The following post is a long read, but so worth continuing until the end. It speaks of one mom's brilliant attitude, and you might feel the same way as I did after reading – inspired to work through the darkness as positively as possible.
Mandy Levin is a mom of five boys, and is going through a divorce. I first saw a few months ago on Morning Live chatting to Leanne Manas, and honestly, my first thought was: "How does someone parent five kids as a divoreee, and how does someone look so good and positive at the same time?"
I'm really glad to have connected with Mandy, through her sister who introduced me to her, and I'm so glad she wrote this post, that is so full of optimism and great humour and spriti too.
Here's Mandy's story:
It's never easy to suddenly find that your marriage is over. No matter how long you have been married, how old you are, if you have children or not, it's just an unexpected punch in the face (that requires reconstructive surgery) and really challenges everything that you have ever believed in. Being alone once again, after expecting to share a lifetime with your spouse, exposes a vulnerability that you could never have ever imagined and catapults you out of your comfort zone, like nothing else can.
Sadly, my marriage ended during my pregnancy with our planned fifth son. That may sound to many like a nightmare beyond compare,.…having a baby at that time, no? But for me, him arriving when he did, was what saved me from sinking into despair beyond return. I have been grateful for our precious angel every single day and he has been the driving force that pushed me to keep it all together for him and our four older sons. I refused to fail him and not give him all that his brothers had when they were born. That included breast feeding and looking after his every need to the best of my ability, even when I was in a state of utter grief over my shattered marriage.
I also refused to deprive myself of even a single second or minute of his newborn stage and yummy baby days! I made sure that I took it all in and was hands on. I was encouraged by many (including my ex) to get a night nurse because I had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress during my pregnancy and many were concerned about how I would fair with even less sleep if I was nursing him through the night. For once, my stubbornness served me really well, because I absolutely refused the luxury of night time help and now I am so very grateful that I did.
I did not allow those fleeting first months to pass me by and I took in every glorious moment with him, which I will treasure forever (he is now eighteen months old). Because I am an experienced mom, I reminded myself that the exhausting nighttime feeds don't last forever. I constantly told myself (while eating chocolate at midnight to stay awake), that I should get some pleasure from answering his little cry in the night, when he demanded that it was milk time or poo-change time…again. There is no soul food better than breathing in a newborn as he looks at you with such adoration.
He has provided the most beautiful distraction from undoubtedly the hardest, darkest time of my forty years! Yes I have just turned forty and it was not in the least bit intimidating. Because of what I have been through with having a baby, whilst separating from my husband, I am absolutely determined to be the best me imaginable, as I enter this phase of my life. It's what I deserve (it's what we all deserve), so it's a decision that I make on a daily basis. Welcome Forty!! – Wooooo Hooooo!!!!
Our other sons are without a doubt, my daily delights and inspiration and they are twelve, ten, eight and six. I was also of course motivated by them to recover and thrive when my marriage crashed. After nearly a year of having a sad mom, that was struggling to keep up with all the daily demands, I looked at them one day and decided “enough”. I was just really fed up with seeing my pale, broken face looking back at me in the mirror and started to wonder what it must also be doing to our boys. It has been such an affirmation that I am on the right path, because since I have once again started to blossom after such a long winter, so too have our boys.
The better I am, the better they are. I believe that there is no greater gift to give ones children than providing them with parents that do their utmost to ensure stability, even through a divorce. I have been fortunate because their Dad has also done his utmost to ensure that they feel safe in their new routine of having us apart. It is really a priority to protect them from the “adult stuff” that happens when a marriage ends. I believe that if we teach our children strength and to be positive, by example, we are providing them with the most valuable life skills. They watch us so closely, taking so much in by the way we behave and speak and respond to life's challenges. It's really hard when emotions are running wild during a divorce to shelter your children from all the pain and devastation that occurs.
But it is really essential to dig deep and put your children's emotional well being first. This is not easy, but by trying hard to put a lot of what you are dealing with temporarily aside, in front of them, I have observed that they feel far more secure and have a sense that they are going to be ok. Having said this, I have certainly had wobbles during the worst of it and they have seen my tears..and that's also ok. I think they have observed a mourning process and are now seeing that bad things can and do pass in our lives.
