Jul 30, 2012

"Mommy, why don't you and Daddy like each other?"

I have never been very good at hiding my emotions.  I've often had people tell me my facial expressions make it easy to figure out what's going through my mind at any given time.  So just imagine how I am for the few minutes I have to be in the same vicinity as my children's father twice a month to drop off and pick up K and J.  It's near torture to remain civil but I try my best, for the sake of my children if nothing else.
Unfortunately, there have been times when I have not been able to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself.  There have been times, I'm embarrassed to say, that I have argued with my ex in front of my children and kicked myself later for my lack of self-control.  I allowed the urge for me to let him know he is no longer in control of me, my moves, my thoughts, my feelings, my LIFE...I allowed that urge to overshadow the need to keep it together for the sake of my children.  I want them to have happy memories of their childhood, even if the structure of their home is unconventional by society's standards.  Watching Mommy argue with Daddy in the parking lot of McDonald's is not the type of memory I had in mind.

After the last confrontation a few weeks ago, in which I have to say I did my best to stay calm and did not say any bad words (rude gestures out of my kids' line of vision don't count, right??), K asked me with tears in her eyes why her daddy and I don't like each other.  My heart broke for her.  Just the thought of my parents going at each other the way she has seen her father and I do on a number of occasions crushes me.  I can't imagine how a 9 and 8 year old would feel seeing that.

At that moment, I knew something had to give.  And after almost 6 years of single motherhood, I have finally come to understand the best way to avoid confrontation...ignore him.  We rarely speak to each other anyway; our preferred method of communication is text messages.  Unless a text comes through that specifically relates to the well-being of K and J, I ignore it.  It's just better that way.  Since employing this simple yet effective approach which has also been embraced by Mely over at one of my favorite blogs to follow, Sex, Lies & Bacon, I have found there is much less drama between us.  And when we have to be around each other to pick up and drop off the kids, I choose to say my hellos and goodbyes to K and J inside the car rather than outside.  That way, they should only see Mommy and Daddy smiling at them as they come and go, not saying hateful things to each other.

Who knows?  Maybe one day I'll be in a place where he and I can have a civil conversation with each other, filled with respect for each other's feelings, and the urge to show my independence will stay below the surface.  Only time will tell...

Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships...and Why They Shouldn't: #2

I Don't Want My Children To Grow Up Without Their Father

I'll be honest.  This is the reason I stuck around for as long as I did.  My parents have been married to each other for 43 years.  They're amazing.  They have always been there to provide whatever my sisters and I needed, whether it was great advice, a wake-up call or a kick up the backside!  They have always been there TOGETHER.  So when I married and started a family, I never dreamed my children would have anything less than what I had as I was growing up.  Because really, who enters a marriage with the intent to divorce and raise their children in a "broken" home?

I certainly didn't.  And to this day, it pains me that my children are growing up in a single parent home.  Although single parent homes are sadly becoming more and more commonplace these days, it still hurts me to see other kids fortunate enough to have both parents come to their soccer games, school plays, dance recitals...and sit together without being forced to!  I think most of you know that's not possible for my children's father and me.  I hate that my children will never experience that.  But it is what it is...

The reality is, staying in an abusive and unhealthy relationship takes a toll on you emotionally and in turn adversely affects your children.  If you are unhappy, your children can sense that.  I will never forget the petrified scream that came from my daughter's tiny less than 1 year old body when she saw Mommy's arm being held a little too tightly.  Or the uncertain look on my baby boy's face when he saw Mommy get slapped across the face in the car.  Neither of them knew how to process what they had seen, but they knew something was not right.  I pray that time has erased the memories of  what they saw.

 The long term effects of being raised in an abusive household can range from anger issues, anxiety, depression, bed wetting and sleep disturbances.  Many children of abusive households grow into abusers themselves and repeat the cycle in their adult life.  Clearly these effects far outweigh the desire to raise your children in the same home as their abusive father. 

Fortunately, my children were never mistreated.  However, I knew I did not want my daughter to grow up thinking an abusive household was normal.  And I certainly knew I did not want my son to turn into another woman's abuser 18 years down the line.  These thoughts are what prompted me to make my big move.  If you haven't already, read my post How I Picked Up the Pieces to learn how I made my move and began the process of rebuilding my life.  It's not easy but it's definitely not impossible.

Your children deserve to be raised in a happy and healthy home.  That does not necessarily mean both parents have to be in the same home at the same time.  Sometimes it is more beneficial for the children to be raised in a single parent, happy home than a two-parent miserable and frightening home.  I know that is definitely the case for my children and me.  I am a much more effective parent to them now than when I was carrying the stress of my situation around with me 24/7.

I pray these words have touched someone, somewhere in a situation they feel they can find no way out of.  All it takes is one call and you can begin your own, personal pursuit of happiness.  A good starting place is the National Domestic Violence Hotline - (800) 799-SAFE.   For my English friends, click here or call 0808 2000 247.  You can even contact me through my Facebook Page, on Twitter or by leaving a comment below.  You can also email me from the blog home page.  I'm happy to help in any way I can.  Just please, make a move before it's too late.

