Broken American Dream #1: Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I’m a mother.

Tomorrow, I know, is going to be like any other day.

If you’re a lucky mother, who arranges the nice stuff for you? You got it. Dad does. The father of your children, your husband who lives with you and gets your subtle (or not so subtle) hints about special treatment.

When you’re divorced, and live alone with little children like I do, there’s nobody to take the burden off.

Nobody to treat you to dinner.

Nobody to pick out gifts that the kids can put their names on.

Nobody to make toast and tea while you sleep in.

It’s Mother’s Day, alright. Mother’s Day to do everything, just like always.

No one will be giving me flowers like these

No one will be giving me flowers like these

My first Mother’s Day after the separation, I was a mess. I knew my soon-to-be-ex-husband wouldn’t lift a finger, so I did exactly what I wanted. I bought flowers to plant and dinner takeout from my favorite Mexican place, because, hey, mom shouldn’t have to cook on Mother’s Day, right? Even if she is divorced.

When I picked up my kids that evening (the ex was still on short, supervised visits at this point), I handed him the receipts from the flowers and Mexican and told him I’d gone ahead and bought my own Mother’s Day present, thank you very much. In fairness, he did pay me back for the flowers. The Mexican takeout ended up being my treat to me.

Last year, my first as a fully divorced woman and my second since my ex-husband moved out, I was upset that my ex hadn’t done anything or even mentioned Mother’s Day. In an infantile move, I blocked texts from him for a few hours to disconnect. I’m pretty sure I was checking my phone every three minutes to see if I’d gotten any Happy Mother’s Day! texts, and my teen-like neediness made me sick. The phone blocking move was an attempt to save myself from me. However, I ended up missing a text from my ex wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, and telling me to go look for a card in my mailbox.

Sometimes my anger has consequences. Sometimes, divorced or not, I can be petty and pissy.

Later that night I did get the message–after a day of stewing, no less–and found a greeting card and a gift certificate to my favorite massage place inside. That was nice. I have not blocked his number since, although I do turn off my phone sometimes to keep from checking Facebook like a maniac.

This year, Mother’s Day will include a picnic with my mother (and father, probably). I told my mom I’d bring lemonade and sandwiches to the park.

Today, my own mother informed me that my brother and his two children are joining us, and that I should make enough food for everyone.

Really? On Mother’s Day I’m required to feed my brother and his family, too?

Being a divorced woman, there’s no husband to roll my eyes at, or to gently suggest that since it’s Mother’s Day he might make all the sandwiches. Nope, the job is mine.

My brother, a nice enough guy, is a stoner who never lifts a finger. It’s not surprising, then, that I get stuck with most familial duties. Predictable, but still disappointing. I thought tomorrow, of all days, would be my day to have sandwiches made for me. Not so after a divorce. Yet another reminder that it’s a party of one in my house.

Last weekend was my birthday and I already got into a text and email war with my ex-husband about that. In short, I was upset that he did not wish me a happy birthday when he saw me at our kid exchange, and hurt that he didn’t help the kids buy me a present.

I was trying to let it go until I tucked Big Brother in that night and, as per our nightly ritual, I remarked that I was thankful I got to spend my birthday with him.

My son looked up at me, confusion in his wide, brown eyes, and said, “But we didn’t do anything special, and there wasn’t even cake. It doesn’t feel like a birthday.” Those words broke my already broken heart.

I know, son, I know, I thought. After I tucked him in and turned out the light, I sent an email with “I” statements (hurt, sad, etc.) to my ex-husband.

I wanted an apology, a reason, a realization. I wanted him to wake up and not be so distant, cold, and uncaring. Why I expect more after all of these years says something about my need for more therapy.

My ex responded to these texts defensively, with no acknowledgement of my feelings. I fired back, he got mad, and then demanded that I apologize for hurting his feelings. I ended it there. And I did not apologize. I’m still pretty upset about the way that went.

Needless to say, I haven’t had enough energy left after that bout of non-marital sparring to get worked up about mother’s day, but I do feel a heaviness on my shoulders.

Parenting after divorce, or being a single mom, is hard.

So terribly, agonizingly, hard.

You do the work of two parents but only have the financial resources, time, energy, know-how, and love of one mom. Tonight, I mowed my lawn in the dark, because that’s when I had time.

Being a single mom is exhausting, and sometimes I cry myself to sleep.

I cry because I miss the feel of arms wrapped around me as I fall asleep.

I cry because I don’t know how long I can do this constant juggling.

I cry because I feel there’s never enough of me to go around.

I cry because I’m lonely, and frustrated, and I’m not quite sure how my life ended up like this.

Mother’s Day might be another time I work myself to the bone during the day and then cry myself to sleep.

Or it might be lovely.

I realize Mother’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday, and made up, but I still care. I live in a Hallmark world and I want toast in bed and a foot rub, darn it.

But, as in the rest of my divorced life, I will have to figure tomorrow out alone.

And that’s lonely.

