When I filed for divorce, one of my biggest fears was that by divorcing my kids' biological father, I was failing as a parent and would, as a result, permanently screw up my kids. Over the past three years, while things haven't always been easy or fun, I've realized I have not failed at all. I have actually become a way better mom. In fact, there are so many ways divorce can make you a better parent. Seriously.
It was so strange and unexpected to learn that, while hard in its own ways, being a single parent was a heck of a lot easier than parenting with my now ex-husband. It was easier to focus on my kids' needs and to put them first when I wasn't married to a person who made my life difficult and made me feel like crap constantly. I no longer felt like I had to parent my kids and their father, who can only be described as a man child, which was freaking exhausting. As a result, I was so much happier and more confident, which was extremely important to my kids' happiness.
Plus, going through a divorce forced my ex and I to compromise and get on the same page about so many things that we'd never really talked about when we were married, like how we would discipline our kids and where they would go to school. Through co-parenting with my ex, I've also gained some serious parenting skills. I am now way better at prioritizing, managing conflict, picking my battles, and setting boundaries. I've learned not only does leaving your partner not make you a bad mom, it could actually make you a better one in so many ways, including the following:
You Learn How To Resolve Conflict
I had no idea there would be more conflict after a divorce. I mean one of the reasons I was leaving my then-husband was because fought all of the freaking time.
However, when you are co-parenting with an ex, you learn how to manage that conflict in different ways and you don't have to worry about that conflict taking over your home. I have learned how to limit communication, set boundaries within a co-parenting relationship, and remind my ex about the real reason for finding common ground: our kids. I am also better able to model conflict resolution for my kids, and in a way that doesn't always end in an argument, which is so important for them to see.
You Become Self-Sufficient
Divorced moms have to be self-sufficient. When you;re solely responsible for things like school drop off and pick-up, meals, housework, homework help, and bedtime, you learn how to get organized and get stuff done. After all, if you don't no one else will. I am way more self-sufficient than I used to be and when I don't get something done I have only myself to blame, which surprisingly feels pretty damn good.
You Learn To Compromise
I've had to compromise in order to sufficiently and successfully co-parenting with my ex so many times that, honestly, I'm a compromising expert. I've learned how to identify wants and needs, present a case, negotiate, and ultimately meet someplace in the middle (ideally in a place that's best for my family).
Divorcing my ex was an awesome motivator to make some changes in my life, learn to rock a new routine, and seek out the best possible future for me and my kids.
You Become An Experts At Helping Your Kids Weather Change
I have had to learn how to help my kids adjust to a new home, school, and life as children of a single parent. I've also had to help them understand when visits with their dad don't happen or don't go as planned. Change is hard, sure, but now I'm like the mistress of managing change.
You Learn How To Budget
Between needing to create and support a new home on one income, and having to learn how to get by without child support when my ex doesn't pay up, I am seriously better at managing money and making sure my kids get what they need.
You Know How To Pick Your Battles
Everything is not worth a fight. The sooner I and my kids learned this, the happier we were as a family. I now pick my battles. I ask myself, "Is this a hill I want to die on, or something I should just let go?" The answer is almost always, "let it go," when you don't have to be married to your ex.
You Learn To Be Diplomatic
OMG have I learned some diplomacy skills, you guys. Learning to talk about my ex with my kids in a respectful way has been seriously hard, since he was and continues to be such a jerk, but necessary so my kids can continue to have a meaningful relationship with their bio-dad.
You're Forced To Make A Plan
I cannot stress enough how helpful it was to create a plan that my ex and I would follow when it came to co-parenting our kids. It was a frustrating and infuriating process, to be sure, but it was so worth it. We were forced to get on the same page and discuss all aspects of parenting, from discipline and religion to education to health care. I honestly think that all parents should sit down together and create a "parenting plan," when they have kids. It is so nice to have a cheat sheet for the way you've agreed to raise your kids.
I was a much happier mom after separation and divorce, than I was when I was married to my ex. In fact, I'm a happier mom than I ever thought I could be, and my kids are happier, too.
In the end, kids deserve to have happy parents and parents deserve to be happy, even if that doesn't mean staying together. For me, and so many other moms, leaving your ex is just what you need to become the happiest, best mom you can be.