I knew the moment I would get divorced. It didn’t come in moments and seconds – those I believed I could overcome. The moments he would scream the word divorce in a fit of anger, and I would hide in the bedroom until I fell asleep — were easily forgiven. The seconds when I realized that he hadn’t consulted me on yet another life-altering event, which usually involved large sums of my hard-earned money — were rectified over time. Not even the realization that I wasn’t allowed to seek solace in writing, friends, or even family was enough for me to consider divorce.
But, when the time came, I knew.
He stormed out of the house, the baby was wailing, and silent tears of pain streamed down my face as I washed dishes at the sink. It was New Year’s Eve. Family had just left after regaling his ability to cook a marvelous steak. Friends would ring in the New Year with us, even though I had to be in bed before midnight for work the next morning. My pain didn’t come from his departure. It came from the fact that the bottom drawer–the one that never opened–had been yanked in a burst of anger over feelings of worthlessness, and had landed solidly on my bare foot.
The moment it happened, I screamed out in pain, and called out to him, over and over, for what felt like an eternity. I thought I had broken my foot. The baby, just over a year old, was wailing at the sight of my tears and distress. Ten minutes later, he obliviously waltzed inside the house. I was trying to soothe the baby over my tears while at the same time holding an ice pack against my injured foot. His expression didn’t change when he saw me, the mess of tears and snot that I was. I guess I was used to the apathy at that point. When I asked why he hadn’t come when I called, he said he hadn’t heard me, which I almost believed–but I didn’t.
At that point in our marriage, he could have said the sky was blue, and I would have thought it a lie.
I asked if he could hold the baby, so that I could lay on the bed for a moment, or if he could help me in the kitchen, since his friends were coming over in less than an hour. The request was too much, or he simply didn’t care about my plight, and he left. He walked out. Either my request had irked him, or my pain annoyed him.
Whatever the case, he was gone.
I put the baby in the high chair, sprinkled Cheerios across the plastic surface, hobbled to the sink, and began washing dishes. I was on the third or fourth dish when I looked out the window, somewhere beyond the sky dotted with wayward clouds, and I knew. I knew that I was already a single mom. I knew I was already alone, and I knew divorce wouldn’t change anything about my life, except the amount of laundry that needed to be folded each week.
The realization should have scared me; it should have made me shake my head in denial. Instead, as I looked out the kitchen window, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time: hope. Hope that I could learn to smile again, and hope that I wouldn’t have to check the finances every day to see if we had become destitute on a whim. Hope that life didn’t have to be this way.
I hoped my child wouldn’t have to live with a father who had forgotten he had a growing family at home.
There was never a thought as to whether or not my child would grow up with more stability if I remained married, although we did magnificently fail at marriage counseling during our two month stint. I’ve never dwelt on the idea that children raised in divorced homes have a rougher life than children in married homes, because that “married” home was a laughable joke. My son and I were afterthoughts in a world that never considered our needs, and I wanted for us to have a life filled with happiness and love. A world we wouldn’t have if I chose to remain married.
We have that life now. My son has thrived in school, he has excelled in sports, and – best of all – his father has been a present figure over the past seven years. My ex has coached his tee ball and baseball teams, and has cheered him on in all his endeavors. He even called after I sent a report card to congratulate our son and say how proud he is of Tiny’s abilities.
It wasn’t always this way, especially when we first divorced. It took time for us to be civil in each other’s presence. It took years of healing for us to learn to co-parent. We still have to work at it, and we still have our moments. This past summer, the court decree was broken yet again. We’ll have moments yet to come, but my hope is that our focus will always be on the child we brought into this world.
It’s been a long time since the day I knew I would get divorced. It’s been six years, in fact. Since then, I’ve learned a few things:: divorce is not always a dirty word, children of divorce are not always set up to fail, and single moms can–and do–achieve any goals they set for themselves.
Have you lived through divorce, or are you considering it? I’m always available with an open mind, a tissue, and a hug.