke, and terrified. I wasn’t sure if I’d be homeless by the end of my pregnancy, I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to pay for things. I lived on two-four hours of sleep almost every night. But three nights a week I’d write.

I’d write about what I was feeling, how I missed him, how I grieved. I’d write about the children, their transition, and counseling. I’d write about my terror, and my methods for finding peace. I’d write about the disappointment of losing a dream. And through everything, people listened. People read, and reached out, and responded, and gave advice. People showed genuine empathy, told their stories, gave encouragement, and helped me to revitalize my self-confidence.

This blog has been a lifeline, a therapeutic outlet for me. It has been a chance for me to come forward about my situation, and hopefully, to inspire other victims to find the strength to leave their abusers. This blog has been a way for me to connect with amazing people, read heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories, and stand strong as a survivor who is certain of her ability to thrive.

I do not plan to give up blogging. I will return to SSP. But for awhile, I’ll have to take a break to work on other things. I’m in my last semester of graduate school, and though I only blog two days each week, finding the time and energy to keep on that schedule while single parenting three babies and taking two classes and maintaining a household is proving much too stressful. I want to keep telling my story, keep connecting with readers and meeting new people, keep on helping the DV community in some small way.

My plan is to come back once I graduate (August 2013) or sooner if I can manage to find more balance before I finish my Master’s degree. Until then, you can stay updated on our journey via Twitter. I hate to have to leave, but I have to sacrifice some things if I want to graduate without repeating my last semester. I’ve come this far…I have to do what is necessary for me to finish.

I know you all will understand. I will miss you until I blog again 🙂

 

A Visit from My Mother June 17, 2013

My mother and my daughters :)

My mother and my daughters 🙂

Over the weekend we were able to spend some time with my mother. It was a really nice visit. She hadn’t been able to visit me since my birthday last year, so it was her first time meeting the baby and only her second time visiting since my husband’s arrest. Over the years, especially during the eight years that I was with my husband, my mother and I have had our difficulties, but I love her and appreciate what she has done for me. I know that her life hasn’t been easy.

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My girls were so excited to see her. They absolutely love my mother 🙂 It was nice to see them so excited for family to be around. I wish I lived closer to people who truly loved my children and could assist me in raising them. I wholeheartedly believe it takes a village to raise a kid, and the better the people in that village the more likely my children will become well-rounded, healthy, productive, hardworking members of society. For now I’m focusing on being consistent in my parenting, understanding the goals of negative behavior and how to properly respond, and securing suitable childcare for when I start back working outside of the house. Baby steps.

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My mom stayed from Friday night to Monday morning. We didn’t really do too much, but that was fine by me. I had the most fun on Saturday when we went to the beach. Amara and Terra collected shells and buried one another in the sand while Mom and I figured out how to build the beach hut and set up the beach umbrella I’d purchased earlier that day. It was fun working together, even though the girls only spent several minutes in the shade after we’d assembled everything.

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

On Sunday, my mother took my big girls to the movie theater. It was their first time ever going to a movie theater and they saw Epic. They loved it! All in all we had a great time. I learned a lot more about how I can enhance my parenting, my mother spoiled me with gifts and time apart from my babies, and everything pretty much went as it should’ve. I’m happy that she was able to visit me!

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A Few Good Things June 10, 2013

I’m trying more and more to look at the positive things that are happening instead of allowing myself to get overwhelmed and depressed by the bad. I cannot guarantee that this time next week I’ll be smiling (as I am now, on three hours of sleep, with an impossibly long to-do list for tomorrow morning), but I hope to at least still be building my “Good Things” list.

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1) I found a couple of babysitters!!!

