Column: The View From Here: Not Just Another Statistic: Divorce From the Inside Out

By P. M. Price
Tuesday April 18, 2006

A few people have told me that they missed reading my column in this beloved rag. I’ve missed writing it. (Thank you, friends, for noticing my absence.) 

I’ve been very busy—a bit overwhelmed, in fact—immersing myself into the brave new world of single motherhood. I am in the process of obtaining a divorce. 

“Oh woe!” The masses proclaim. “I am so sorry!” They cry out. “But you seemed like the perfect couple! The most beautiful of families!” 

Alas. Things are not what they appear to be. I am joining the ranks of single black (white, red, brown and yellow) women with two kids and insubstantial income, hopefully not on the decline into poverty, bitterness and loss of functional faculties.  

Married for over 23 years, I had my doubts even way back when, while taking that tentative, fateful walk down that looming gangplank—er, I mean aisle. I thought to myself, “What the hell are you doing?” 

But, back then, everybody was doing it. I was the last in my group to submit. And that’s what my marriage became: a submission. Uh oh. Let me shut up right now. My soon-to-be-ex certainly has his own perspective on our marital mess and I would certainly hate to see it published here—or elsewhere. (Oh, no! Too late. I can hear him taking pen to pad right now as I speak...) So, let me just hush up about all the dreary details and say: Onward! To a better, healthier, happier life for us all. 

Now, what does all this divorce matter mean exactly? And in particular what does it mean for our children? They now have new identities as well. They are soon to be children of divorce. This is particularly difficult for my 11-year-old son (I was told to never use the possessive “my” in Family Court when speaking of my children but rather, to always say “our.” 

Otherwise, the judges get ticked off ... they assume you’re already trying to leave the other parent out. But, hell, this is my column and I’m writing about my kids. So, in this sacred space they are “mine.”)  

Jason (my son’s favorite fake name) was among the very few in his circle of young, mostly black males who actually had two married parents and his father living in the home. Now he finds himself lumped in with the majority—yet another young brother with no daddy in the home. 

Need it be a sad majority? One in which he feels abandoned or deprived? No, it doesn’t have to be. I am resolutely looking forward to an amicable, co-parenting arrangement with my children’s father—that is, after we get through all the thorny money-resentment-anger stuff. (Which I hope will be soon, dear.) 

My children now have two houses, two sets of stuff, two schedules, two sets of chores, rooms to clean, homework at two different kitchen tables, two sets of dishes, towels, soaps, TVs, Play Stations and one backpack each which sometimes gets forgotten at the other parent’s house. 

And me? What do I have? No one to call if I get a flat tire or a window needs replacing or I’m short with the mortgage, taxes, insurance car payment, kids gotta eat, baby needs new shoes and the junior prom is right around the corner.  

And what about sharing all those wonderful, precious moments when our kids do or say the most witty, insightful, fabulous things? Right now, my soon-to-be-ex and I are just sharing the bad things, the fall-out. Hopefully, we’ll get to a point where we can share those happy events, too.  

In the meantime, I am at mid-life and taking stock. The questions I asked myself during my youth I am re-asking now. Outside of woman, wife and mother, who am I, really? What happened to my dreams, to the person I thought I would become? How much of that dream was suppressed, suffocated while devoting myself to family? Is there anything of the me-dream left? How do I go back there and make it real again? And is that what I really want? 

What am I gaining and at what expense? Will the children be better off in the long run and how long does it run? At this point, all I can hope for is that we are all better off living in two separate households full of peace, love, healthy communication and mutual respect and support.  

“What are you, crazy? Dreaming? On drugs?” Hey, I didn’t say all this would all appear automatically without the passage of time, hard work and a few tears. It’s a process, after all. But I do, oh so gratefully, see the light at the end of this long, winding tunnel. All I can do is to take it one step, one day at a time. Wish me luck.