What Surprised Me About Parenting After My Divorce

I am a mom who long ago decided that any hiccup in life can be re-framed as an opportunity for learning. I am also one of those people who tries my best to find positive in every situation. I am recently (and fortunately amicably) divorced after over 20 years of marriage to a very nice man who I could never be happy with. I’m free now and happy to be able to live my life independently, on my own terms and really pursue what makes me happy.

A divorced mom reflects on how parenting has changed for her

Since my divorce, I have discovered something I never expected. I now get to parent more on my own terms and my children are benefiting from this freedom. Of course, I am still respectful of the underlying values my ex and I operated on for so many years. The difference is now I am free to be myself more and therefore teach our kids about life as they watch me navigate this new land. Because of my newfound freedom and my own new chapter, I get to share all my exciting  experiences with them. They get a new chapter as well.

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There are things I do now with them that I would have hesitated doing when I was married. Their father and I are fairly similar in our views. Yet, now that I am living life on my own terms, I am aware that I compromised more than I realized I did when I was married.

For me, being partners meant always making a parenting decision with my husband’s voice on my shoulder. Would he be upset if I did this or that? I thought I was so independent and strong-willed and that I did what I believed and completely followed my own moral compass. I didn’t. I lived with someone else’s opinions influencing most of my decisions. Please know, I am not complaining or even saying I think I was wrong in doing that. I still believe marriage is wonderful and it is worth making compromises to be in a healthy, loving relationship.

I no longer worry about disappointing my husband or making him unhappy because I do something with my kids that he does not believe in. An unexpected bonus of parenting after divorce is being able to independently make decisions following my own heart and my own moral compass.

Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to walk in the NYC Gay Pride parade. I am a straight middle-aged woman who very much loves men but I have very strong feelings about the right to love whomever you choose to love! My young adult children joined me on this amazing day.

As I walked down Fifth Avenue leading to the finish on Christopher Street, I experienced some of the most amazing parenting moments I have ever been lucky enough to have. I witnessed my kids so happy to be a part of such an incredible experience. For a moment, I thought about my ex-husband, their father, who was raised in an incredibly conservative home and whose parents would be very unhappy to see their grandchildren as part of this celebration. I realized that I would not have felt free to take our kids to be a part of this if I was still married. To be clear, their father is a supporter of gay rights and we have always instilled liberal values in our children even if he will never be found walking in a Pride parade. Yet, I would have hesitated to be part of this while I was married.

[Read Next: I Wanted a Separation But Dreaded Tell My Kids]

Walking in any type of parade would be fun in New York City. However, this was an extra level of amazing. My children experienced the love of everyone present. We were not walking for our own personal cause. We were walking and supporting people who we believe have a right to live life in a way that makes them happy.

There was so much love and excitement for those few hours on a beautiful Sunday in Manhattan. At one point in the parade, the Abba song, Dancing Queen, was playing. The entire crowd was singing the chorus. I looked over at my three young adult children doing their own thing and enjoying the moment in their own way. I felt an incredible wave of love for them, for the people of New York City, for the music of Abba and Pride.

Mostly, I felt grateful for this new chapter in my life which gives me the freedom to have these experiences and share them with the three people in the world who I love the most. For other moms out there who are navigating this new world, I hope you can also find the positive in this opportunity.

We can still be respectful of all the values we shared with our exes as we lived under the same roof raising our kids. However, now we have the freedom to customize our parenting in a way we never have before. I hope that you too have the opportunity to walk in a parade supporting whatever is important to you!


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About Renee Salem

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