When you become a mother there are many, MANY lessons to learn! When a friend becomes a mother the first piece of advice I give is to find a community. It’s so important to know other mothers, ideally with similarly aged children. Being a parent is the most rewarding experience in the world, but also the most difficult: never-ending, constantly changing and terrifying all at the same time. Having someone else who is in the thick of it as well makes you remember that you’re not in it alone.
As it turns out, the same can also be said about divorce. The only way to learn how to parent is to do it, and as I’m learning, ending a marriage works the same way.
Growing up with parents who have been married for nearly 40 years, divorce has always been something “other” families and “other” people do. You don’t really think about what it looks like until you’re in it. I have no knowledge of being divorced and I have even less knowledge of being divorced with small children and needing to co-parent. There is so much uncertainty.
But much like parenting, it’s been invaluable finding and developing friendships with people going through it at the same time as you. I don’t want to hear, “You’ll get through it,” from people who have no idea what that means. I want concrete answers…
”How do you shower in the morning with children you also need to get dressed and out the door?”
“How do you shovel in order to get out of the driveway in the morning with small children you can’t leave on their own?”
“Do you call your ex when one of your children has a developmental milestone?”
“How do you talk to your children, who barely understand what a family is, about the big changes in their lives?”
Like parenting, some of these answers will come with experience time, and the only way to learn is by doing. For others, it’s essential to have someone who understands and sympathizes because they are going through it too.
The difficulty lies in the fact that unlike parenting, getting a divorce is, a lot of the time, a quieter, more private process (particularly in the Jewish community). The general public doesn’t tend to know a list of other people getting divorced as they do with parenting. The privacy of it all makes finding that community substantially more difficult. And harder still, no two divorces are the same, so finding others who are in similar divorce situations is even more difficult. For example, getting a divorce with a baby is a very different experience than getting a divorce with elementary or even preschool aged children. The questions are different.
So how does one find this community? For me, a close friend (not divorced) mentioned another friend going through a similar situation. I got together with her who had gotten together with another woman with a similar situation. This is how these communities are built…by hushed word of mouth. Sadly, this “situation” is not too uncommon, it’s just not discussed.
I would never wish this life event on anyone. But I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made with whom I can ask questions, get together and commiserate. And it’s nice to remember that I am not alone.