Starting Over After Divorce

In this “over 35 “ club, we can all agree that there is no shortage of challenges. We face judgment, guilt, and difficulty finding acceptance at times. Why?  Three words:  Advanced Maternal Age. There is a stigma attached to waiting later in life to have babies. Though it is becoming more common, the fact remains that the risks of pregnancy complications and genetic abnormalities increase significantly with a mother’s age. Most people consider it selfish to knowingly endanger a pregnancy with such risk simply because you wanted to wait. Younger mothers, in my experience, judge harshly an older mother’s choices. I have heard “You won’t have the energy to fully enjoy your child” or “Why would you want to have such little time with your child?” and, of course, “Don’t you want grandchildren?” These perceptions and criticism instill additional mommy guilt that causes moms like me to cry alone in the bathroom.

Yes, I waited until later in life to have babies; waited until I was ready emotionally. I had no desire to be a selfish mom who wasn’t ready to devote my life, and myself, to my child or children. Yes, I suffered immeasurable heartache and loss in my personal journey that affected my journey to motherhood. But that pain isn’t something an unknowing stranger should be privy to. Why should I have to explain my choice? Inevitably, at the park, at story time in the local library, or in a group of moms, the question will arise, “How old were you when your daughter/son was born?” It is at this point that I begin to feel like the outsider-the freak-show attraction. Yes, I’m an older mom, but having a baby is a beautiful, selfless, miraculous choice of love at any age.

Being an older mom definitely has its challenges, but it wasn’t until I found myself 37 years-old, the mother of a precious 2 year-old baby girl and divorcing, that I faced an entirely new challenge. Making the decision to divorce and start over with a toddler made all other challenges pale in comparison.

I was a stay-at-home mom after having my daughter. That had always been the plan. I had spent the majority of the past two decades of my life making someone else’s dreams, goals, and career my priority.  It had never been my turn to realize my dreams and reach my goals. I was trying to finish my undergrad degree, further my goals and set a good example for my daughter. How was I going to do it? What was our future going to look like? Oh the guilt! The worry! I spent weeks following my decision to file for divorce crying in agony. I would sit and watch my little angel while she slept and think, “What have I done?” “Am I ruining your life?” I wanted only what was truly best for her because she was and is all that truly mattered. In the end, my decision was for a life free from tension and depravity for me and for her.

I resigned myself to wanting a quiet, man-free life in which I could raise my daughter in peace. Life with her-my way. But that wasn’t exactly what God had planned. I suppose He knew that I had no business doing this all on my own. He instead blessed me with someone who would support me without hindering my freedoms and would allow me to parent my daughter with a partner, not an adversary.

An old friend from high school, a single parent himself, who had survived a very nasty divorce and custody battle offered to be a friend, confidant, and mentor through my nightmare. My heart quickly opened to his understanding and caring ways, and I allowed him to be a friend that I could trust. There was really no cause to worry about it being more. His children were teenagers and he was on the path to reliving his youth and finding adventure. What would he possibly want with a now 38 year-old mom of a toddler who basically was a giant start-over scenario?

Turns out that I was wrong! He fell in love with me and he fell in love with my sweet girl too. She snuggled, giggled, and smiled her sweet little self right into his heart. She had found a safe place and a reciprocal love with a man who was an actual father figure and grew a relationship that she didn’t have with her own father. It was magical to watch and made my heart burst.

With similar parenting styles, a mutual understanding, and lots of love, we decided to move forward with “our” family. There were and still are hurdles. He wants weekends away, date nights, travel and adventure. His kids are teenagers and he wants a natural progression. I, on the other hand, want movie nights on the couch in our pjs and tons of family time and mommy snuggles. It has been a struggle to build a new relationship, all while still learning how to be a new mom and going through a difficult divorce. Even with unexpected challenges, there is that seemingly unreachable goal of balance that all moms strive for. So how do you achieve it? For me, for now, it’s One. Day. At. A. Time.

Love – Give – Be Present. It’s all you can do. Honor your heart and your choices and trust that there are reasons for what you do. Don’t think I don’t have to convince myself of this fact multiple times a day.  Each of us has a path to follow, whether it is predetermined or a series of our own choices. Own your place in the circle of motherhood and be proud of it! Just remember at the end of the day, if everyone you love feels loved, you have done your best.