After months of not having anyone but my neighbor and one girlfriend to rely on to watch my kids, I finally interviewed and hired a babysitter! Don’t ask me where I’m going to find the money to keep paying her…but I figure it’s a good investment. I’m paying nearly $10K to take my last two graduate courses, and should I fail them it will be money down the drain, so it seems feasible to pay a babysitter so that I can have quality study time. I’ll make it work somehow…

Also, I followed the advice of a friend and found teenaged girls willing to babysit through a homeschooling group. Bright, energetic, responsible, level-headed teenaged girls. Yay! I knew some of those types of girls had to be out there somewhere 🙂 I feel such a weight lifted from my shoulders even though I’ve yet to leave the house and let anyone watch my girls yet. It just feels better knowing these people are willing to watch my girls should I have the need. And there may certainly be a need soon, because when Terra goes to castings, I am not supposed to bring the other two children along with me. What’s that? Castings? YES!

 

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2) Terra was chosen by a modeling agency!!!!

My four-year old is a model! Isn’t that adorable?! The Casting Call day wasn’t a huge, rainy waste of time. The agents at one of the places we went absolutely loved her, and are now representing her! I’m so proud of her and happy for her! I knew she could do it. All of my daughters are beautiful, but Terra’s personality and temperament are well aligned for showbiz. This is just the beginning and she hasn’t been booked for anything yet, but she had a professional photo shoot to build her portfolio and she did so amazingly well. It was incredibly cute to watch her, and she had a lot of fun. My oldest, Amara, was a little jealous at first, but she really only wants to do it because Terra is doing it. I’m still willing to shop around for agencies that want to represent Amara and my baby, Nohra, but I may take it slow as just having one child in the business can be consuming and I’m not known for having the most time on my hands.

 

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3) I’ve managed to meet my deadlines for my classes these past two weeks. Way-Too-Much-Homework-954x1024

Okay. Okay. Maybe I managed to meet some of the deadlines by rearranging the syllabus, but hell. I still finished what my professor expected me to have finished. I’m doing alright with it all. It’s a lot of work, and I’m staying up late and I’m waking up in the middle of the night sometimes to get it done, but…I’m getting it done. I know this isn’t the best way to go about completing my Master’s…but under the circumstances, what’s another two months of not sleeping? I’ll have the rest of my life to catch up on sleep. Right now I need to finish this degree!!! I’m so happy that I chose the professors I chose for each of my classes as well. Both are perfectly suited for the projects I’m pursuing.

 

4) I get to start going back to therapy!

Now that I’ve found a few babysitters I’ll get to start going back to see my therapist regularly! What a sweet relief 🙂 “Nuf said.

 

5) I’m getting better at being nonchalant

Back when I was pregnant with my first child I thought it would be so easy to practice attachment parenting and that if I just loved my child and showed her that she was safe and encouraged her to express her emotions things would be alright. I never expected thrashing arms and legs, spitfire comments, and utter defiance. I am still a very gentle disciplinarian; actually, their therapist suggests that I be a little more stern…I’m trying to set more limits, to explain consequences, and to be consistent, but with all that’s going on it’s hard to have the energy for every tantrum. Still, lately I’ve done alright. I’m still a softy, but I’m not allowing things to get to me so much anymore. Yes, my daughters still act out, and I still rack my brain thinking of ways to deescalate the situation, but it’s not making me angry or flustered as much anymore. I’m keeping my cool, and not wearing my heart on my sleeve around them is actually working in my favor. It’s hard to not show emotion when things are going downhill, but I have to be the bigger person, and lately I have been.

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I’m proud of myself. Last week was a hard one, but I took it in stride and I came out alright.

 

Allowing Myself June 7, 2013

I’ve had some really hard days lately. I don’t know if it’s the fact that his birthday is right around the corner, or if it’s the pressure from the load I carry, or if it’s the stress of another divorce hearing fast approaching, but I’ve felt a hopelessness come and go with great intensity over these past two weeks. NTummyTimeI’m trying to allow myself these moments of sadness without being overcome by them. It’s a tough balance.

When my baby smiles I am overcome with such joy and such turmoil all at once that I physically ache from within. She is the happiest baby I’ve ever known and I feel like I don’t deserve her sometimes, because I cannot give her more at the moment. I cannot give her a stress-free mommy. I wish I could.

Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better to keep him around, to deal with his rage, wrath, and degradation. Maybe it would’ve been better than this? Than this mama who cannot smile without threatening the levees that hold back the tears. This mama who cannot balance cleaning the kitchen and getting her homework completed. This mama who, after a year alone and lots of therapy, still wishes there was a way to have her husband be the man he was in her illusions.

I’m allowing myself to miss him. I’m allowing myself to remember. FarmRICI’m trying to allow the bad memories as well though, because I also need to remember why it was better to let him go.

This has been a hard year, but I’ve gotten through it. I’ve cried more than I thought I would, but that’s another thing I’ve allowed myself. I have every right to cry sometimes. I’m allowed to feel sad. I’m allowed to feel let down by my situation. I’m allowed to take a time out from my kids. I’m allowed to hire a babysitter. I’m allowed to keep loving the bands he introduced me to. I’m allowed to change my hair, wear makeup, and find myself attractive. I’m allowed to watch what I want, eat what I want, and go where I want to all without being punished.

I’m taken aback by my newly acquired freedoms. I went from living with my mother to one year of college dormitory life and then moved in with him. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been in complete control of my decision making.

It’s difficult, but I’m allowing myself to let go, and in that sense I am allowing myself to grow.

 

An Uncelebrated Anniversary May 24, 2013

Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of The Big Incident.

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Picture links to a blog with another woman’s domestic violence story

It brought back a lot of feelings; a lot of fears. But it also brought the closing of the most difficult year of my life.

My therapist says things tend to get better after the first year. She says that the first time experiencing Christmas, and Thanksgiving and the kids’ birthdays, and our wedding Anniversary, and the Hallmark holidays without him, would be the hardest. But that when it gets hard during those important events next time I can remember that I’ve gotten through it once before, and I’ll know I can do it again.

I CAN do it, but it’s still hard. I miss the good parts of him. I miss his friendship. I miss the comfort of saying “husband” even though I was covering up the pain of what my relationship was really like when no one was watching. I’m still grieving him. I may grieve awhile.

Sigh.

For those who have never been in an abusive relationship, the thought of longing for someone who has caused pain and hardship is unfathomable. If you’d have read the police report, or seen what I’ve been through, or know how hard things are for me now, without also understanding domestic violence, you’d probably think, “Miss him? What is she, crazy? She must have enjoyed the abuse.” It’s difficult to explain, but I had so much faith and pride and commitment wrapped up into that relationship making it; I had so many childhood dreams tied to being with him…it seemed almost impossible to let him go.

And things weren’t all bad. Of course they weren’t. Had they been all bad it wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as it did. There were periods of calm, of comfort, of deep connection, and quiet evenings, and afternoon hiking trips. There were pancake breakfasts, and road trips, and board games, and our first garden. There was our first car accident, and house, and child. There was the time I cut his hair and we saved it to donate to charity, but I forgot to research it and we found it in a Ziplock bag after we moved.

There were some really great times. We could have a lot of fun together. I considered him my best friend. But then…then my best friend would turn really nasty, and I’d never know when to expect it. He would lash out and blame me, saying things like, “You just can’t ever get too happy. Things get too good for you and you have to go make it negative!” While I’m reeling with confusion, trying to figure out what made him go from smiles to screaming, apologizing profusely for setting him off again, trying to toe the line to keep him calm so it doesn’t get worse, but knowing that whether I fight or stay silent things will get worse, and then hiding within my self, weakening, waiting, praying for my friend to come back again. The one I used to enjoy, not the one who makes me hate knowing him.

It’s complicated.

But I made it through one year. I did it. It’s a bittersweet accomplishment. I miss my friend. But that part of him isn’t, and never will be, all of him. So I’ll always miss him, and I’ll grieve awhile, but if the first year is the hardest…I can do this.

 

A Day for Me May 13, 2013

Mother’s Day was lots of fun this year. My oldest daughter, Amara, had a good understanding of what the day meant (thanks to my teachings and what she learned on the Sprout channel) and went to great lengths to make it special for me. She was very well behaved that day, let me pick all of the games and things we’d do, and even volunteered to get her curls combed out without whining. AMAZING!

