Frequently Asked Questions
How long were you married and how long have you been divorced?
I was married for 10 years, together with my ex husband for 13 years. Divorce takes longer than people think; we began our divorce about 5 years ago, and it was finalized roughly a year later.
Have you ever been a single working parent?
Yes and yowza, was it hard! From finding a new house to purchase and live in, to figuring out my "new normal" steady financial state (budgeting for groceries, a mortgage, car payments, insurance, taxes, retirement, daycare, etc), things were tough, especially without child support as a financial backup.
The hardest part of being a working single parent was finding and setting firm boundaries for work. Where in the past I had been able to come in early, work late, and travel as needed, my ability to do all of the above changed as a single parent. Gone were the days of a partner to help wake the kids up and get them ready or help with daycare drop off or pick up. I had to learn to say "no" a lot more, and be comfortable knowing that I was in a new normal and be up front about my kids' needs coming first (which sometimes meant late nights playing catch up).
What is your custody arrangement?
I have a modified standard order of shared parenting for my state and county. This means our two oldest spend time with me roughly 70% of the time in our home, and the remaining 30% of their time with their dad in his home, locally. The schedule is the same year round (no changes during summer), and their dad and I have a fairly amicable (for the kids), informal relationship, and attend sporting events and recitals together. We share information via text often about the kids, and make sure they kids know we talk with each other and about them.
My husband also has a shared parenting plan, though it is somewhat more complicated. His shared parenting plan is governed by our home state, where his divorce took place and where we still reside. Our tiniest gal spends her time with her mom about half of the time in her mom's new home state, and the remaining half of her time with her dad and our family between states (depending on the time of year). Some of this time during the school year is spent in our condo we purchased in her mom's home state. Their arrangement is more formal than ours, with communication between them occurring exclusively over OFW (Our Family Wizard), and frequent video calls with our youngest whenever she is away from either parent.
While we sometimes have different schedules and complex logistics, we do everything we can to maximize our family's time together -- physically, virtually, mentally and emotionally. Distance separates you only as much as you let it.
What was the most surprising thing about getting divorced?
How long it takes and how complicated it is. Whoever said getting divorced is fast or easy, surely was not someone who had experienced a divorce! Between financials, custody, mandatory parenting classes, and in-person court dates, even "amicable" divorces can take quite a long time to be finalized. I had a dissolution, and it took about a year to finalize, even though we jointly filed notarized paperwork with the court.
My husband had a contested divorce, and his took about 18 months for many of the same reasons.
Bottom line, even if you think you'll agree on most things, including assets, retirement, support, etc, the system requires specific gates to be met before you can formally schedule a final appearance. Be prepared to have some patience as your paperwork works its way through the system and you can officially say you're single again.
What was the most surprising thing about blending a family?
Blending a family is WORK. It is so much more than dating a person with kids, introducing kids, or getting married and adding "step" to a given name.
When my husband and I got together and realized we were in this for the long haul, we spent a lot of time reading books, articles, and blogs about blended families to learn the pitfalls, hardships, challenges, and lessons from others who had walked in our shoes before us. And we talked about every little thing relating to the kids--who would be responsible for what, who had what authority over who, where were our boundaries, how had our kids been raised similarly or differently to date, etc. I also believe we lucked out in that the younger your kids are, the easier blending seems to be, so we did not experience some of what we read about from some families who have really struggled to blend their families together.
At the end of the day, I believe you have to let the kids take the lead when blending families. They need to see two adults in a healthy, loving relationship, and they need relationships with both adults separately and together, as well as with other kids in the family. It's not just two adults in a relationship who happen to have kids who you hope will be friends--you have a lifetime of being raised in different households with different rules, norms, traditions, and expectations, combined with the upheaval that is divorce and a new relationship or marriage. If you think that is heavy for an adult, imagine being a tiny human with huge emotions trying to make sense of it all!
The advice that I hate, but is often true is...you have to have patience. And you have to know that no matter how hard you try, and how well you think it's going, your kiddos will throw you a big 'ole doozy right when you're thinking you've got this blended family thing figured out. And it usually has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with what's happening in their world. So buckle up, and get ready for an intense, emotional ride. But, when it works...it is bliss.
How do you balance work and life?
Simply put, I don't have work life balance, I have work life integration, because that is what I found works best for me. It's all about expectation management; if I assume I can or should find some sort of equal balance, then I will almost always be disappointed, as either life or work demands more of me on a given day. If instead I focus on how flexible I can be each day to meet any set of demands or needs, I end up less frustrated and more fulfilled. This may mean I log off of work in the afternoon and have several hours of family time, followed by logging on later in the evening or taking phone calls after bedtime. For me, this is my preferred method of working--doing things mixed together, depending on when I am needed, and by whom. I thrive off of deadlines and fast paces, and love the flexibility to manage my time as I see fit.
I realize others prefer firm working hours, or having physical boundaries with working spaces. Find what works best for you. In this crazy blended life, I have had to learn to be much more flexible than I've ever been, which has extended into my work life as well, to my benefit.
Working parents, making blended life work.