Having five children is really a blessing but as you can imagine it is also really (really) busy! My days are filled with my baby and big boys, school runs, homework, groceries, meals, etc, etc, etc. I am fortunate, because I have my mother to help me with some of the lifting up and down of the boys and also a really special lady working for me, who I know looks after my baby, when I'm not there, as if he were her own. My sister helps me as often as she can too, even though she works full time and is married. She sometimes sleeps over so that I can get a night's rest from my baby. She also babysits so I can meet a pal for coffee and do some me stuff.
I have ensured that my boys are in a very tight routine and always know what I expect from them. I wake them, do homework, let them do technology, give them meals and put them to bed, at the same time every day. Because they know that this is how things run in our home, they seem to really feel safe and have learned to be responsible with doing things like homework, because I instill in them constantly that they step up to the plate with the less pleasant parts of their day. Of course, they have moments of fighting with each other and having normal kid issues, but I am trying hard to teach them how important it is to respect and love each other.
I think they are all really lucky to be growing up with each other. There is always someone to talk to and play with in a large family and even though I sometimes have to be the bad guy, by insisting that one of them gives the other some space, it is all part of them learning respect. I also try to set boundaries with one brother touching another's stuff. I think it's important that they feel they own something. This is not always successful and there are many Lego wars that occur.
My self esteem naturally took a knock after my separation, but I know this is pretty common. I decided to completely reinvent myself for this new chapter. I went from a brunette to a blonde and took some length off my hair. I also started to dress in a more ‘feeling single’ way. I believe that one should do whatever makes one feel better or lifted during the traumatic transition from married you to single you. You have to really grow a thick skin and stop worrying about what others may be thinking.
I chose to drastically change my appearance because after this time in my life, I no longer felt or feel like the same person. And that's ok. Those of you who have experienced loss of any sort, from a death to a divorce, will relate to this notion. I am thoroughly enjoying my new blondness and shorter hair and it has given me a confidence boost.
A vital tool that I have relied heavily on to get to this point, has been….friends. I have made many new friends, both married and divorced. This was an area lacking for me and that I neglected when I was married and having a special, precious group of women to lean on and hug, has filled an amazing space in my heart. When I was married, I made many mistakes as far as self nurture. I never did stuff for myself. I never met pals for coffee. I never bought ready made food, instead I cooked. I never had my hair done. The experience of losing my marriage, has reminded me how fragile life is and how we should try to do little things that give us some pleasure. Even if it's just taking a longer bath. Or eating a chocolate. Do it. Because only the moment you are in is guaranteed.
I have also started to walk. After I drop my boys at school, I try to make a plan for a quick, brisk walk with a friend, if time allows. This allows me to exercise my jaw ; )and to relieve some stress. It also helps me to have a little time outdoors to take a moment to notice the blue of the sky or a pretty plant on someone's pavement. Does this sound like crap?? It's really not. After my marriage ended, I felt so dead inside that I forgot to appreciate stuff like that. I couldn't even bring myself to listen to music, cause it felt too pleasurable and I wanted nothing to distract me from my overwhelming grief.
One of the most positive things that has happened to me since my separation, was being invited by Stacey Lewis of www.thedivorcesource.co.za, to be interviewed with her by Leanne Manas on SABC’s Morning Live. Stacey has been an incredible support and inspiration to me, having been through been through her own traumatic divorce, several years ago. She is now happily remarried. Her website, offers an amazing all encompassing source of advice, resources and comfort to both women (and even men) who are trying to survive their divorce. Stacey chose me to join her on the show, because of my proudly positive and uplifting approach to my new single life.Through her, I have had the privilege of meeting and reaching out to many woman and men whose marriages have ended.
I have learnt that the best way to thrive and continue after such devastation is to initially, fake it til you make it. It's amazing how after a period of time, you realize that your smile is actually once again real. And that you are going to be ok! You have to lean on any genuine friends that offer you an ear, a meal when you just don't have the strength to sort one, or a hug.
One of my favorite sayings, is that “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice that you have”(Bob Marley). I have grown through this life experience and gained a resilience that I never imagined possible. I have learned to live in the moment and trust that there is a wonderful plan in this universe that is sometimes only revealed after coming through the fire.
I have always had a passion and talent for writing and have begun to write articles and blogs for The Divorce Source (TDS). I also offer divorce support in association with TDS, which is incredibly fulfilling and soul feeding work. I also have healing hands and a healing energy and am a qualified and practising reflexologist. You can email me here.
Do you have a story you'd like to share you, or even your favourite mom or pregnancy products? Please email me here.