You know what’s worse than getting divorced? Feeling lonely every day.
A friend once confided in me that she wanted to leave her husband, but one thing was stopping her: the idea of becoming a single mom. I get it. The term "single mom" is loaded — you're either ruining the moral fabric of the country, you're a victim to be pitied, or you're some kind of hero.
1. I don't wake up filled with rage every morning.
When you're in a toxic relationship, the smallest thing can set you off. On a typical morning when I was married, I'd have run a loop in the park, made breakfast, packed my daughters' lunches, signed a permission slip, found a lost mitten, and broken up a sibling squabble before my husband sleepily shuffled into the kitchen.
He'd make a pot of coffee and stand there in his pajamas, waiting for it to brew. It drove me bananas. My girls got used to hearing mommy yell. As a single mom, I still have to do everything myself every morning, but at least I don't have to watch someone else sip his coffee and stare out the window while I'm doing it. And I'm no longer the mom who yells.
2. I get whole weekends off from being a mom.
Did I say I have to do everything myself every morning? Scratch that. I get some weekends off. When the kids are with their dad, I can do anything I want, or nothing at all. If I want to order Thai food and binge-watch Netflix, I can. If I want to go sing karaoke and dance all night, no one will be annoyed when I come home at 4 AM, sweaty and exhausted. If I want to take the train to Coney Island on a gray winter morning, wander the boardwalk and people-watch, no one will whine that they're cold and bored.
Sure, when I first got divorced, it was hard to say goodbye to the girls when they went to their father's place for a few days, and sometimes I still really miss them, but I've learned to make the most of my time off. Being able to clock out from parenting gives me a chance to recharge and remember that I'm still me, not just mom.
3. I get to make the rules.
There's still some negotiation and compromising on big-picture parenting strategies, but at my place, I make the house rules. No more trying to get the kids to fall asleep after their dad winds them up. No more, "But Daddy said I could eat snacks on the sofa!" No more getting the side-eye from a partner who's not fully on board with my discipline methods.
When the kids are with me, what I say goes. Is being completely in charge worth carrying the burden of making all the decisions myself, with no one around to back me up? Absolutely. Because I'm the mom, that's why. Enough said.
4. I found out how amazing my friends are.
When you're a single mom, your friends really step up. At least mine have. Whether it's picking my kids up from school and feeding them dinner, buying me a drink and listening to me unload about my latest parenting drama, or driving me to the grocery store so I don't have to shoulder a load of heavy bags home on the train, my friends are there for me.
Trying to keep up the charade of my perfect marriage and happy home was isolating. Post-divorce, my little corner of Brooklyn has never felt more like a village. We all have each other's backs. Most of the time I don't even think of myself as a single mom, because I've got so many people pitching in to help me out.
And it's a two-way street: on weekends when I have the girls, I take my girlfriends' kids for sleepovers so they can have a night off. Plus, they get to live vicariously through my dating adventures. (Married moms love it when you let them swipe on your Tinder account.)
5. I'm excited about the future again.
When I was married, it felt like the rest of my life was more or less laid out in front of me. I was going to spend every day with this same person, forever. That idea should've been reassuring, exciting, gratifying — all those things marriage is supposed to be. Except, I was miserable. Maybe it had to do with our 17-year age difference.
At 35, I was a completely different person than I'd been when I got married. Still, I was stuck with the partner 23-year-old me had chosen. Meanwhile, my husband was the same guy he'd been since we met. I had to face the reality that our problems weren't going to go away, and be honest about whether I could live with them.
I asked myself, Would I want one of my daughters to stay in a marriage this unhappy? The answer was no. I wanted my girls to grow up knowing it's never too late to change course and pursue happiness, even if it means breaking a promise. So instead of staying in a marriage that was never really right for my husband or me, I decided to take the leap and gamble on a better future for us all.
Yes, going through a divorce is rough. It was hard on me, hard on my ex, hard on the kids. But you know what’s worse than getting divorced? Feeling lonely every day and knowing it's never going to get better. Fighting in front of your kids. Letting anger and bitterness take up residence in your soul.
When I got divorced, all of that went away. I'm a better mom now. More stressed sometimes, maybe, but also happier and a lot more fun. Life feels full of promise and possibility. When I wake up in the morning, I'm excited for a new day. And single or married, that's the kind of mom I want to be.