Christmas has just passed, and it’s the sixth one I have celebrated without my ex. In many ways, it is the same as it has always been. In fact, it was a shock to me when I realized that his departure from my life didn’t change things all that much. Apparently, I had been the one making things happen without really thinking about it. It’s funny how much clarity you gain in retrospect, isn’t it?
Christmas Meant Busyness
I used to be way more organized than I am now—maybe because I used to convince myself that everything had to be perfect. Or maybe it was because I was a younger, stay-at-home mom, more focused on running my home. Either way, my organizational skills were legendary.
I tried to have my shopping done by the end of October so that I could concentrate on baking and decorating through November and December. Our finances were incredibly limited, so I made it stretch as far as possible. A lot of people don’t recognize just how stressful it can be to maintain a family on a very limited income. I planned outings and times where we could create memories for the kids. I bought presents, made holiday meals, hosted parties, and circled dates on the calendar for those Christmas specials that everyone watches. Since my ex was in retail, he wasn’t home much during the holidays because of the long hours. It wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t around then—it was a fact of life.
My holidays now are busy, too. But it’s a different kind of busy. We still do the majority of those things (although Christmas shopping is more likely to be last-minute). I generally have a lot of work in December, so I am typing away on my computer right up until Christmas Eve. This year I decorated the house a bit more—as opposed to just having the kids put up a tree—and I have to say it felt really good. I feel like I have turned a corner and am merging who I was with who I am.
I’m ready for that.
I Orchestrated It All
But it wasn’t just Christmas. Over the past five years, I rarely had a moment when I thought, oh wow—the ex used to handle this for me.
By rarely, I mean never.
Some of it is that I got remarried pretty quickly, so the household repairs I had to do myself were limited. However, the ex didn’t do a lot of repairs, so I am not sure it made a big difference. At one point, I tried to list all the ways he'd contributed to our family, and all I could put down was his income. The combination of his income and my ability to stretch a dollar meant that I got to stay home with the kids and homeschool. Needless to say, I managed most things at home. I taught classes, chose the curriculum, handled discipline, and fixed boo-boos...not to mention kept up the house.
I did it all. When you add in all of the fixing I did to cover up his narcissistic blunders, it was an overwhelming amount of responsibility.
When he left, and I took over the job of providing, I did have to adjust priorities. I tried to continue homeschooling for two years, but my kids were starting to fall behind. I found a local charter school that I liked (a charter school is a juxtaposition of a private and a public school here in Texas). I didn’t want to do it, but enrolling them was the only option I had.
My house is no longer as clean as it used to be, and I am no longer as organized. Cleaning has taken quite a hit, actually. It’s what I do when I am not working, spending time with family, or taking a break—in other words, almost never. My priorities got reworked quite a bit following the divorce. God still comes first, but church attendance has dwindled. Family is next, and these days I include myself in "family" instead of adding myself as a separate category at the end of the list. Now, the end of the list includes career, then friends (unfortunately), cleaning, and church activities.
It’s very different from how it used to be, but it’s because I am working, not because the ex left a hole in our lives.
Are You Holding It Together?
Before my divorce, one of my fears was that there would be a huge hole in my life where he had been. Things wouldn’t get done; I wouldn’t be able to handle the household on my own; life would be unbearably hard. You know what I am talking about. I’m sure you’ve felt that way, too.
Well, truth be told, his leaving caused only a tiny ripple in our lives, as I realized I’d been doing it all anyway. If your ex provided more support at home, your experience might be very different from mine.
With my ex, I created the family I wanted, and he stood back and let me. Maybe I was too controlling in what I did, maybe he was too willing to be an outsider in our lives, or maybe it was a combination of the two. I do know that I begged him to be more involved.
My current husband is more involved. He plans things like Six Flags outings and movies. He has the kids help him with chores. And they learn from him. My ex was a one-man show whether he was mowing the lawn or changing the oil. My current husband shows the kids how, and then lets them help or lets them do it. The result is that I feel more like he and I are a team, rather than I am a woman with a very tall extra child.
My fears were just that—fears. Staying together for the sake of the kids is never a good idea, either. Looking back, I can see that I stayed for the wrong reasons.
Are you afraid of leaving because you think you won’t be able to handle all of the responsibility? Maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you are actually the one holding it all together. You may be surprised to find that your life doesn’t change significantly once he’s gone. Well, other than the huge drop in stress.
If you’ve already been through a divorce, did you find this to be true or did your ex leave a huge hole when he left? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
You know, talking to others who have been in your shoes is empowering. Join First Wives World today and be part of a group who knows exactly what it feels like to be where you are.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Buffalo Outdoor Center