• maestra

    Heather,
    I’ve been in your shoes for the past 18 months. In fact, my daughter Julia and Marlo are just days apart, and my my son Ethan and Leta are 6 months apart…how crazy-cool is that?
    I’d love to say it gets easier or betterer, but really it just gets differenter. The philosophy of the obvious is helpful, remembering that it is what it is. It seems so trite, but it’s true.
    You are an awesome mom, a great friend, a gifted writer and a marathoner. Life sucks sometimes and then it doesn’t.
    The one piece of advice I would like to give is to stay in the present. Turn off your phone and computer when you’re with the kids. Be there for them in the craziness of the moment, it will be amazeballs for all of you.
    Best to you mama..
    erin

  • CraezieLady

    I was a single parent once…truthfully, it’s pretty balls. I had to learn to keep a grip on my sanity in my own way. I learned a long time ago that the only thing that ever works for me is to do things my way.

    For instance, my kids don’t take me seriously as a parent. When they get on my nerves, I call them turds. They call me a turd right back and then we laugh. (Or sometimes only I do.)

    When one of them wants to have a morning meltdown, I just walk away and say, “Whatever. But whoever wants a ride to school this morning better be by the door in ten minutes.” Nine times out of ten, the melter-downer will come to me sniffling and say, “Can I still have that granola bar?” (or whatever they were freaking out about) and everything’s ok(ish).

    And sure, sometimes we forget stuff – correction, THEY forget stuff. Because I don’t check or pack backpacks, look for homework or water bottles or library books. If it’s important to them, they have to learn to do it themselves. I’ll give ‘em plenty of reminders, but I won’t do for them what they can do for themselves.

    Because I can’t – there are too many of them and only one of me. Heck, I’m not even washing their dishes any more! And they’re all between 5 and 9 years old (all FOUR of them!). My little one requires a little more help, but she does what she can for her age.

    And, most importantly, I have sanity, which benefits my kids a thousand times more than anything else I could ever do for them.

    Sometimes we chase each other around trying to smack each other on the bottom. It’s hilarious and impossible to be mad at each other while we play that game! I usually lose because I’m so outnumbered :)

    My husband says I’m a rotten example to them and that I’m teaching them to disrespect me when I play with them like that or let them call me a turd. But you know what I say to anyone who criticizes me?

    “Whatever, Cornhole.”

  • Squeetthang

    Keep your head up, Armstrong! You got this!! :) Hope next week is even better!

  • sebeckley

    Keep hanging in there! Things will get better.

    I don’t know if this is possible for you, but I found that when I plan for tomorrow the night before, my mornings are much, MUCH smoother.

    This means that (at any given time and not even all together, but at some point between coming home from work and going to sleep, I’ve done these things):
    -I pick out tomorrow’s clothes and lay them out (check the weather first)
    -I collect everything I will need for tomorrow (eg homework, plans for world domination) and put them in my bag or a bag, by the front door (check your calendar first)
    -I pack a lunch and put a post it note on the door that says LUNCH so i don’t leave without it (b/c it’s in the fridge). (if i blow the calendar and it’s an eat out day, it just means i have lunch for the day after)

    HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Even if you can only do one or two of these sometimes, it will make your morning livable.

  • Daddy Scratches

    “This week has been better.”
    It’s Tuesday, sister. Don’t be foolish. Making proclamations like that is an invitation for trouble. The Universe listens closely for such optimism, and will smack you down accordingly. Not that I know this from painful and repetitive experience.

  • Tme

    when I have these moments, I start singing the song from finding Nemo…”just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

  • jenwilson

    I really hope your week continues to improve.

  • LesleyG

    Hat and Sunglasses Days. Or that’s what I call them, anyway. You can’t hide from your life, of course, but I’ll be damned if I won’t hide from a day or three when things are sucking.

  • The Bold Soul

    You know what? Succeeding can actually look and feel an awful lot like floundering at times. The fact that you get up out of bed every morning when I know damn well you’d rather stay there with the blankets pulled over your head, and you take care of your kids and the dogs and deal with annoying stuff like internet outages is a HUGE success right now. Forgot some necessary school stuff along the way? So what. Not the end of the world (no matter what Leta might think about it). Cut yourself some slack, lady. You’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t in your new routine. You’re doing great.

