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What I Learned About Myself After My Divorce Surprised Me

When I was going through my own divorce, I didn't realize until much later on that there are actually some positive aspects to it. From the information I read to the things I'd gathered in conversation with others who had experienced divorce, the focus seemed to sit heavily on the negative bits and pieces, like how lonely divorce was, how draining the process could become, and how unspeakably angry you found yourself at the most inopportune moments. Even though these are all things I've experienced at different moments in my divorce, I've learned that there are actual pros for each con. I don't feel this way every single day, but more often than not, I'm standing in the good. The one thing no one told me about divorce was the freedom it gives you, and how beautiful that is.

The first few weeks after my ex and I separated, I'd cry and feel lost when it came to keeping myself busy without the kids around. I was so used to each day being filled with meal-making for three to four people, constantly picking up toys and shoes, and always looking forward to bedtime. I missed the routine of it all, and I didn't know what to do without it. But then something shifted. Cleaning would only take an hour or less. I'd finished my work and all emails, and I began to eat a lot less elaborate meals. I had more time for hobbies, to relax, to do something that felt good. In those early days I found myself pacing back and forth, feeling almost guilty for not missing my children more. It wasn't until I was having a midday cocktail with a friend that I realized one of the perks of being divorced was right there in front of me: I had more time for myself, and I loved that.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

As time goes on, I feel less and less sad about parting ways with my children. In the beginning, pick ups and drop offs all felt so heavy and overwhelming. I was sad. The kids were sad. It broke my heart to leave them, and hurt just as much to take them back from their dad. I dreaded every part of the process, but now, I'm excited about it. I definitely look forward to my kids leaving after we've had a few days together. I'm excited to have a minute to myself again. To eat dinner standing over the stove because I want to, not because it's my only fleeting seconds of privacy. But just like I look forward to saying goodbye to them for a few days, I get just as excited to pick them up after being apart.

I've never been good about self-care in any sense. But here I was, doing it. Going through divorce made me realize how important time to myself was. I thought I understood before, but being forced into it gave me a whole new perspective.

Don't get me wrong — I loved my marriage and being married — but when my ex and I were together I don't think I ever spent enough time away from my children. There was no time for us to miss one another. Now, however, we get to actually experience distance in a healthy, positive way, and I think the time apart actually does us all a world of good. And it's not like my kids can't reach me. FaceTime makes it easy for us to talk and chat whenever we want. And my kids know where and how to find me. I remember those first few weeks of co-parenting, I requested photo after photo from their dad of everything they did without me. I couldn't stand to miss a moment. That's not really the case anymore. I don't ask for as many photos now. I allow my kids the time they need and deserve with their dad, knowing full well they can call me if they need, or vice versa.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

The time apart also gave me an opportunity to get reacquainted with myself, which I wasn't expecting at all, mainly because I hadn't even realized that I had lost myself along the way. I became a first-time mom, then a mom again, then a parent, and then my ex and I went through divorce. Somewhere along the way I forgot what it meant to do something just because I wanted to. Not being with my kids every second of the day gave me time to rediscover what I liked most about myself and what I liked to do. On days without the kids I made plans to work, see friends, and just enjoy myself.

This "time off" hit me like a shock at first. I've never been good about self-care in any sense. But here I was, doing it. Going through divorce made me realize how important time to myself was. I thought I understood before, but being forced into it gave me a whole new perspective.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen
From everything I heard and read, I thought I would (and should be) sad forever. But I'm not. I feel whole. Filled. Content. Not every day is magic, obviously, but like I said, I've learned to stand in the good. And I like it here.

With divorce, you end a chapter of your life and step into a new one. You get a blank page to begin writing a whole new story on. It isn't always easy, but my divorce changed my life. I found myself again, and discovered who I was and what I wanted. I am someone completely different than the person I was at the start of my divorce. So are my children. They're happy and healthy and loved and cared for, starting new adventures of their own, opening their hearts to their parents' new partners, accepting a new way of life. I used to wonder if they'd be OK without me around constantly. I wondered if somehow they wouldn't thrive or grow. But they have — and they've exceeded every expectation I ever had for them. I've been able to watch them both grow and stretch on their own because of divorce. They're much braver than before. They want to take on responsibility. They want to explore what this new normal is for them.

There were moments in my divorce that left me feeling hopeless and frustrated, but there is also a new silver lining, one that's filled me with hope, joy, and an overwhelming amount of gratitude. From everything I heard and read, I thought I would (and should be) sad forever. But I'm not. I feel whole. Filled. Content. Not every day is magic, obviously, but like I said, I've learned to stand in the good. And I like it here. Being able to be myself and watch my children grow into the people they want to be is something I'm really grateful for. Even if it isn't the way I originally planned it to be, it's worked out better for all of us. And I'm really grateful for that.