Mother's Day Bouquet

Mother’s Day Bouquet

It was a nice day. I did clean the kitchen and bathe the girls and wash a few loads of laundry, but I knew I couldn’t take the day off completely. We’d already planned to go the the Museum of Science in Boston today, so doing a few chores on Mother’s Day was necessary.

It was off and on rainy on Mother’s Day. In the morning, I let the girls jump in puddles before their bath. They had a blast! I didn’t get to go hiking like I’d wanted to, but we went outside awhile to search for inchworms. We found about 30 in as many minutes!

We mostly stayed inside though, eating homemade popcorn, playing board games, dancing to rock and roll and saying “I Love You” a lot. In Boston, my classmates were walking the stage for graduation, but I’d take dancing in the living room with my daughters to La Bamba any day. It was grand 🙂Blog5.1

I tried not to think about him too much. It’s tough, but I did alright. I think it’s harder to push the thoughts away because it’s so close to The Big Incident’s anniversary (and another hearing for his felony charges, and another few hearings for our divorce), but I didn’t let it ruin my celebration.

Mother’s Day isn’t about flowers and candy and gifts from a husband; it’s a day to reflect on how much I love being a mother, a day to do something special with my kids. Mother’s Day recharges my ability to enjoy this craziness for another year.

We had fun at the Museum of Science today too. It had been awhile since our last visit, but we’ll go again soon.

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Incredibly Close April 26, 2013

I’m proud of myself. I’ve managed to stay in graduate school throughout this ordeal and I am almost finished. I will have my Master’s degree in Publishing and Writing this summer. Getting my MA from Emerson College has been a dream of mine for quite some time, and within a few months I will have accomplished my goal.Goals

Moving to the Boston area was difficult enough. I knew around 2006, when I graduated with my BA in English, that I wanted to attend Emerson. Five years, two children, and a wicked roller-coaster of co-dependency and manipulation later I finally made it to my first semester as an Emerson student. It was magnificent. I was meeting people in the industry, I was learning the history, I was witnessing and mastering the revolutionary technology affecting publishing. As the president of an organization I hosted events and ran meetings, I attended readings and collaborated on projects with my talented classmates. Graduate school was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Then…The Big Incident changed everything. It’s not as though my marriage had been peaches and cream before that night. No. Far from it. But after that night, after his arrest, after the restraining order, it has been a different type of hard. Finding a way to pay for things, staying healthy during the pregnancy, dealing with the insomnia and the court cases and the uncertainty, dealing with the loneliness, the embarrassment, and the grief. Finding support and regaining my strength. Working constantly to become a better mother, and doing my best to help my babies transition smoothly.

Igoals2t has been very difficult, but very rewarding. So when I look at the mountain of coursework in front of me, as it is finals week…and as I look at the massive amount of assignments I still have yet to complete before I graduate…I try to think back on everything that I’ve already accomplished. I look back and remember how incredibly impossible it all seemed. Then I cannot help but to feel proud of me, because I’ve already done such amazing things, and I know that I will get through these next two courses because I am too close to finishing to stop fighting.

 

Stuck April 19, 2013

I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I have not been feeling very energetic and I haven’t been getting much done.

The laundry is clean, but not folded. The kitchen is clean, but there are boxes that still need to be taken to storage blocking 1/4 of the room. The rest of my house is in a decent disarray, nothing alarming, but it’s not what I’d want visitors to see. I don’t feel like making the house pretty. I just feel…meh.

I just want to play on my smartphone, eat Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars, watch H2 or the World Channel or A&E all day. I want to lie in bed awake, but be able to drift in and out of a daydream. I want to sleep. Goodness gracious how glorious it would be to get a truly good night’s sleep.