  • lcarilo

    Oh, sweetie… It feels so good to know that my pain has friends out there. Scary shit we have to go through, right? Today’s glimmer in my nightmare – which also brings a whole new ball of wax of worry, my stubborn as hell-yet delight in every way possible senior high school daughter received college acceptance letter to her first choice school. When asked as a tiny girl what she wanted to be when she grew up she said, “I want to be a teacher, a ballerina and mommy.” She’s on her way… She’s going to be a wonderful teacher.

    Hang in there mom. *hope you don’t mind the tears shed while reading and writing here.

    Lil

  • Laurie

    One day at a time. Pretty sure one of these days you’ll be the beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes.

  • Issa

    It takes time. I know that sucks to hear, but it’s true. It took me six months to feel like I maybe was going to make it. Another three to feel like I had a handle on the whole kid wrangling/work/house life crap. And then a few more to feel like maybe I was even doing it well.

    You seem to be doing okay considering. Just keep moving forwards. Eventually it will get easier.

  • Monkey

    It does get easier. I say that remembering with shock that I managed to come out of those single parent days in one piece. The only thing that really helped me succeed as a single parent (other than my crazy ass survival skills, urban-Les Stroud-style) was the support system I had – great friends and family. Seriously, don’t turn away help even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on.

  • appelsauce

    I’m not a single mom, but my husband used to have a job that had him traveling every.single.weekend. And so on the weekend, I FELT like a single mother. Most people didn’t really get it. What’s the big deal? So you’re on your own 2 days a week. Other moms do it ALL THE TIME. But damn it, it was hard. I got better at managing it from a logistical standpoint, juggling 2 young kids and a dog who had to be taken on several walks a day, no excuses (no yard). But even as it got easier logistically, it never really got EASIER. The only thing that helped was to find other moms who knew what it was like: single moms, pseudo-single moms like me, moms whose partners were practically never there. That’s what helped. Solidarity. And beer when they were sleeping.

  • Plano Mom

    Hang in there. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but your mornings are normal. In spite of my best efforts, we always forget something at least once a week.

  • MsMegan

    It’s gonna suck for while, I imagine. Then it will get easier, whilst still sucking intermittently.

    But.

    You will survive it. Mostly because the girls will grow up and bloody well do things for themselves, but take what you can get.

    I’m sorry you’re hurting. But you’re here. Hang on to that, too.

  • waitimaprincess

    Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s the only advice I have. Well, that and don’t eat ramen noodles, pringles, and a snickers all within one hour. Because HOLY SHIT! (Yes, literally). Anyway, I’ve often found myself telling single friends that I admire them, their ability to actually show up to work on time when I’m struggling to do the same in a 2 parent household. This shit is hard. I think the short cuts and the modifications and things that make you say aha! I’ll do it like this…those are things you have to hang on to as well b/c you will have realized them on your own and you will have accomplished yet one more thing toward it all getting as much easier as it can.

    And I am officially rambling.

  • slinkerwink

    I remember those early days of the divorce between my parents, and those are the kind of memories that come back up with an emotional wrench to the heart whenever I think about that. I still have the memory of leaving my parents’ house with the station wagon all packed up, my tricycle in the back, and sitting next to my older brother and little brother in the middle seat as my father watched outside in the driveway with his hands on his hips, as we drove off with my mother to her parents’ house in South Texas. She sat up straight in that driver’s seat, chin up, and did not turn her head to look at my father. He’d cheated on her, and had broken her heart even though she’d known for a while she was unhappy in the marriage with him.

    We stayed at my grandparents’ that summer, and then I went off to boarding school at my deaf school in a different state at four years old. My mom took that entire year to deal with the divorce in South Texas, to go through counseling, and to get her life in gear. She applied to the university near my deaf school, and moved my two brothers up, got an apartment, and I was with them finally. Those years were tough, especially when my dad remarried to the person he’d had an affair with. I remember my mom crying, and how difficult my ex-stepmother made it for her to call us when we were at my dad’s because she’d hang up the phone on my mom.