Jul 9, 2012

Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships...and Why They Shouldn't: #1

It's so easy to look at a woman in an abusive relationship and think "why doesn't she just leave?".  Which one of us females has not thought that if a man was crazy enough to raise his hand to  hit me, I'd leave him before he had the chance to make contact?  Well, it's easy to say what we would do when we're on the outside looking in.  But when you're actually in the situation, it's not so clear cut.  Here is one of the more common reasons women stay in abusive relationships and why they shouldn't:

"He'll Change"

Trust me, he won't.  And even if his behavior does seem to be less aggressive, it will be a temporary change.  It's just a part of the Cycle of Abuse:

During Stage 1, tensions begin to build and the abused becomes fearful of the next abusive episode.  She may feel like she's walking on eggshells, trying not to upset the abuser in order to avoid pushing him too far.  Next is Stage 2, the abusive Incident itself.  Abuse can take many forms, whether physical, emotional, verbal or sexual.  Each is just as damaging to the victim as the other.

Stage 3 is Reconciliation, where the abuser appears to regret his actions and does whatever he can to regain your forgiveness and trust.  He may buy you flowers, chocolates and other gifts, while apologizing profusely for what he did.  He might make suggestions of ways to prevent it from happening again, which usually requires a change in your behavior, rather than his.  For example, he might say something like, "If you would just make sure dinner is on time when I get home/the house is clean/the kids behave themselves, then I wouldn't lose my temper and hit you".  Some abusers even attempt to downplay the severity of the Incident, or pretend like it never happened, causing confusion in the mind of the abused.  She starts to think she may be overreacting to what happened...once the bruises start to fade and the cuts begin to heal, maybe what he did wasn't so bad after all.

However, despite his outward showing of remorse, often during the Reconciliation stage the abuser is fantasizing about the next "Incident".  And so the cycle continues...

If this pattern of behavior sounds like your relationship or the relationship of someone you know, you (or they) are in a dangerous position and need to get out NOW.  If you're not sure of how to make that happen, a quick google search can help you find resources in your area that can help you make an escape plan, as well as assist you in taking the first steps toward rebuilding your life once you make that move.  A good starting place is the National Domestic Violence Hotline - (800) 799-SAFE.  For my English friends, click here or call 0808 2000 247.


Next post coming soon: Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships...and Why They Shouldn't: #2 - "I Don't Want My Children to Grow Up Without Their Father".

Note: To make it easier on myself, I have referred to the abused in this post as a female and to the abuser as a male.  However, there are many instances where the female is the abuser, as well as abuse that takes place in same sex relationships.  That being said, everything I have written applies to all abusive relationships, regardless of the dynamics.

Jul 6, 2012

The Moment When I NEED, Rather than Want, a Man in My Life...

Tonight I had an uninvited guest in my bathroom as I got ready for bed. I swear this thing is gonna haunt me in my dreams. Although it would have been great to have a man kill and dispose of it, I grabbed my handy dandy broom, pounded it from a distance and flushed it down the toilet.

I am Woman. Hear me roar!

Jul 1, 2012

How Charlotte Got Her Groove Back

OK, don't let the title of this post fool you.  Yes,  I was in Jamaica a few weeks ago but I did not "get my groove back" Angela Bassett/Taye Diggs style.  No, instead I am taking the advice of the Millionaire Matchmaker herself, Patti Stanger and spending some time in "Dating Detox".  In her book, Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps for Attracting Your Perfect Mate, Ms. Patti stresses the importance of taking time to do the things that make you happy rather than looking for a man to fill the void following a breakup.  Since my children are spending a lot of time with their father this summer, I figured now is the perfect time for me to detox a little and have some "me time"! 

And what better way to put a smile on my face than to pamper myself a little?  On Friday, I went to one of the best hair stylists in the Nashville area, Patience Barton, and let's just say I did not leave disappointed:

I know, cute right??  For those that don't know, I'm 5 months into transitioning my relaxed hair to natural.  A difficult task at any time of year, but in this ridiculous 100+ degree heat it's enough to break a sista down and make me run to the salon for a hefty dose of "creamy crack".  But thanks to Patience's amazing talent with a blow dryer and round brush, I do believe I can last another month at least.  Thanks again, Patience!

Second step to getting my groove back was a girl's night out with a couple of my great friends.  It's impossible not to be in good spirits when the conversation and sangria is flowing ;-)  Here's a picture of me ready to head out for the evening:

Third, what kind of female would I be if I did not indulge in a little retail therapy to get me over the hump?  Of course, being a single mom I always have to stay within budget.  No point using the mortgage payment to have the cutest dress in the store, right?  Here's one of the purchases I made during my most recent session:

Very productive, wouldn't you agree?  Every time I wear it, I feel like a new woman!  OK, maybe not really but it's pretty darn cute.

The bottom line is I'm doing the things that make me happy.  I have been guilty of relying on others (usually the men in my life) to make me happy and that's just not healthy.  Right now feels like a good time to love on myself for a while and not worry about being in a relationship.  I mentioned in my earlier post, That Ever-Elusive Thing Called Love that my married friends have been telling me to enjoy my single life and to wait for true love to find me ever since my divorce more than 4 years ago.  But I never really understood what that meant until this weekend.  Spending time doing the things I love showed me I can have just as much fun alone and with my friends as I can in a relationship.  I want to spend time re-developing my relationship with God, which I have slacked off on a little recently.  I want to develop new friendships and continue building on my existing ones.  Today I spent 5 hours in Panera catching up with a friend I haven't seen in months and learned things about her that I never knew before.  That's what I'm talking about!  Then maybe when the time is right, I'll consider the possibility of a new relationship but for right now I'm just happy being me :)