I feel so stagnant lately. Like I’m stuck. I’m late on my homework, finals are in two weeks, my last two courses start in one month. Today he has a hearing for the felony charges and soon there’s a pretrail hearing for my divorce. I’m just…all over the place, but I need to be focused. I need to stay on course. I’ve got to get through this. I’ve got to keep going. I cannot stop to think about it or I might realize how insane it seems that I’m trying to handle what I’m juggling.

This isn’t easy. Everyone who sees me says, “You’ve got your hands full,” and I just smile politely and nod my agreement while thinking to myself, “If you only knew.” Then I wonder what they know, or what they’re thinking. I look self-consciously at my empty ring finger and then at my 8 week old baby. Do they think I’m a whore? A loser? A welfare queen? It’s so embarrassing. I cannot stop thinking that everyone is judging me negatively, even when they smile.

Some days go so well. Some days I can push past this fear and this longing and this uncertainty and this constant knot inside my throat which chokes back sobbing. Some days I can relax and play with my daughters and soak in their innocence and zest. Sometimes I almost forget.

This is not a time like that.

 

Lowering My Expectations April 1, 2013

PerfectionismI’m a bit of a perfectionist.

All my life I’ve attempted to make the most of this trait by disallowing myself to settle for less than the best from my efforts. I set high goals for myself and I achieve them. If I don’t achieve them I am NOT my best friend. I do not like having to admit even the slightest failures, but I’m honest to a fault so I cannot trick myself into believing that I’ve done well when I haven’t done as wonderfully as I wanted to. This can be a great self-motivating technique, but it also has the potential to chip away at my self-esteem.

Lately I’ve been trying very hard to lower my expectations. It’s not that I don’t want to achieve great things. Don’t get me wrong, I will own a mega yacht someday 🙂 It’s just that I don’t like making myself feel bad all the time. It’s not intentional, but it’s usually the result of not measuring up to my own semi-delusional standards that get me depressed and make it even more difficult to tackle the obstacles ahead.

I cannot take full credit for my choice to go easy on myself. Credit goes to the combined counsel of people commenting on this blog, my children’s play therapist, my midwife, women in my support group, my therapist, Supernannyand Supernanny (yes, Jo, the British Supernanny…I’ll elaborate later) who have led me to this realization.

Lowering my expectations doesn’t mean that I don’t still expect the best from myself, it’s just that I don’t expect so much from myself constantly. Does that make sense? Take yesterday; after two days of madness from Terra’s fourth birthday and Easter, the house was a disaster. I was feeling overwhelmed by all the cleaning that I needed to do and really wanted to have a clean house, but instead of my typical work-like-a-slave-and-get-it-done-no-matter-what mentality, I decided to be realistic and kind to myself.

I committed myself to cleaning one room, washing and drying one load of laundry, and spending ample time playing with my children. Surprisingly enough, even on barely any sleep, I worked on the goals I set for myself, had a great time enjoying my children (who were much better behaved yesterday – some significant changes in my parenting can take the credit for that), and although I was busy it was much more relaxing. ExpectationsI didn’t clean the entire house, but when I went to bed I felt accomplished.

It was so much better than going to sleep feeling like a failure for not completing an impossible amount of chores (and I’d have probably spent a good portion of the day annoyed with anyone who interrupted my mission).

Most of the people I mentioned before helped me to realize that I am only human, that the load I’m carrying is quite heavy, and that I have to try to take things one step at a time to both not get overwhelmed and to stay positive about not being able to do as much as I’d like to be able to do everyday. I cannot thank everyone enough for helping me to be okay with not driving myself crazy; working working working to finish every task on my list by the end of each day. One of my biggest goals though, one that is always on my list, is being the best mother I can be, and in so many ways being a perfectionist was hindering my mothering.

Supernanny came to call and helped me along with my parenting. I’d never actually seen the show until last week, but as I folded seemingly endless loads of laundry until 2am I watched several episodes and learned various techniques that I could apply to my parenting. They were all fairly simple techniques, and a lot of them I’d already used before, but being reminded of them helped me.

They called themselves the "Super Long-tailed Space Cats" :)

“Super Long-tailed Space Cats” 🙂

Also, seeing other people’s children do things that I see mine doing was encouraging; I was no longer alone.