    Despite those early difficult years, my brothers and I turned out great, because my mom was determined to make a better world for us, and to give us every opportunity to succeed. She read all those statistics about children with divorced parents, and decided we weren’t going to be those statistics. She’s an awesome mom, and she pulled through.

    So will you because you’re an awesome mom. Right now it’s tough, but you will adapt, get stronger, and do even better because you have Marlo and Leta as your guiding lights. Also, remember to ask for help when you need it, and you feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to take breaks every now and then. It’s okay to go away for a trip to get “you” time, and to leave your kids with your parents or relatives. You also need to take care of yourself. My mom did that whenever she got overwhelmed, and we’d go off to my grandparents’ for the summer, and we came back to a happy, newly re-charged Mom who was ready to kick ass into gear :-)

  • Bannod

    And we’re holding onto you.

  • vrcmama

    No parent, single or partnered, can make it work all the time. Ask for help. As a single parent you just learn to rely on a network of family and friends and very patient children who don’t mind eating a protein bar in the car on the way to school or spraying Febreeze on their clothes because mommy ran out of time to do the load of laundry with their school uniform in it. Of course I have a boy so smelling good isn’t a priority for him. Your girls may feel differently. Asking for help was the hardest part for me. I felt I had failed at my marriage so why let everyone see I was failing as a parent? I know now I wasn’t failing, raising a kid is just so dang hard! Hang in there.

  • sprogblogger

    I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you, wishing you well. Which sounds lame. And I know I’m just one out of a gazillion people saying & thinking that. So I wasn’t going to log in & comment, but then I figured that the only good thing about going through something horrible in full view of the entire blogging community is that, sometimes, people take the time to tell you that you’re in their thoughts, and that they wish things would get easier for you. So there it is. Thinking of you, and hoping things get easier, soon.

  • aurora1357

    Good luck. *hugs* I’m rooting for you.

  • Boni

    I spent 7 weeks in my pajamas, waking only to drop them off to school and pick them up before hiding out in the back of my house with a six pack and some smokes. I thought really, how long is this gonna last? Four years later . . .
    I can’t give you advice, I am not even equipped to advise myself sometimes. I can only hold your hand, and I am. I read Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking during these times. It gave me perspective of my grief. It still resonates.

  • Ashley2b

    Single momhood can just plain suck sometimes, especially when you’re running your own business. I, in a moment of insanity, decided to add grad school to the mix a year ago in addition to running a business and single mom’ing two kids. The only thing that maintains my sanity when I get overwhelmed is writing everything down. Even though I haven’t actually accomplished any of the million and five things I need to do, just seeing it out on paper and not swimming around in my brain waiting to get lost helps.

    Last night I even created a Morning Routine list in my reminders iPhone app. Everything from “make coffee” to “wake up the kids” to “take them to school” and “don’t forget their lunch” made it on the list. It was quite satisfying to check them each off too. :)

    Hang in there. It does get better.

  • Daisy

    “Better Daughter” by Rilo Kiley was the soundtrack to my life for about 6 months, like a darker version of “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel”. I hummed it all morning long….
    At my house the 2 year old stays in jammies till the last sprint out the door, he also gets breakfast in the car (cereal and fruit or trailmix) b/c you can’t get a 2 year old to do anything they didn’t decide for themselves….
    good luck, you’ll get a routine in place and it will be easier.

  • Tamara177

    You know, the underlying causes are different but the outcome and challenges feel exactly like the deployment cycle us military families go through. When a separation for deployment is imminent, studies and endless experience show that the couple fights more and more, until the unpleasantness makes the separation a relief. Then there is a period of shock. Then the parents, especially the working parents whose schedules have less flex, start to lose their mind. There are more requirements now, with the partner gone, and fewer hands to manage both those and any unforseen events. Gone are the days when you can text from a meeting running late to get dinner going or pick up a sick kid. Then there’s all the stuff the absent partner used to do that you need to learn. On your own. Then you get tired, which makes all those problems seem insurmountable. The deployed spouse is having their own challenges, but is off doing what they chose to do while you’re at home managing their load along with your own, and you are locked into the existing requirements at home with the kids while the deployed spouse is free to make a new schedule to meet their new world. Resentment sets in. Fatigue grows worse, again multiplying how terrible it all feels.

