Two months past Christmas and the tree is still up and fully decorated. I’ve said to the kids, twice now, “Okay, tonight we’re going to listen to music and take down the tree!” but Jonah cries and protests – “No, don’t! Leave the tree!” and I’m a sucker for his sweet baby face and so the tree stays.
This weekend, though, the task will be done. I’ll bring the ornament boxes up from the basement and wrap the fragile ones in tissue paper and match the Hallmark ones to their original boxes for safekeeping.
The ornaments will be divided by which house they’ll go to next year – mine or Zachary’s. Last Christmas was the last time all the decorations would live on the same tree.
Divorce sucks. I know that word isn’t the most descriptive or kind and, as a woman who holds a BA in English, I should reach further to write better, but really the word sucks just fits here. I first filed for divorce in September of 2011. Zachary and I reconciled from that December until August 2012 when I set the divorce proceedings in motion once again, and now, six months later, we’re still not quite done. The mental toll of the waiting is heavy and harsh. I had no access to Zachary’s paychecks starting in November, and with no temporary support in place or even any idea what that support would eventually look like, I could not move out into my own place. Everything was up in the air, from where we might live to where I’d possibly work to when the divorce would finally be, well, final.
After being rescheduled, our financial mediation was held this month. My lawyer slid me a letter halfway into it saying we should just leave as it appeared Zachary and his lawyer had little interest in settling anything and I slunk into my chair, trying not to cry. Without a successful mediation, we faced at least four more months of uncertainty and an expensive and possibly contentious court battle.
Thankfully we seem to have avoided the court battle, as our two sides eventually came to an agreement on child support and spousal maintenance (if you’re wondering what that term means, it’s what used to be known as alimony). But the agreement is really not good for either of us. Divorce not only saps you of your emotional strength, but the financial aspect can feel devastating. Both Zachary and I, and therefore the kids, will have to change our lifestyles drastically. As our mediator said once we’d settled on figures, I have a rocky road ahead of me. Zachary, the family’s breadwinner for the last ten years, will live an altered life, as well, but with his income and earning potential, he will be fine. His proposed budget included money to put away for retirement, something I may not be able to achieve for years and years.
The kids are doing okay. I’m going to work as hard as possible to make sure they don’t feel the impact of our steps down the rungs of the financial ladder, but it won’t be possible to keep everything the same. Eating out will be a thing of the past. I am not sure if we’ll be able to keep our zoo or museum memberships. Swimming lessons may have to be group instead of private or cut altogether. Family vacations will not include airplanes or resorts or expensive activities, that is for certain. We are focusing on the positives. I think Zachary and I both have done a fairly good job keeping our kids from being materialistic, which is helping now that finances will be tighter for us both. I let the kids know that even if we have to live in a smaller house, at least we will be able to spend time together. Isla is excited about sharing a room for the first time in her life – she’s chosen to let Jonah share with her, though in a few years, as a pre-teen girl, I’m sure she will opt to have her own room, which will mean all three boys might have to bunk in one room together. That’s fine, they can have the master bedroom – I don’t need much space for myself.
Now that I have a budget I am looking at places for the kids and I to live in – they half the time and me full time. Four bedrooms will be impossible. Separate home office? No way. Big basement for storage? Nope. Enormous yard for the kids to race around in while I watch from the kitchen? Not going to happen. I’ll be able to afford a town home 1000 square feet smaller than our current home (not even taking into consideration the basement) with no private yard. I’ve wanted to move on for so long and have a space the kids and I could call our own, but now that the reality of moving is imminent, I’m scared about making it work.
My business is picking up and I have my meager part time job. I have hard decisions to make about whether to maintain and grow the business or just let it go in favor of an entry-level job that may pay me less than $30,000 a year and offer no benefits.
But through it all I have a sense that everything will be okay. I’m not sure how I’ll get to the okay part just yet, but I think that’s where we’re headed. The divorce will be final eventually (hopefully within a matter of weeks). I will hit my groove with a job eventually. The kids will adjust to living in two households. We’ll learn to be more creative with our money.
Life will be good. Life IS good.