The most significant thing I took away from my Supernanny marathon was to lower my expectations of my children’s behavior. It’s not that I’ll start to allow disrespect or bad manners or potty mouths or back talk, but I’ll keep in mind that children are children. They really do want the approval of their parents, they need consistent boundaries, and it’s hard for them to lack the power that they see coming with adulthood. It can be difficult for them to come to terms with their emotions, and they constantly need praise. I want my children to know that I love them. I want them to know that they’re perfect as they are. I want them to feel good about trying new things and that even when they’re not great at something I will always be there cheering them on.

For the longest time there has been a lack of consistency in my parenting. Partially because of the breakdown of our family, partially because it was difficult for me to transition with my children from their infancy to their current stages and stay true to attachment parenting. It was difficult in part because I began expecting too much perfection from my children.

In their Easter dresses and new wigs, courtesy of my mother!

In their Easter dresses and new wigs; courtesy of my mother!

I’ve learned so much since becoming a mother. Every day reveals new layers of life, intimacy, emotion, empathy, responsibility, and compassion. What lowering my expectations has really helped me with all around is to become more considerate toward myself and everyone else. Nobody is perfect, we’re all just trying, and it’s a lot easier to try when everyone is smiling, praising one another, and having fun.

 

Still I Wonder…About Him March 29, 2013

I tried to convince myself not to worry about him months ago. I tried reminding myself of the bad times. I tried focusing on the felony charges, the reason for my restraining order, the pain and embarrassment of the entire situation. I tried telling myself that I was only feeding into his narcissistic desires if I spent my time and energy on him. I tried to reason with myself that with my heavy load I didn’t have strength left to carry the burden of continuing to worry about him. To wonder about him. To wish it were different.

But still I do. I was conditioned to put his needs ahead of my own, and even though I have not seen or spoken to him in ten months it’s terribly difficult for me to let my worries go. I still wonder what he’s thinking about me, about everything, and lately especially about our newborn baby. Does he blame me? Of course he blames me. What is he telling everybody? How has he framed things? I’m sure they all think I’m a monstrous psychotic manipulative bitch. It pains me. I miss his family, but they will never love me again.

I wonder if he still loves me. He never loved me. I know that he never really loved me and I still wonder if he still does simultaneously. QuestionMarksMaybe I am crazy. I wonder if he’s with somebody. What is he telling her? Are they the same things he told me about the mother of his first baby who he never sees? Is he convincing her that really I’m the abuser? That I caused all the hardship? That’s I’m insane? Of course he’s telling her that; he’ll never take responsibility for anything.

So why do I worry about whether or not he’s eating alright? Why do I care if he’s losing weight? Why do I brood over his ability to sleep at night? I spent the majority of my pregnancy an insomniac. I have no money to pay our bills in New England, but still I’ve made EVERY mortgage payment on our Illinois home since he left though he’s probably living in it. I have our three children, our three daughters ages five weeks to five years and I’m getting nothing from him.

So why the hell am I worried about him? Quite obviously he’s being well taken care of. He has more than likely convinced his family members of his innocence. He has probably started training a new woman. He is making calculated decisions regarding his legal proceedings. He doesn’t give a shit about me. Maybe that’s what bothers me? That I’ll always care for him even though he wronged me and it’s so easy for him to let go of me, of all of us.

It’s our second daughter’s fourth birthday tomorrow. Is he thinking of her? He never cared much for our second daughter. Maybe he’s happy to not be here. I have no idea. The not knowing anything is so hard. I think he knows that the not knowing is hard for me. He is probably loving every minute of my misery. I want to stop myself from wondering, from worrying, but some part of me might always be focusing on him. In spite of everything a huge part of me wants him to be alright, wants him to love me, wants him to care about our family. That part of me may be unwilling to allow myself to let go of the fantasy. The fantasy is better than constantly thinking he’s plotting to kill me…though him wishing me dead is probably closer to reality.

Still…I wonder.