    But, then the first phase passes. You figure out how to make the new schedule work, adjust to the new normal, and get over your partners choices. The second phase is just like rolling down a hill. Getting to organize everything exactly the way you like it starts be very enjoyable. You grow to love your dictatorship. Not that you don’t miss your partner, but there’s no longer a hole in your life, just in your heart.

    The third phase, when they come home, is wonderful and miserable. Going back to a democracy sucks. They don’t fit. Eventually it sorts out.

    Silver lining: military families go through this over and over and over. And it sucks every time. Aren’t you glad that’s not you? :)

    Reading through all this, my story reads like a real bummer. But it’s not. The point is that I know some of what you are going through, and can assure you there is a clear and well-trodden path to the other side. The transition is the worst part. Worse, in my experience, than dreading it was before hand. But transition you will, and once the new normal becomes more entrenched, I always get over feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disgusted. I rather enjoyed feeling myself top that mountain, cram the Queenly dictator crown on top on my head, and start creating goals and efficiencies exactly to my desires.

    A deployment is not the same as what you’re going through, not even close. But hopefully the small similiarities will bring a sense of relief for at least a small part of the way ahead.

    best,
    Tamara

  • oliviaviola

    Tips: pack backbacks and lunches the night before. Snack and lunch content negotiations can occur without the pressure of the morning rush. You can even go so far as to put the backpack by the door or even in the car (I do this). Lay clothes for everyone (including you) out the night before. We only do non-toaster or other hot breakfasts on the weekend. I’m a SAHM, and try to do most of the dinner preparations after my lunch and during naptime. Makes things SO much easier.

  • Janie T

    Went through my mom and dad’s divorce when I was 6, my brother 2. Yes, there will be days like this, weeks like this, etc. Only now that I’m a mom, I can realize (some) of what my mom put up with and went through. Like @slinkerwink, I saw my mom become a much stronger person. Remember that your daughters will see this, too. You set the tone. I totally agree with your reader who suggested you get as much done/ready at night as possible. Have Leta have her homework/books/clothing ready for the next day. This helps her as much as you. Having a routine will help so much. You had one before, it’s just time for a new one! Good luck to you, dear! You can do it! Geez, you ran that marathon through all that drama, this is no different, right? : )

  • Ratatosk

    As mentioned in the other posts above — I get school stuff ready the night before. Anything that needs to go back to school gets put in the backpack and is ready to go.

    I have my clothes for the day picked out ‘cuz I can never decide in the morning. I also get up earlier than our child. I let the dog out, feed him, shower, pick out my son’s clothes, set out his breakfast. Wake him up. Feed him. Change his clothes, bathroom, teeth brushed, jacket and out the door.

    A couple years ago, we did do breakfast in the car to allow a little extra time for him to sleep, but I was forever digging poptarts out of the backseat and was afraid they’d attract rodents. :)

    I hate change and it takes me awhile to adjust to a new routine. Add to that my 8 year old “hoarder” who likes to dawdle — drives me nuts!

  • slappyintheface

    a box of wine to you my friend … if I could ship wine out of Oklahoma to Utah ;)

  • Rev Dr Mom

    Hugs…it WILL get easier. You WILL find a rhythm that will work for you and the girls.

    I spent more years as a single mom than I care to count…it is hard, but you adapt. One.day.at.a.time.

    And yes, I remember the tears at the most inconvenient and embarrassing times. But sometimes you just gotta cry, and then it will get better.

    It WILL get better. You are a great mom.

  • Barnmaven

    Oh,dear God those days. I had my share of them. I would love to tell you that it will get better and easier. It actually does – things still go just as horribly awry but you will have times when you cope with it better emotionally. And you will have times when you sit on the kitchen floor and eat a gallon of ice cream and polish off a bottle of wine with tears rolling down your face.

    It will be OK.

  • bsnebold

    I absolutely hate that this is happening to you.

  • filmlady

    I know. I went through all of it for ten years with two young kids, even though I had a husband. Each kid reached the age of four and separately asked me “Where does Daddy live?” Once I finished laughing hysterically, I… sorry, I got sidetracked.