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11 thoughts on “Broken American Dream #1: Mother’s Day

  1. It does sound like a sad Mother’s Day, but think of how crappy it would be if you were still married to him and all his addiction crap. I think you’re forgetting how utterly horrific and draining it is to live with an alcoholic and addict. My alcoholic husband showed up at the house Friday after a four day binge out of the house, cursing at me in front of our 4 yr old all evening. Then this morning he screamed and cursed and picked a fight to sneak out to the deli and get a beer. He came with us to brunch and made me cry at the restaurant bc he’s just so evil and unappreciative. No words of apology, of appreciation, not even a card. My poor four year old says she is angry when he is, in her words, “not being good.” I’ve made the decision to divorce, finally. I’ve finally accepted he will not get better and my kid deserves a good life. I applied and got into law school, which begins in August. I’m taking him to child support court on Wednesday, then custody next month. Then I can get a quick divorce completed by August. Don’t feel bad if your ex isn’t being nice to you. Addicts are selfish people, and that’s why he’s your ex. He will never live up to your standards and you are worth so much more than an unfulfilled marriage with someone in love with a substance. Even if you are sometimes lonely, at least it’s more peaceful than the days of being lied to your face and worrying about vodka bottles and drugs hidden in the house. Embrace being alone bc you are able to do what so many women are too terrified to ever do: leave an addict and persevere.

    • Thanks for sharing. I could not agree more… yet it is still sad and hard not to want a special day where someone else cares about you. I think that is what we are all ‘lacking’…someone to care about us for a change.
      I have been with the children alone for about 3 years now, struggling to make it, taking on 4 and 5 jobs at a time to pay the bills. When I was with my husband I threw him a surprise 30th birthday party, and then a 40th party too. I guess I was hopeful he would do the same back. He had two of my friends over to our condo for my ‘surprise 30th party’…which he planned for the day before my sons First Communion at 7am…it was miserable trying not to drink too much and have a good time at midnight with my friends who came over just for me, but knowing I’d be up at 5:30 in the morning with all 3 kids to get ready and get to church alone (my husband is not Catholic, nor would even come). Needless to say I was happy he made effort, but so frustrated at his ‘planning’ and later wondered if he even did that on purpose.
      Now in about 3 weeks is my 40th and there is not a day that goes by I don’t think and fantasize about him still coming through and gathering my friends to have a surprise party. It’s will never happen and is rediculous to even think such a thing. The guy can’t even give me money every month, contact his mom or dad on their birthdays, or even call his own kids for theirs!
      I will not have a party and I am sure he will not call or even wish me a happy birthday as the last several years. That is ok. You are right…I don’t have to deal with all the drunk behavior anymore and that is why I am not living with him. Thank God I can go to sleep at night and not worry about what he is doing, what time he’ll start waking up the kids and messing with them, or if he’ll leave the toaster oven on and start a fire, etc. I will find happiness in the peace and freedom I have now on my 40th!
      Thank you for listening…I find so much comfort on this site. Even more than my local Al-Anon groups. I pray for all of you!

      • Wow, I’m so glad I’m not the only one with unmet (and ridiculous!) birthday fantasies. Thanks for reading and sharing. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

  2. I too lived the 28 year marriage with forgotten birthdays, mother’s day, anniversary and valentines days. There was always a ridiculous lie to look forward to from him. Writerlyone, I get that it’s sad to feel forgotten or unappreciated, I know the feeling of depending on only yourself and not being able to have a little breathing room with a participating, caring partner, BUT your breathing room is his absence. You have breathing room because you are no longer worried, in panic, wondering, waiting, being disappointed, hurt, lied to, suspicious, looking for bottles, wondering if he can make it home in one piece, no longer on the receiving end of phone calls from the police, emergency personnel, jail, hospital or his employer, cleaning up his mess in the bathroom, you are no longer tossing and turning because you can’t sleep, your emotions are no longer out of control which makes you unable to really focus and care for yourself and your children, you know how much money is in the checkbook and on the credit card without having to check the balance to see where he stopped, you no longer watch his footsteps to see if he will make a small stumble as he is telling you he hasn’t been drinking, you aren’t looking for beer or vodka bottles in his vehicle, you don’t have to worry about him taking a keepsake family piece of jewelry you were given for him to pawn for money for alcohol, no more DUI’s and fees, no more insurance being canceled and you being penalized for his DUI by having to drive him for 90 days……….breath girl, you’ve got this.

    • What an accurate excerpt from my life and so many others I am sure. My husband has been sober a year. He has sober more than drunk the 16 years we have been together but it goes in cycles and am always waiting for the layoff to trigger it as was the last trugger or whatever other difficulty comes his way. There is always, well I wouldn’t have done that if this didn’t happen to me. Always the victim of himself. My kids are 11 and 14 now. Old enough to know the dry drunk he is, angry. Even the alcoholic that hasn’t had a drop to drink is always an alcoholics. Those mindsets don’t change. Drunk or not.

    • Oh dear, that’s exactly how I’ve lived for the past 2.5 years. Literally. I’m so relieved that he is out of our life. I’m lonely and crying a lot because he’s completely gone, but who the hell needs his abuse? Not me. And my kid is happier these days, too. I’m glad I read this blog again today. It stopped my daily crying spell for now.

  3. Stopped by in the first time in too long and this is a sad, brave, beautiful post. You deserve foot rubs and toast in bed on Mother’s Day and your birthday. I have hated Mother’s Day for my own reasons and in my own self-pity I didn’t see that you could use friends to step up and remind you how much we value, admire, and appreciate all the work you do mothering your boys, so much of it on your own. It takes a village yadda yadda, but really, it does, and it’s good for your boys to have adults in their lives show them what it means to be grateful to their mom. I know it will always hurt though that it doesn’t come reliably from your co-parent. It’s just sad. Hoping today is a good day, or at least an ok one, and sending you peace and hugs!

  4. For some reason this popped into my mind and I realized I haven’t seen anything posted in a long time. Hope you are okay and doing well! I know the life of the constant struggle of dealing with the addict ex.

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