You've helped me a lot over the last two years. More than I can express in an email, but I will try.
It's been a hellofa ride through the disintegration of my marriage and divorce. You know all about it, Emma. Ups and downs. But I knew I had no choice but to make the best of it for me and my two young kids. I knew I'd screw my kids up more by staying–I need to show them a life with a happy mom who expects more for herself and doesn't eat shit to keep peace.
Yesterday, my 7-year-old daughter said to me, “You are good at showing your feelings. You laugh and cry. You used to cry a lot around that divorce, but you are happy now.”
I asked her how she knows I'm happy. She said, “Mom… look at you! Your face smiles and you laugh.”
“I'm doing OK,” I thought.
A story for you about my own summer vacation:
I took my kids on vacation this summer — something I did, in part, due to your advice. We flew to Vancouver Island to find mini crabs and sand dollars on the endless beaches, to try kayaking and to walk in a magical forest called Cathedral Grove. I was so proud of myself and naturally, my kids had a fabulous time. But I felt very single. Everywhere I looked, I saw families building memories on their summer vacation. Families with daddies and mommies. The friends we stayed with were perfect nuclear families. I felt very… divorced. Very single mommy.
My 4-year-old son broke his arm quite badly, which meant a terrifying ambulance ride and stay in a local hospital. Nurses and doctors repeatedly asked about the father (WTF with that anyway?). The nurse asked about custody situations they should know about. I called my ex on the phone from emergency to tell him Alex broke his arm. I felt so single. Alone with my son in the hospital. And really wishing I had someone to be a partner through this scary, new experience. I sucked it up and focused on my son. The fear on his face only softened when I hugged him and told him everything would be OK. His arm would heal and he would play again. In the moment, I pushed away my self pity for my kids. That's what we do. (He's fine now, healing in a cast.)
We had such a wonderful vacation, and created new memories together as a new family. But I bawled my guts out after dropping them at their dad's after the trip. Our vacation made me feel single mommy-ness more than regular daily life. In my daily routine, my world is filled with single and divorcing friends. It feels normal. At times on vacation, I felt a spotlight of divorce and single mommy-dom on me. I knew deep down, it was all my shit. My feelings of guilt and sadness. No one else was putting that on me. I just felt… less than. Like I would prefer to share this life with someone I enjoy.
I reminded myself that traveling alone with the kids was much better than traveling with my ex. He hated traveling and passive-aggressively sabotaged simple pleasures like trips to the beach because he would rather be in front of his computer than feeling the sand in his toes. In the hospital, he would have been freaking out more than anyone and I would have to calm him down and my son. I reminded myself that I laughed a lot on this vacation. I saw old friends, felt the sun on my face, watched my kids make new friends and I achieved a goal of taking my kids on a real summer vacation.
I'm telling you all this because I want to thank you for your article about your summer vacation. I regularly have to tell myself that people's family realities are not what I perceive on the outside. Everyone told me that my marriage looked perfect (something I worked hard at portraying.) No one else writes so honestly about the issues I face as a professional single mom. Thank you!
Also, thank you for encouraging me to take them a summer vacation. My son is fine now. And most importantly, we had a memorable adventure together. My kids swam in the ocean, made dog friends and held crabs in their hands. We hiked together, picked wild blackberries and found 3-inch slugs in the wet forrest. We watched the ocean sunset and roasted marshmallows. I faced fears and uncovered more truths…. on this wonderful and humbling fucking journey!
Warm wishes from up north,
Samantha from Canada
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.