Oh, the single months… Where do I begin?
Being in a relationship for 9 years and for almost my entire 20’s meant that I was never really a single adult. I missed the bar scene because I met my Ex when I was 19 and had my son when I was 22. Then, I missed the whole “dating app” craze because I was busy being married and taking care of babies. Suddenly, I was a single 28-year-old… with two kids and a new life. I had no idea what to expect. Being a single mom sounded like a daunting task but at least I was familiar with motherhood. On the other hand, being a single woman was something totally foreign to me. I have never doubted my ability to be a great mom, but a great “single lady” – what exactly does that entail?
First, I had to reset and rebuild. Remember all of the “stuff” that I left behind during the divorce? A lot of it had to be replaced. Fortunately, I received a payout for the estimated equity that I had invested in the family home, so I did have some extra cash to get my new place up and running. This was the fun part; I got to furnish and fill my entire apartment with things that I loved! New couch, new TV, new bunk beds for the kids, new kitchen stuff, new everything! For those of you who know me well, know that I love new stuff. I wouldn’t call myself materialistic, but I’m the type of person who gets excited about trying out a new type of Windex (yes, seriously). New stuff is awesome and exciting! Just having a fresh start was so nice. After I set up the new apartment, I brought the kids home from a weekend at their dad’s house. They had helped me pick the apartment out, but this was the first time that they got to come “home.” They pretty instantly felt at ease and within a few weeks, we had all settled in. Our little house…just us three.
Our family time during my single months was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be. They were with their dad 41% of the time (due to his work schedule), so after I had a few days with the kids, I would have some time to clean-up and prep for when they came home again. I felt like I could finally be the best version of their mom that I had ever been. I was rested, calm, at peace with my life, and I truly treasured the time I had with them. The weight that I thought I alone was carrying during my marriage, seemed to have been lifted from their shoulders as well. We all got into a rhythm pretty quickly and the kids were happy and adjusting well to the new schedule.
The nights were harder than the days. The first reason is actually pretty cute now that I am able to reflect on it. My daughter had just found her voice and her imagination blossomed. This is a good thing, of course, but sometimes I just wanted the busy day to come to an end. I would read them bedtime stories and lay on the bottom bunk with L while my son passed out almost immediately on the top bunk. L would spend the next hour telling me “bedtime stories” and other riveting 3-year-old facts. Did you know that giraffes have long necks because they love eating fish, and their necks allow them to put their heads REALLY DEEP in the river so that they can catch salmon? Yeah, neither did I… After she finally fell asleep, usually mid-sentence, I would sneak out of their room and watch a show or two.
This was my “me” time, and I really enjoyed it, but it led to the hard part. My bedtime. I am a huge scaredy cat. Not only was being alone at night weird because I hadn’t been alone in ages, but it was actually scary being the only adult in the house. Ghosts, goblins, serial killers, a tree branch scratching on the window; you name it, it was coming for me between 10pm to 6am. I guess I know who my little one got her imagination from 😉 Although I knew deep down that the kids and I were in no real danger, I had many sleepless nights in the apartment. Aside from the spookiness, I felt like I had the single mom thing down. But the single (kid-free) life – that was a whole different story.
My desires for my single life were as follows: Workout, focus on me, work hard, reconnect with friends, make new friends, enjoy alone time, and figure out my new 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans. I was going to focus on my relationships with my girlfriends, my counselor, and myself. Brunch with the ladies was my favorite all-day (every other Sunday) event. I did NOT want to settle down anytime soon, but seeing what was out there wouldn’t hurt, right? Let me just say, dating apps are a black hole. The swiping is addictive and the thrill of having no obligation or strings attached was actually too much for me.
I learned a very important lesson in my single months that I somehow missed during my 9-year relationship with my Ex. The lesson was… Marriage is a safe place. I knew I had a partner, someone who I could depend on, and lean on. But what I didn’t realize was that marriage (at least mine) acted as an invisible barrier to drama, energy vampires, people with bad intentions and a barrier to learning the hard way in general. I realized that because I trusted my Ex and my friends, I had a tendency to trust everyone. Being married for the majority of my 20’s had made me quite naive. I thought everyone was friendly and genuine, like me. I thought all guys were supposed to be respectful and kind-hearted like my Ex. Well, I was wrong. Being single exposed me to all types of people. People who literally did not care if they ever texted me back again after they looked into my eyes and said, “I will text you tonight!” People who exploited my sincerity, took my kindness for granted, and walked all over me; even made up lies about me. I was kind of in shock. These were adults? Adults act like this?
After that rude awakening, I learned pretty quickly that trust and friendship are gifts that should only be given to people deserving of them. People in their 30’s… parents of toddlers for crying out loud, could be backstabbing wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.
*Speaking of wolves in sheep’s clothing, if anyone wants to learn a little more about manipulative people and how to protect yourself against them, check out George Simon’s book, “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People.” It is a little dry, but a total eye-opener. It goes into the tactics that people use to manipulate others, and trust me, everyone has at least a few manipulators in their life.*
I learned that I had to ease into relationships with men and women alike. I learned that people like drama, and don’t really care who they hurt when getting their fix. Women could be fake and manipulative just to make themselves feel better when they were unhappy with their own lives. Ew. EWW. I also learned that my marriage with my Ex was boring – in the best possible way. People could be messy and complicated and downright mean, and I didn’t notice because of the marriage bubble I had lived in for almost a decade.
I decided that I was going to take a little break from meeting new people and focus on me and the kids. They were my new safe place. But just when I was about to hang up my social butterfly wings, I saw him…