My family should have imploded 10 years ago.
My kids should have gone down the path of being a common statistic. You know, the kids with behavioral problems and bad grades in school. The ones the “good parents” want to keep their kids away from.
I should have been that stereotypical mom who can’t seem to “get it together” and ignores her kids most of the time because she’s too overwhelmed with life to pay attention to them. I should have been miserable, ashamed, and full of regret.
But they aren’t and I’m not.
Why Am I Saying These Things About Me & My Kids?
Ten years ago, my husband of 14 years and I divorced. But that’s not the only challenge that stood in my path – he also came out as a gay man at the same time.
There is no manual that tells you how to raise good kids in this scenario. Most everyone who knew what was going on in my life expected me to fail as a parent.
When one of the moms at my son’s school asked me how my kids were doing a few months after my ex-husband and I announced our divorce and I told her they were doing surprisingly well, she replied, “Well give it some time.”
I might not be the most intelligent person in the world, but I am a hard worker, so I was determined to do everything in my power to raise great kids who were happy, healthy, loved, and full of character. I am also a creative person who isn’t afraid to do things outside of the box in order to get the results that I want. Being a hard worker with a creative streak has been a winning combination for me when it comes to parenting.
Being A Parent First
The same year that my ex-husband, Jeff, and I divorced, I started graduate school to become a child psychologist at Loma Linda University in Southern California. Becoming a child psychologist was always something that I had wanted to do, and Jeff encouraged me to make this career dream come true. I will always be grateful for the fact that Jeff financially supported me and the kids during the entire 6 years I was in graduate school (Jeff is an attorney) so that I could focus solely on my studies and the kids.
Luckily for me, the university is just down the street from where I live because I was able to work my kids’ school schedules and social calendars around my class schedule, practicum rotations, and research commitments.
But one thing I didn’t fully understand when I started grad school was the internship requirement. In order to finally earn the doctoral degree, every student needs to spend the final year working full time at an approved placement site – and these placement sites are located all over the country. This means that universities expect their students to pick up and move for one whole year to the place where they “match.”
I did not think that picking up and moving my kids for a year (or leaving them behind for a year) was in my kids’ best interest, so I challenged myself to think outside of the box for a solution. I pitched an idea to my university where it would benefit them to create an internship (and later a post doctoral position) for me where I could create a treatment group for self-harming, suicidal adolescents based upon the research from my dissertation.
They agreed to this idea and I have since completed all of the requirements needed to become a licensed psychologist in the state of California. I currently still work part-time at the university training the first year psychology students and continuing my work with the treatment group for high-risk adolescents.
Creative Parenting Strategies
I also use creative strategies when it comes to parenting. After Jeff and I divorced, I did not want my kids to grow up in a family where their parents hated each other and where they felt awkward about their dad. I also didn’t want to hate my ex – that’s just not in my personality.
So, by being determined and creative, Jeff and I have created a modern family that works for us. The kids live primarily with me and they see their dad when it works with their schedule (they’re teenagers now so this gets harder and harder). We don’t have a set schedule and we don’t fight about custody or visitation – we base these decisions on what the kids want to do.
Jeff and I have also worked really hard on our friendship. I can definitely say that Jeff is still my best friend and I hope he can say the same for me. Jeff has been in a relationship for many years now with an awesome guy named Keith who has also become an important part of our modern family.
If I hadn’t been bold enough to think of alternate solutions to the challenges in my life – my divorce, my grad school career, and my modern family – my family might have had a very different ending.
I Want To Share My Strategies With You
After being asked so often by my friends, co-workers, and the families that I come into contact with at the university clinic about my parenting strategies, I decided to write them down in this blog so I could share them with other parents who could benefit from modern parenting strategies.
I have also shared my (long) story with you to give you inspiration that anyone can be a great parent – no matter what challenges lay in their path.
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