I’m getting a divorce.
After many years of being in an abusive relationship, I made the decision to leave. Don’t be sorry; I’m fine. I’ve come to terms with the emotional aspect long ago. At this point, I’m just going through the steps to make it final in the eyes of the law. One of those steps happens to be attending a parenting class.
…which brings me to my story.
When my lawyer told me I was required to take a parenting class, I was horrified. Wait, what? I have to take a parenting class? I was immediately defensive. Listen, I have lived and breathed my children since the day they were born. My children go to a private, expensive pre-school, and have a substantial savings account that puts mine to shame. My children are beyond well taken care of. No, no, no. I do not need a parenting class. But, ok, sure, if this is what I have to do to move on with my life, fine. I’ll do it. I’ll sit there. I’ll sit there for six long hours, get the darn signature, and be done with it.
I will tell you, I’m very open with my friends and family about my divorce. They’re my support system and I rely on them for advice and a shoulder to cry on, but I didn’t tell many of them about the class. Mostly because, to put it simply, I was embarrassed. Going to a parenting class implies you need to be educated; that you need to be taught how to parent because obviously you are doing it wrong now. I felt like it was some kind of a punishment for being bad. So I kept it to myself, like a shameful secret that I just wanted to go away.
I thought a lot about that class in the weeks leading up to it. I thought about what type of people may be there, and went so far as to speculate why they may have been ordered by the court to take a parenting class. And, although I would never say this out loud, I felt like I was above all of it. I felt like I surely would not fit in and I certainly didn’t belong there. It’s hard for me to admit that because here at CT Working Moms our motto is “Love More and Judge Less” and I wholeheartedly believe that. But believing it and living it are two different things, and when it came down to my raw feelings, I was a straight up hypocrite.
The morning of my class, I donned my Alex-n-Ani charm bracelets up to my elbow, slipped on my designer jeans, grabbed my Kate Spade bag, and begrudgingly drove to the church hall where it was held. I arrived early, sat in my mommy-mobile, scrolling through my smart phone, drinking my coffee when a black sports car with dark tinted windows sped up and screeched to a stop right next to me. Rap music was blasting so loud that the whole car was shaking and vibrating along with the bass. I rolled my judgey eyes: yeah, this is not for me. Again, the phrase “I don’t belong here” bounced around my head.
Then something funny happened.
I started to write a woe-is-me text to my sister when I paused for a moment and heard the song that was being blasted from the car next to me. Hey! That’s on my playlist! I love that song! I put down my phone and nodded my head to the beat. Then the next song came on. No way! That song was also on my playlist (and let me tell you, I have a very short playlist). Ha! What a coincidence, this person and I have the same taste in music.
Finally I made my way into the church hall, and as everyone else started to shuffle in, the instructor handed out booklets entitled, “Putting Children First.” Again, I found myself in defense mode. Are you kidding me? I do not need to be told to put my children first. I always put my children first. The instructor then told us we had to introduce ourselves. God I hate this crap. I cannot even put into words how much I hate doing this. I practiced in my head, sarcastically, in a sing-songy voice, “Hi. I am a good girl. I have never been in trouble. I have never done drugs or even smoked a cigarette. I have a college degree and a career. I really don’t belong here.”
Then I looked over at the person with the same taste in music as me, who I then knew was John. John has been fighting for custody of his nine year old daughter since the day she was born. He also has a three year old son who reminds me of my son. I looked around at the other people in the room and something strange happened.
I recognized all of them.
I knew all of their faces. They were faces of mothers and fathers. They were faces that had a million different stories, but their intentions were the same. Their fierce love for their children was the same.
Their hearts were the same.
They all looked familiar.
They looked like me.
I took a deep breath and said “Hi. I have two children and I am here because I am leaving an abusive relationship.”
I’d love to tell you I ended up learning something from the “Putting Children First” booklet, but truthfully, I didn’t. I can tell you, the completion certificate was not the only thing I walked out of that church hall with. I stepped out of that cold building, squinting into the bright late afternoon sunshine with a renewed sense of purpose and a new appreciation for our motto, at last really understanding what it means to LOVE MORE and JUDGE LESS.