    The bottom line is that it really sucks, but nothing can take away the precious times with those kids, even when they’re not being precious and your 2-year-old daughter makes a flying leap at the CVS counter display of chocolate santa lollipops and screams like you’re killing her as you haul her butt out of the store… um, sorry (again).

    You WILL get through this. You’re stronger than you know. And when you’re not, Ben and Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie ice cream does wonders. The entire pint in one sitting. It’s simply marvelous.

    And BTW, after 10 years of hell we went through mega-counseling to decide what to do about our craphole of a marriage. It’s hard to believe now, but we came out the other end, intact, and just celebrated our 25th anniversary. My own personal happy ending. I can’t imagine life without him now. I wish the same for you, if that’s what’s in the cards. And if it isn’t, you’ll still make it, and your daughters will grow up understanding just how strong a woman can be.
    Many hugs.

  • hands that heal

    I don’t think you should have to apologize or minimize the impact that being suddenly responsible for the girls’ entire morning routine is having on you. It isn’t like you’re doing it because your spouse has other work commitments. You’re doing it ALONE in the most stressful circumstances possible. I know from my current marital circumstances how god awful mornings are. Give yourself a break and permission to fuck it up in the beginning– so you forgot Leta’s library books or a permission slip this week. Do your girls feel less loved by you? Answer no to that question every day and you, my friend, are doing great. That’s all they really need from you right now, is to feel as loved as ever no matter what is going on with you and Jon. It sounds like you’ve got that part covered.

    ps- sometimes the kindest thing I can do for myself to tackle the morning routine is setting my coffee maker the night before.

  • The K Spot

    Girl, I know it sucks. Fortunately, as early on as you both are in the separation process, you are seeing the patterns of the day already and are adjusting for it. Small steps. Seeing that it’s best to get the dogs out first and then getting baby, believe it or not is a great coup. You are relying on yourself already, not collapsing in a heap. You are adjusting and doing it quickly. Be proud. It’s challenging but you are doing well. Well, well enough, world domination comes later. Perfection is something that is unattainable. Lower your standards, make sure the kids are set for their day with everything they need…if you need to prep that the night before, take the 5 mins from your exhaustive schedule and just do it. You’ll thank yourself the next day when you are not driving back and forth to retrieve what you’ve forgotten. And breathe. I’ve been in your shoes and I can tell you with confidence that if it doesn’t work out with you and John and you find yourself doing this by yourself, someday, someday you will actually enjoy how you have arranged things for yourself and your girls. You are going to be fine.

  • Pamela504

    I wish I had something to offer. All I could come up with is this: http://media-cdn.pinterest.com/upload/160581542933035202_LBMlX7ty.jpg

  • Just Julie

    what Hands That Heal & The K Spot said. reread both their comments in the days/times to come. No more sage advice could possibly be said. To the point, without any whinny drama stories tacked on.
    All the women who are commenting on this latest scenario either have been there/done that, or wish/want to be. Not all of us are in supportable marriages. Just haven’t had the chance, or the cojones to make a change. There’s really nothing new under the sun, as the bible tells us so.

  • kabeilfuss

    You WILL find your groove and the days will flow easier. You WILL figure out what works for you and the girls. It takes a little time, and there might be hurdles along the way, but then you can reflect back and be so proud of yourself! Might I suggest a pair of Wonder Woman PJs – not only are they slightly retro and cute (if they happen to be worn when dropping the kids off at school), but they also make you feel tough and powerful when you need a little extra boost of confidence.

  • swolfe

    The wise advice given to me (that three years later I can appreciate) was “no matter what the outcome, you will be okay.” This came from a friend who also told me that I may not like what may come from my separation, but I had to know that I would be okay. Reading about your morning sounded a lot like mine, only my husband was still in the house with us, but during that time I was still a single mom. The mistake I made was I brought it on myself to be superwoman to try to impress him thinking it would bring him back, and what I regret about that time was not taking better care of myself or even making myself a priority. If there is anything in your life that could possibly slow down or placed on the back burner, do it. If there is something you need for you, do it. No matter what the outcome, you will be okay.

