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I am sitting on my bed with my hands tucked safely under my thighs, listening to my parents spit words at each other they can’t take back. When they do this I sometimes scream, too, or cry, or both. The only time they’re not fighting is when they aren’t in one another’s presence.


I like it better this way, when they aren’t around each other, when I don’t have to tip toe or wonder what’s going to come next.

When I get older I swear to myself I’m never going to be with anybody I don’t want to be with just because I have kids. I swear to my mom I won’t stay as long as she did and I ask her often why she did. She always said I could never understand why until I had my own kids.

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She was right.

 

 

My relationship started out rocky with an accidental pregnancy at 20, one of us with a hot temper, the other with ever-changing moods, and both of us with the kind of stubbornness that doesn’t listen to reason.

It may sound typical – temper and mood swings – but I assure you it wasn’t. The temper involved saying things to the extreme with no memory of even saying afterwards. The mood swings involved never knowing which version you would get but always hoping for the best version because when it was good it was bearable and when it was bad it was chilling.

Most people at our young age wouldn’t have made it past this part, past the first few years where we were figuring out our new identities as parents, trying to keep the peace, trying to be a couple when only one of us wanted to be a couple and the other was unwilling to try.

Most people would not be willing to allow themselves to be treated the way we treated each other, but we thought we had no option but to stay together for the kid. When we fought I was cold and he was mean. It didn’t matter. We stayed together for the kid.

My husband’s parents married young and in love and still were. My parents were hateful and divorced when I was six. I think we were both fighting to beat that inevitable failure that wasn’t really a failure at all. It would take a long time for us to understand that.

We had succumbed to the idea that we had to make it work, and as the frequency of the tempers got better and the moods less extreme and the coldness less cold, we decided to have another baby.

Was it to give our son a sibling, or was it to have something to take up all of our focus now that our oldest was getting older, so that we wouldn’t have to focus on each other? Or was it because we thought it would fix something? I can’t really tell you the reason but I can tell you that I don’t regret it for a minute – not only because I obviously love both my kids but because if we hadn’t had the second I don’t know that we would have had the courage to face the terrifying truth that this wasn’t going to work, to face the reality of the decision that had to be made, or to face each other.

Having a second child put an even bigger strain on our relationship and we waited, and waited, and waited some more for it to pass. We rarely talked when the kids were in bed. We never touched, never did anything together, never had sex, didn’t say I love you, and there was no warmness and no love.

There was friendship and an understanding that we both were willing to live this way for our kids. There was still the same crazy sense of humor we shared that would peek through the sadness after a couple of drinks, and we had the same political views, the same religious views, and similar goals and dreams. But it wasn’t enough. Even though both of our fundamental flaws showed their ugly heads less and less, when they did come out they came out like a ball of fire that couldn’t be put out.

I remember the moment I realized if I stayed any longer I’d stay forever and I’d forever lose myself and forever be an unhappy mom and he’d be an unhappy dad. It was the summer before my oldest was going to enter Kindergarten and nearing the age I had been when my parents got divorced. I have memories, but not as many as my older sisters have. There are things they remember that they won’t tell me and I knew when my oldest son hit five or six there was no going back. It was a now-or-never kind of thing because if I didn’t go now I would stay until they were 18 or moved out. So I had to decide.

We read relationship books, we talked, we screamed, we cried, we gave each other the silent treatment, and lastly, we tried counseling. After a few sessions and listening to us, she looked at us and said, “You guys are one of the most mature couples I have ever had in my chair and I think you are making the right decision. You have the maturity to co-parent.” I was relieved to have someone else validate what I felt in my heart and scared shitless at the same time because this was real.

Decisions had to be made, and we finally were ready to make them after seven years of pretending everything would somehow just go away.

We still spent months debating over what to do, and at a certain point we just gave in, gave up, and decided we wanted to be happy for our kids even if it meant being apart.

We decided we could love them better, love ourselves better, and be better parents apart than we could together. We decided we wanted them to see a healthy relationship filled with love and affection instead of tension and strain.

We decided even though we would miss them terribly when they weren’t with us, the time spent with them would be of more quality.

We decided we would live five minutes from each other so our oldest didn’t have to make any other major changes, and we wrote out a script and practiced what we would say when we broke the news to him.

We went through the house and decided who would keep what, all while having the same emotionless face and tone we kept our entire relationship.

When I was alone behind closed doors or in my car to work I cried. I cried for what I had tried to do and couldn’t, I cried because no matter how happy we were apart, and how happy we would be one day with someone new, nobody would ever share the love we shared for our two boys together. Nobody could love them like we could. And the day I went to sign my lease for my new apartment, I almost didn’t sign it. My hand was shaky when I grabbed the pen but once I put it to paper my decision was sturdy and determined.

The first day I got the keys and walked into my empty apartment alone, I sat on the floor but I didn’t cry. I smiled, took a deep breath, and took a picture of my new key in my hand. (A picture which would never be posted on Facebook for fear of hurting his feelings. I knew we did the right thing but back then I am not sure he was so sure of that.)

I didn’t stay for the kids, because staying for them wouldn’t have been best for them. My husband and I were both mature enough to handle the shock and confusion of the separation, the curious questions coming from our son’s innocent big blue eyes, and balance it takes to co-parent in the healthiest way possible.

When conflict came – and oh believe me it did – we lost our cool at times but never in front of them, and we still said hello at drop off on Sundays, never slamming a door even when we wanted to.

There are times when I feel like the luckiest woman alive to have this man as my children’s father and there are also times when I wonder how I stayed that long. I know there are times he wonders how he lived with someone like me. But that shit doesn’t matter anymore because now our relationship is important for different reasons. It’s important for them.

I admit, the consequence of keeping a close co-parenting relationship is the danger of blurred lines, getting too friendly again, wondering if we could maybe – just maybe – try again and do it right this time. We have entertained that idea and figured out that it was not a road we wanted to go down. We remembered why we made the choices that we did.

I still get pissed and he still acts irrational sometimes but we also have accomplished something most separated parents can’t even begin to scrape the surface of: an alliance. A union with a harmony that made not staying together for the kids the best choice for us. And our kids are happier for it.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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