There’s nothing like having three kids in three years to make you feel, finally, like an adult. I went from taking care of just myself to having three little people who depended on me to meet all their needs in a really short amount of time. It was a jarring experience. But as a woman who’s now been divorced for over six years, I can say with all honesty that the end of my marriage made me grow up even faster than becoming a mom.
I went from having a partner who was a hands-on father, supported me financially, and knew how to fix things around the house to having to be financially independent. I was suddenly a solo parent when my kids were with me, and I had to figure it out when my furnace stopped working.
Not only that, I had to learn how to deal with all the feelings I was having on my own. Of course, there were friends and family to help. I had people I could talk and vent to. I cried to my best friend a lot over the phone. I’d lived alone for years before meeting my ex-husband but living alone in a home with three kids is completely different from living in an apartment by yourself.
I had to start working and figure out a way to support myself and my children. There wasn’t anyone who came swooping in with money or a dream job for me. When the garage door broke, when the sink was clogged, when my furnace stopped running in the middle of the night right before Christmas, it fell on my shoulders. I had to figure it out. There were times I was able to tackle things myself and feel empowered. There were times I had to call an expert for help. But there were also times I’d fall into a heap on the floor because it all felt like too much.
If something happened to my car, I had to make sure I had transportation for myself and my kids. I didn’t have a partner’s car to use. If I forgot something at the grocery store, it was up to me to go get it. I had to keep my kids’ schedules straight because there wasn’t another adult here to remind me to do it.
After I started dating again, I had to face the fact that our divorce was partly my fault. I had childhood traumas I hadn’t taken care of and they had affected my marriage. I had bad habits, like giving my husband the silent treatment when I was upset, that I had to change if I wanted to have a successful relationship. I had to be very careful who I let into my home, and into my life, because another person wouldn’t just affect me, they would affect my kids too.
Being a single mother forced me to get organized in ways I didn’t when I was married. It was a push to make myself realize I did have the capability to work hard, support my family, and believe I was worthy of having certain things. It made me start addressing the things from my past that were hurting me once and for all. I’d always ignored and pushed certain things away, pretending they didn’t affect me. But they did. And they’d affected my husband and kids. It made me realize I only had a certain amount of time and energy, and I wasn’t going to spend any of those precious resources on people or things that weren’t enhancing my life.
Getting a divorce was the most trying thing I’ve ever been through. But, it has also been a wonderful, transformative period in my life. I’ve grown and changed so much and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t realize what a huge gift it’s been.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.