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Jennifer Cullen Headshot

The Most Lamentable Part of Divorce

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There's a lot to lament about divorce and that lamenting lasts long after the papers are signed. First, there's dealing with the immediate failure of your marriage. The feelings of hurt, loss, anger and confusion. The financial details and the logistics of living arrangements.

And if you have young kids, like I did, you're thrust in to a whole new world of co-parenting, every other weekends, sleeping alone and frequently being the only adult in the house, responsible for everything. No more "Honey, can you run to the store?" Or, "Can you pick up a dozen eggs on your way home?" Nope, it's just you. You and you alone. And of course, two children under the age of six.

But time passes. You settle in to a new life, with new routines. Wounds heal. Children get older. And, if you're lucky, you fall in love again. Maybe even remarry, like I did five years ago.

But you know what never changes? What still gets to me, almost ten years after my divorce? What I am reminded of almost every day?

The loss of my once intact family. Our definition of family is no longer a neatly wrapped package of two adults and two children with a dog and, perhaps, a hamster. Nope, my family definition is messy.

I'm reminded of this at the soccer fields, watching my kids play their games. Watching the moms and dads who arrive together, in the same car. While my ex-husband and I arrive separately, yet still sit next to each other. And when it's not my weekend and my kids say goodbye to me after their games and get in their dad's car and drive away. Not to be seen again until Sunday night. Or Monday morning.

I'm reminded of it when I go to social events like my niece's Bat Mitzvah. Watching her parents, my stepsister and her husband, up on the bima giving a flawless, moving speech about their daughter. Taking turns crying. Together as a team.

And I'm reminded of it when one of my kids leaves something of vital importance over at their father's house after the weekend. And we have to figure out if he's going to bring it back or if I have to go get it. Or when I have to email him their schedules because he can never keep them straight. Or when I'm depositing the child support checks in the bank.

Ugh. Divorce sucks.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to still be married to the father of my children. Sure, I wish it had worked out. Nobody gets married hoping they're going to get divorced. But my marriage didn't last. For many reasons. And I've moved on. I've remarried. I have a stepdaughter.

And after five years of marriage, my husband and I have somewhat successfully blended our families. The kids all get along, for the most part. They've adapted to having these two additional grown-ups in their lives as we have to them. My husband doesn't try to be my kids' father. He has his own relationship with them and is a positive force for them. And I'm not my stepdaughter's mother. She already has one. But I have my own relationship with her and I take a lot of pride in the fact that it's a good one and that she trusts me. Different than a parent, but still positive.

And the five of us do some traditional family things: Friday night dinners and summer trips. Bike rides and movies. Discussions about what's going on in the world and lying in one room, in different spaces, reading books before we go our separate ways for the night.

But I'm envious of those families that still have that. I guess I've always been envious of those that are still intact. I didn't grow up that way. My parents divorced when I was a teenager. They came separately to my softball games. To all of my graduation ceremonies. To my own weddings.

So I still struggle with my divorce. Not questioning having done it. But mourning the loss of being on only one team. Because now I am on many teams: co-parenting with my ex-husband and blending a family with my husband. In addition, I'm on my kids' team. Even though there are two adults in our home, it is unrealistic to expect my husband to tolerate my kids the same way that I do. A little harsh but honest. And that's okay.

So if you see me on the soccer field, looking longingly at you and your family as you park your car, don't worry. I'm not a creepy stalker. I'm just letting myself, momentarily, dream of what once was. Give me a few minutes and I'll snap out of my revery. And back in to my reality: a husband that I love, three kids that I love and a life I would be envious of it weren't mine.