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Mom Talk: Should You Stay Together for the Kids? I Didn’t

Written by Amanda Tyler

Photography by Photo courtesy of Amanda Tyler

In today’s Mom TalkAmanda Tyler, founder of Restore and Plants for Everyone,  gets real about the decision to split with her kids’ father and how she has navigated single parenthood with two young kids. The mother of two, (Lila, 5, and Nova, 2) also shares some helpful advice for those considering the same path.

Should you stay together for the kids? I didn’t. I’ll admit, I stayed in my relationship for my kids for a long time. It took me over a year to come to terms with the possibility of a non-conventional family. Can you believe 50 percent of children in the U.S. will end up with divorced parents? I couldn’t. I told myself that my children would not be among that 50 percent, no matter what. I wouldn’t end up like my parents. But why? And at what cost? Although, we were not married, I believe that children are a blood pact between two people. Our society tells us that a home is only a functional home with both the mother and father under the same roof. It’s something we believe is necessary to have a “normal” life for ourselves and children.

My ex is 12 years older and I was 23 when I had Lila. It all happened so quickly and before I knew it, I was madly in love with motherhood and pregnant with our second at 26. I fell deeper into the vortex that is motherhood. Loving every moment of it, forgetting to take care of myself or my relationship. I was young and juggling a career, motherhood, and household duties. I forgot who I was and during that time fell painfully out of love with my ex, whom I resented for the same reasons most wives resent their husbands. I fell into moments of despair, feeling so alone and angry, I would blow up and cry without any concrete reasoning. Our love languages were totally opposite, we had no way to resolve arguments, and the kids could feel our relationship dissolving. We tried therapy, but I think it was too late. I came to a point of feeling so lost and unheard that I saw no other option. I had to leave, for my own sanity. I felt so guilty and my ex did everything he could to change my mind. I was flooded with “what ifs” and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. How would I support myself and two children in one of the most expensive cities in the country? Was I going to ruin them? How long would their father hate me for? Was this the right thing? What would people think? Where was I going to live? Would my children hate me in 10 years? How would I survive the lonely nights without the only thing that mattered most to me?

We started “nesting”—this is a concept the therapist suggested. We kept the house and every few days I would leave to stay at a friend’s while he would have his time with the kids. When it was my turn to be with the kids, he would go to a friend’s house and I would stay at the home. This created a home-base for the kids and gave us a taste of what they would feel once they had to move from one place to another. I think this was the hardest transition in the journey. I felt how painful it was to feel the hurricane of going back and forth, being shuffled around, and never feeling the comfort of one home. I keep this learning experience at the forefront of my mind as I navigate co-parenting—I make sure to never forget that feeling.

In some ways, kids have to deal with more changes than us as a result of separating: changes in family lifestyle, rules and discipline, a new house, school, the absence of one parent, and eventually a new person in mom or dad’s life. It’s important to take a step back and create a space that is safe to talk about feelings. We don’t ignore the situation, I’m constantly checking in with my five-year-old. Asking her how she’s feeling, if she’s missing her dad or her toys at his house. I think my parents were so riddled with guilt that they acted like their separation had no consequences. I know this separation will affect my children and I want to stay as present and open as possible. There is a level of vulnerability where the darkness lives. We can get to the end and get through it, but where the strength comes is bringing it into the light.

My ex and I have struggled to have a successful co-parenting relationship. We do our best and I believe that only time heals the deepest wounds. We’ve managed to settle any conflicts regarding the children without mediation and we continue to try and be as communicative and open in anything that relates to them. We split them 50/50, we are on the 2-2-3 schedule with the 3 nights switching off every week, Sunday through Tuesday. It’s painful to watch them go, especially for those three nights. Will they get greens with their dinner? Will he wash their hair? Will they call for me if they hurt themselves? My life is 50 percent of what it used to be. The pain of only watching them grow 50 percent of the time is a constant dull ache, with moments of sharp, gut-wrenching pain, and the only thing that can bring me comfort is the fact that my children are lucky to have a father who loves them so much.

The weekends with the kids can be hard, too. These are the days where some of the loneliest moments of single parenting take place. I yearn for the traditional family dynamic. It’s raining out, we are stuck inside all day playing for hours, going to a museum or sitting down at a restaurant. Just me and the kids and no one to laugh with when my littlest is dancing around like a mad man, screaming gibberish at the top of his lungs. No one to celebrate with when he uses the potty for the first time. No one to share these intimate moments with means having to keep these joys to myself. I’ve learned to surround myself with friends and their children, so that I can share these moments with people I love. I’ve forged some of the deepest friendships during this time and I’ve learned to lean on my family more.

Have I gotten the answers to my questions? I think I’m still working through some of them, but I have managed to support myself and the kids while taking on side jobs in addition to my startup. It’s not easy, none of it is. My children are not ruined, they see a happy mama, with less tears, working hard to create a life they will be proud of one day. Their father does not hate me and no one is judging me for making this decision. And although I never thought I’d fall into the 50 percent stat, life happens, and separation is a reality.

Besides the obvious hardship of the financial struggle, looking into a room with two empty beds created a hole so deep and dark in my heart, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to overcome it. I’ve filled my lonely nights with time for myself and my business. I started seeing someone I care deeply about. I’m finding comfort in the solitude and relearning who I am as a woman and mother. I turned to social media to tell my story and hear other’s stories. I’m no less of a person because of my choices and I’m finding a sense of peace in the strength it takes to let go and rebuild. Nothing is “normal,” we create our own sense of “normal” and all I can do is be the best me I can be so that my children can enjoy a happy mother. To put yourself back together again is an art form, perfected through years of hurt. I tell myself, “You are a master of the art and your piece is brilliant.”

To keep following along on Amanda’s journey, check out her Instagram feed. And for more stories on single motherhood and co-parenting, check our interviews with Rheanna Martinez, Michelle SnyderJamie Smith and 5 Moms on Their Co-Parenting Advice & Experience

Are you a mother with something to say? Send us an email to be considered for our “Mom Talk” column.

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