I was blindsided. I did not see this coming. Sure, we had our issues, but I was not prepared for the volcano that would erupt and continue to overflow for a solid decade. I was a stay-at-home mom. I was focused on raising my 18-month-old baby when my husband dropped the bomb that he wanted to get a divorce and began to pack his things to leave the home we built together. The first question I had was,"What did I do wrong?" I was sleep-deprived, but I was meeting my baby's needs without help and figured that was quite the accomplishment. It is amazing how a trauma can suddenly wake you up in a jolt! Prior to the divorce, I was lucky in the sense that my biggest worry was, "What is the best diaper to buy?"
All of a sudden, I was in a new state of panic as I had to ask myself, "How am I going to feed my baby and keep a roof over our heads?" I was clueless, but fortunately, the clouds above my head lifted as I was offered a position at a local community center where I served as a volunteer. A year and a half later, I was let go. I recall looking up to the heavens asking again, "What did I do wrong?" I had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel, only for it to return to darkness and despair. It appeared the universe had other plans for me. On a whim, I decided to use my unemployment money to start up a private practice. At that point, I honestly felt as if my angels showed up, as every courageous yet frightening step I took led me to somehow receive another client. To this day, I call it a miracle! I was able to keep my precious child and start a business that no one thought I could stay afloat for a day, let alone the last four decades or so.
So now you might be asking . . . Why the rollercoaster reference? Well, you start off with anticipation,worry, and fear.
You question every choice you make, like when you are waiting in a very long line for a rollercoaster ride that you have to talk yourself into every few minutes or so.
Once on the ride, you have to hold on for dear life as it twists and turns your fragile, human body. You feel as if the ride will never end, and even when it does, you are left with this sickening feeling in your stomach. I call this ride, "divorce."and it has several stages that require processing as well as learning life lessons.
So, what are these life lessons, and how can we establish a new hope as single or remarried parents?
1. There are no guarantees in life. Spouses leave. Jobs end. Friends fade away. Be ready for the ups and downs that life brings you to teach you to grow.
2. Learn to rely on yourself, and in that process, you will be learning how to love and care for yourself.
*After I experienced 5 different losses within eighteen months, I learned that hitting rockbottom has the benefit of pushing you to face your fears all at once. Yes, the process can be terrifying, but the reward is being able to rise from the ashes.
3. Trust comes first from trusting yourself. Trusting others will then follow.
4. Being a better parent to yourself will allow you to be a better parent to your child. Self-care is crucial before, during, and after a divorce!
5. There is no perfect way of reacting to a divorce. It is important, though, to see the big picture.
6. It is okay for you and your children to feel the pain and grief of divorce while learning and growing together.
*For me, my first response was shock. Then came the emotion of fear, and finally, my anger empowered me to move forward with the tasks at hand, one of which was the actual divorce. The other was to teach my daughter that she was entitled to her emotions and responses to the changes occurring around her. I was not afraid to allow my daughter to see me being imperfect during this time. I did not want to hide how I was feeling because I knew that my daughter would grow up learning to avoid her feelings if we did not make it a part of our daily routine. I wanted to normalize that we would have good days and bad days so she would know that no matter what,we would keep going.
7. Remember that you are the roots from which your children branch. How a parent reacts, i.e.,hopeless or hopeful, will directly affect the children's response to the divorce. (A stable parentDOES make a difference.)
8. Parents will need a "village" to stabilize themselves first before taking on their children's needs.Surround yourself with people going through this process as well as people that genuinely care for your well-being and the well-being of your children. It might be difficult to identify the people to keep in your circle.
*I was fortunate in that my mother took a very significant role in my daughter's life as well as my life during this difficult time. If my daughter was sick and could not go to daycare, I could call my mother early in the morning, and she would rush to my house to be there. This allowed me to avoid missing a day of work to be able to support myself and my child. I did not have many people around me that I could trust, especially with my child. Due to financial issues, I managed to bring in a roommate who was a dear, trustworthy friend in need who stayed with my daughter and me for many years. I was working two jobs to make ends meet, so the rest of the time was dedicated to my child, and it was difficult to develop a "village" outside of my mother and my roommate. But I am forever grateful for all that they contributed emotionally and financially to us.
9. Be aware that as an adult, you have some power over the outcome of your divorce and its effects, while your children are powerless.
10. In hindsight, you will be amazed by how courageous you were in this process, and you will learn who you really are.
My book, My Parents Are Getting a Divorce . . . I Wonder What Will Happen to Me, is the legacy that I give to myself, my daughter, and all who are going through or have already experienced the roller coaster ride of divorce.
My book serves as a healthy, creative, safe place for children to explore and process their feelings by initiating discussion, as well as discovering the power of self-affirmation and drawing.
Another unique layer of the book teaches parents as well as other professionals (i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, mediators, lawyers, etc.) to better understand the emotions and needs of each individual child who utilizes this book, without applying their biased viewpoints and/or influence.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.