Do I have a problem? Is my head in the sand? Whaddaya think?
I've been divorced for four years and I'm the custodial mother of three kids: 16, 14 and 9. My ex and I are not friends but we're cordial. I married my ex when I was 22 and stayed with him for 18 years.
I work all the time, like any other parent. I'm an autism specialist during school hours for an amazing career, and at 4:30, I come home and hang with my kids. I take them to museums, we watch Hitchcock films, we bake together. I like hanging out with my kids and I'm aware that I work extra hard being a good parent because their dad is a lazy, abusive shit.
My youngest son has a disability for which he requires intensive care and occasionally needs hospitalization. I'll be honest; I get pretty tired. I make time to exercise and eat well and relax, but I completely get that I have a very busy life. I have friends. I've learned to say no and to make brownies from the box, vacuum less and chill out more. But I volunteer and try to also teach my kids to give to the community (local and global).
But like many divorced moms, I also have a very concerned mother who thinks I should be getting myself out there and dating. So I tried a few Internet dating sites and went on a few dates after corresponding with a few fellas who seemed reasonable. I did the guided communication at eHarmony, and the few guys I met there were really very nice men. I even had a few sparks.
But Cary, I just don't want to date. I can't be bothered. No matter how strong the attraction and delight in being with a great guy, after a few dates I know I'm going to start canceling dates soon.
I'm not physically tired; it's just that I have enough going on in my life that makes me happy, and the thought of spending any free time listening to some guy talk about his hard day at work or his ex-wife or anything like that makes me want to ... well, I don't want to.
I've got enough going on that I don't want to add some guy to the mix. I love my family unit with my kids and don't want to bring in (eventually) some guy who seems fine and then loses it (like their dad did).
So here's my question. If I'm OK with this, is this OK? What do I tell my annoying mother?
Dear Busy Mom,
Yes, if it's OK with you it's OK with me and it'll have to be OK with your mom. It is more than OK. It is great. Everything about it is great. It's not necessarily permanent. It could change. But it's great for now. Your life is full. And it's not like you haven't given dating a try.
So it's fine. It's a good thing. Tell your mom I said so. And while you're at it, though this won't change a thing, tell your mom that you're glad she cares about your happiness, and that you appreciate having her in your life, and if she'd like to come over and help with the kids, anytime is fine. (Unless she really drives you crazy.) You sound like a great mom and I have heard that great moms get their great mom skills from their moms. I don't know if that's true or not, it's just what I've heard.
And so how's your dad? Is he in the picture? Is he a great guy too, or is he sort of more like your husband, who lost it? What I'm hinting around about here is the general men thing. Is it just that your life is full or is there also some difficult history with men treating you badly -- your husband, possibly your dad? It wouldn't mean that there's something you have to solve, or that there's something wrong with you; it just would mean there is an added element; I'm suggesting that when you examine your attitudes and your feelings you want to be thorough.
But personally I love the fact that you spend your time watching Hitchcock movies with your kids. Lucky kids. Good kids. Good mom. Nothing wrong here that I can see.
As far as what might change, and how, in the future, well, eventually your kids will grow up and leave -- unless the youngest continues to need care. Your awareness of that may quite reasonably be playing into your attitudes toward dating, too.
What else? Well, the one discordant note in your happy picture is the language you use to characterize your ex-husband. You say he is a lazy, abusive shit. That's pretty strong. Perhaps he is a lazy, abusive shit. But it does sound like you still harbor strong feelings against him. You might consider how much your feelings toward your ex color your perceptions. I'm not saying, Oh, you'll get over this. No. This is not necessarily something to get over. It may simply be the truth that your ex is a lazy, abusive shit.
But it is something to consider. And I assume you insulate your kids from your anger toward your ex.
So really all I can say is that your life is perfectly fine. You don't want to date, you're doing a marvelous job taking care of autistic kids and your own kids, including the one who requires extra care, you're taking care of yourself, you have a balanced view, and aside from your ex the only one pushing your buttons is your mother.
I'd say you're doing just fine. Keep it up.
"Since You Asked," on sale now at Cary Tennis Books: Buy now and get an autographed first edition!
What? You want more advice?