  • Coyote

    This evokes such memories for me. When I got divorced, I had 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 11. I single-parented them for 17 years, until my youngest moved out. Because I was so broke, I couldn’t afford any kind of household help or babysitters or counseling, but somehow it all worked out, despite the fact that I am most assuredly not Superwoman.

    We were a team, and we all worked together to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

    I’d give anything to relive those wonder-filled days and years with my precious progeny. May you be surrounded with love, and may your blessings abound.

  • Carol Ann

    Can’t understand this, you guys seemed so absolutely in love. This shouldn’t be happening. I hope with all my heart that this arrangement isn’t permanent and everything will sort itself out sooner rather than later. You had something extraordinarily special.

    PS the February masthead of the ominous clouds is, well, ominous. Here’s hoping next month’s will reflect the quirky happy Dooce we love …

  • appelsauce

    @filmlady,
    Your post made me laugh (and tear up a little), but even more, I am impressed with your story! Good for you for sticking with it and working out the kinks in your marriage!

  • jessiCat

    Hang in there, sister. It gets better. When I became the single mom of a 2 year old six years ago? I freaked out. I had to potty train a BOY. Eek. Trust me, you will find your new routine and it will start flowing smoothly. Not every day, but most of the time. Someone before me said to plan your day out the night before (clothes, lunches, bags etc…) and I can’t agree more. That REALLY helps!! Hugs and Love!! You got this!

  • greenkat

    Love you, Heather. Seems like your head is where you need it to be, with your daughters’ best interest.

  • kellygo

    It takes a while to get your sea legs, that’s for sure. What helps me as a single mom is obsessively making lists and doing as much as possible when the kids are asleep or in school. You got this. You can handle it. You just have to find a quiet moment to think it through. It took me a few months after my separation before the panic died down and I felt like the capable bad-ass I know I am. You’ll get there.

  • Number 99

    Heather – after 14 years of marriage to a man who WAS. NOT. GONNA. CHANGE., I left in September of last year. Hardest thing I have ever had to do. Ever. But, I’m still gone, and I’m looking forward and at 43 (in 15 days, not that I’m counting), I am so hopeful that SOME of the things I have always wanted in life are possible. The only advice I can give you is ALWAYS remember that you deserve to be happy. And take time for you. Sometime during each day – even if it is just five minutes to gaze skyward and appreciate the beauty of this world – take a pause. Just be. Relax. Feel your breath. Know that you are alive. And that life will go on. It’s OK to be sad, mad, hurt, disoriented, confused, afraid – all of that. But it’s also OK for you to have hope. Allow yourself a few minutes each day to realize hope and beauty and happiness. You are not alone. Sending hugs – Lizzie

  • meganithappen

    Dear Dooce –
    I’m a long time reader and rare commentor, and I’m not sure you even read all of these, but I want to let you know that even though we’ve never met, this thing called the internet has got me thinking about you more often than is probably normal to admit. Two other girlfriends and I follow you and we’ve all collectively said to one another: “Did you read Dooce? Oh man, I hope she’s doing okay. Let’s send good vibes her way.”

    All that to say that you have, on a day to day basis, proven that even in life’s darkest days there are reasons for living. Some of those reasons include hoarding toddlers. SOme of them include a fan base of readers who are behind you every step of the way.

    Much love to you from Montana. (The OTHER coldest place this side of the Mississippi.)

  • virtualcarly

    There is no shame in crying to tech support. I’ve wept into my lap as several ski patrol stood behind, waiting for me to pick my ass up and ski down the final hundred feet to the lodge because I was the LAST person on the entire mountain. I’ve burst into tears during savasana in a yoga class. And I guess I share those just to say, you’re not alone when that final straw is laid at the most awkward time. Or rather, when you absentmindedly surface from that water and then that pressure that was holding you together, holding the walls you build around your heart and head every day together, is gone. And those walls, they start to crumble.

    You will get better and better at this as you figure out all the little tricks. Give yourself credit for the small victories. You deserve it.

  • sabina

    @slappyintheface, you made me laugh. ‘A box of wine to you, my friend.’ That truly does seem an appropriate sentiment for many people I know right now. I’ll make sure you get a cut when I print up t-shirts (just kidding, but that’s my new favorite saying).