I was raised to believe that marriage was forever and divorce was something only "other" people did. It's funny that I believed that, because I have plenty of relatives and friends who have gone through divorce. I guess I always assumed there was something drastically wrong with their marriages, especially when they had kids, because I thought "staying together for the kids" was the "right" thing to do. I was so wrong.
I stayed married to my first husband for over a decade, despite the fact that he cheated, lied, stole from me and our family, and worse, was emotionally and physically abusive. The reasons why I stayed with him are vast and complex, but one particular reason remained front and center in my mind at all times: our kids. Throughout my career, I had witnessed firsthand the challenges single mothers face in our society. I had read statistics about "broken homes" and children raised by single moms. I thought I was doing the right thing by staying. Again, I was so wrong.
When I did leave, I realized that being a stable, happy parent for my kids was way easier as a single parent than it was when I was a married one. My relationship with my kids grew stronger when I became free to raise them in a safe, calm, and loving home. As I thrived, they thrived. In retrospect, I wish I had left sooner and way before things got so bad. I wish I had noticed the reasons to leave that presented themselves in so many moments, because "staying together for the kids" was so not worth it. For anyone.
When Your Partner Fights With You In Front Of Your Kids
All couples fight, but when you find yourself fighting so frequently that you do it in front of your kids, it can really hurt them. It can not only impact their understanding of relationships and marriage, but the stress of witnessing conflict can have a lasting impact on their psyches and wellbeing.
When You're Unhappy All Of The Time
You deserve to be happy. I mean, life is way too short. What's more, your kids deserve to have a happy parent. Getting divorced doesn't make you a bad mom, especially if it will make you a happy mom.
When Your Kids Repeat Back Things They've Heard From You Or Your Partner
I will never forget my (at the time) 3-year-old daughter asking me what the word, "bitch" meant. Seriously.
When You're Basically A Single Parent Already
For all intents and purposes, way before my then-husband and I separated I was pretty much already a single parent. My husband was rarely home and, when he was, I spent my time cleaning up after him, cooking for him, and fighting with him about everything. He spent his time "with us" watching television, playing video games, and getting angry when I asked for help. I know it's cliché, but it was totally like having another child to care for instead of a co-parent.
When Your Kids Notice How Unhappy You Are
I will never forget my (then) 2-year-old daughter giving me a hug and asking, "Mommy sad?" after a bad fight. I held her close and couldn't hold back the tears.
When Your Kids Are Not Happy
I knew that something needed to change when my daughter started to struggle. She was 4 years old and had insomnia, sleep walking, night terrors, frequent tantrums, and was angry or sad most of the time. It was so hard to make the connection that this wasn't normal behavior for a 4 year old.
When Your Partner Is Not A Good Parent
I have always tried to be a peaceful parent. My kids' biological father would get so angry that he physically disciplined our preschooler. This was a deal breaker for me. I didn't want my kids to grow up learning to obey out of fear. I wanted them to behave because they were taught how, with love and patience.
When Your Partner Is Irresponsible With Money
When my ex stole money from our savings for one of the many "get rich quick" schemes that never seemed to help him "get rich," he was stealing from our kids' safety net and future, too.
When You Separate And Things Are Much Easier
I was so afraid to be a single parent that I let things escalate until they were out of control. What I didn't know, however, was that being a single parent — even an overworked, tired, struggling, single parent — was so much easier than staying married to him. After I left I became more confident, and it felt amazing to only be responsible for myself and my kids and not my ex anymore.
When Your Partner Is Violent
Like all survivors, my many reasons for staying in and eventually leaving my abusive relationship were complex and hard to understand after the fact or from outside our relationship. I didn't want my kids to grow up in a "broken home," but when my ex became violent, I realized our home was already broken. My kids deserved better. I was privileged to have a good job, a place to go, and a supportive family. I rebooted my life and didn't look back.
I don't judge other people for staying in abusive or just plain bad relationships, because I know how hard it is to leave (physically, financially, and emotionally), but I want other parents to know that life became so much better after I left, for me and my kids.