Welcome to my blog!

I'm a divorced mom with a teenage daughter and two pre-teen sons. Writing is my first love. When I'm not writing or working or playing taxi to the kids, I also toy with photography and baking.

So, basically, my camera rarely sees the light of day and my mixer stands in the corner in permanent time-out.

To see some samples of my writing, you can check out my website: www.csrickard.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Year Anniversary

It's been one year since I seperated from my ex-husband and moved into my own house. Sometimes it feels like so long ago and other times it feels like I just got here! Even after a year, I still find myself stopping on the stairs or maybe in the kitchen and simply smiling.

I am so much happier now.

One of the counselors we saw before I decided to get a divorce asked me if I could live without a husband. She said most woman immediately say yes, but really don't understand what it would be like. I was thoroughly confused by the question and statement.

I had been married for 17 years (and engaged for 2 years) and the bulk of my ex-husband's contribution to our relationship was a paycheck, although I made almost as much as he did before starting my own company. This isn't a bashing post, nor do I intend for it to read as such. Rather, I've learned a lot this past year and the only way to appreciate these lessons learned is by understanding my experience.

I am an enabler. I suspected this only two years ago, but didn't really see it for what it was until this past year.

My enabling experience started as a child of an alcoholic father. I learned early on to make sure nothing went wrong when my father came home as his drinking tended to accentuate his already short temper. My mother wound up on the receiving end of most of my father's jokes and chiding, although she always took it well and never seemed to mind. I never heard her complain or defend herself.

My father didn't do any housework. That was a woman's job. The fact that my mother also worked full-time was irrelevant. One time I ruined a batch of ice tea I had been making. I remember my father's exact words, "what kind of wife are you going to make if you can't even make a batch of ice tea?!" I never responded with what I wanted to say. You never "back-talked" to my father. Instead, I swallowed my reply, dumped out the burnt tea bags, washed the pot, and started all over again.

Equal rights has always been a point of contention with me, I suppose because of my father. My sister still makes fun of me when it comes to gender stereotypes and behavior. For example, my daughter never owned a barbie, although both of my nieces had them. As far as I'm concerned, Barbie is a man's play toy. My daughter did, however, have a baby doll. She received it for Christmas the same year she received a fire truck. Yes, both were from me.

Being the oldest meant I was responsible for everything my brother and sister did while I was in charge. I started being in charge in fourth grade. If they did something wrong and I couldn't fix it before my father got home, whoever did it and I were both punished. I always hated that. Unfortunately, it taught me to do everything myself.

Obviously, my perception of marriage was far less than ideal. As an adult I shoved away everything I wanted from a marriage, thinking I was completely selfish, and instead settled for what I thought a marriage was supposed to be like. My ex wasn't an alcoholic, although he did have a temper to match my father's. He was well educated and good looking. We met the month I turned 20. At the time, I felt lucky that he even liked me.

I think it was his temper that triggered my enabling instincts. Or maybe they just never went away after going to college. Whatever the reason, I soon settled into a routine whereby I did my best not to get him angry. He rarely got angry at anything I did, but would often come home upset at something else. Whenever he did get angry, he usually took it out on me. He never hit me or anything, but he would yell and sometimes throw things. If he seemed to have a bad day at work, I wouldn't risk setting him off by asking him to help out with the housework. Yes, I was a wuss. It's odd, because I've stood up for other people's feelings and rights numerous times, but when it comes to my own, I cave faster than you can blink.

My problem quickly escalated to include all aspects of our lives: housework, meals, finances, home/car maintenance, etc. I handled everything related to our lives. Everything. Until our last year together, he didn't even know how many bank accounts we had. He had only ever cooked a handful of meals in all our years together. I used to try to discuss things like retirement plans or new car purchases with my ex, but he was never interested. It was simply easier for me to do it all. And he was very content to let me.
This past year I've had to walk him through ordering phone service to his house, setting up new services on his wireless account, and explaining to him who to talk to about his life insurance. The last half of 2008 and the first three months of 2009 my stress level was through the roof. I didn't know how to unwind and let go. I kept worrying if the kids were okay at his house. Were they eating? Did they make the bus? Is he dropping them off at school too early? Did he check the boy's homework?
It took a long time for me to finally let go.
Now, I enjoy the weeks I have with my kids, but I also enjoy the weeks they are at their dad's. It's the first time I can remember that I have time to myself. I can now pick up and do something and not have to worry about schedules and kids. It's liberating to realize that I am a mother, but I also have a life of my own. Of course, now I have to actually make a life! (that's the goal for 2010)

The guilt of not missing the kids when they're at their dad's is gone. The guilt of not being there to ease my ex into his own life is gone as well. Now there's just my life and what I want to do with it.

The year taught me that I really did do far more than I should have in my marriage. It wasn't a good relationship for either myself or my ex. I knew before the divorce that I could live without a husband. What I have to learn now, is how to live with one.

The other thing I learned is that I won't settle again. I may not need a husband, but I won't settle for someone who isn't my best friend and lover. Finally, it took me 20 years to realize that wanting a caring and supportive mate is neither selfish nor unrealistic. It is also something I deserve just as much as the next person.

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