No, Seriously, You Do Not Get It

Hi there readers. Recently a few things happened to me that made me want to write something about it on Facebook, but then I thought this would probably be a better place to write it, so I could reach more people because I think it is a topic that is important to talk about.

People really don't get it. They think they do, but they don't. People have no idea what it means to be a divorced woman, a divorced mom, etc.

I was assigned a psychologist through a certain means that I cannot elaborate on, and the first time we met she turned me off so much that I never really wanted to have anything to do with her again. As I was talking about things in my life, being a divorced mom, she tried to tell me that she understood what I was going through because she was a widow. As our conversation progressed she kept on reitterating to me that she understood my challenges since she has been through similar as she is a widow.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't envy widows or widowers in any way. They suffer tremendously. It is quite devastating to lose a spouse you loved dearly; watching them die slowly, or if its a quick death- no matter what it is hard. But it simply is not the same as someone who got divorced. Painful, but different. (I can't possibly understand what it is like to be a widow as I've never gone through that. I'm sure there are many more painful things about it that I am not aware of. Hugs to anyone that is a widow.)

When someone gets divorced, the challenges are quite different than a widow faces. Instead of being sad about the loss of someone they loved, divorced people are often mourning the happy marriage that they never had. The death of a dream, the death of hope that the marriage will somehow get better. Often divorced people are dealing with significant trauma from abuse they've gone through. Many have PTSD from that trauma that affects them daily. And then they often have to deal with all the challenging issues involved in custody battles, continued abuse from their ex even though they no longer are married. Then if they even want to consider getting into another relationship there is all the trauma from the previous failed marriage and concern that maybe they'll make the same mistake again. And they have to deal with all the judgmental comments from people who blame you for the divorce, who think divorce is terrible and that you intentionally ruined your kids' lives, people who try to convince you to get back together with your ex, and many more things that, to be honest, ruin relationships between divorced people and these types of people. (And these situations are all too common.)

Yes, widows and divorced people know what its like to be in a society that expects a kid to have two parents married to each other, to be left out of couples social functions, to need to support themselves and run a home without a spouse. Both can be lonely. There are commonalities. But there are also huge, glaring differences. 

When a psychologist who is a widow tried telling me that she knows what I'm going through as a divorced mom because she's a widow, she's essentially reducing the struggles of a divorced mom down to the few things widows and divorcees have in common- raising a kid alone, and being lonely. It was so inappropriate and unprofessional that I honestly was so taken aback and disgusted by this psychologist and refused to meet her again because she frankly was totally out of line. (Maybe I could have discussed these issues with her, but I have trauma from confrontation thanks to my divorce....)

On another related note, also on the topic of people that just don't get it, I often hear and see people saying things like how they are "a single mom for the next 3 weeks" or something along that line while their husband is away. This also irks me to no end. Because it is not the same.

Yes, when someone is parenting when their spouse is away, it is challenging. When you're used to a second set of hands to help with the children, to help run the house, and all of a sudden you don't have that, whether it is for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or whatever, it is definitely difficult, I won't deny that. But that situation has even less in common with divorced single moms than widows do, as mentioned above.

These women whose husbands are away temporarily still have their husband's emotional support and have a partner to turn to emotionally when needed. They have someone who is equally as invested in their children as they are and they can discuss together how to raise their children and deal with issues that arise. They generally have a partner who is contributing financially to the household. And even if temporarily they aren't able to help with the day to day goings on at home, it is temporary, and whether in a few days, a few weeks, or a few months things will return and go back to "normal". There is none of the permanence that divorce or widowhood that actual single motherhood entails. There is none of the trauma that both divorcees and widows have, and there's no death, actual death or death of a dream. There isn't the social stigma. Essentially there is absolutely nothing in common between someone who's spouse is temporarily away and single moms.

When people say that they are "a single mom for the next 3 weeks" they are belittling the struggles that real single moms go through, and it is a complete lack of empathy and lack of tact to call it that. Its like if someone's eyes are closed and they say "Hey, I know what it's like to be blind". No, until you've gone through it, and it is actually something permanent, not something that goes away after a short while, you have no idea what it is like, and it is unfair to equate your situation to theirs. 

So that's my rant. People just don't get it. If you aren't a single mom, stop pretending you know what it's like because your husband is on a work trip. If you aren't a divorcee, please stop pretending you know what it is like.

Listen, I am glad that I chose to divorce. Divorce was preferable to staying in my marriage. My life is better now than when I was married. But that doesn't make life as a single divorced mom any less challenging.

So please don't belittle my challenges by talking as if you know what we're going through. You don't, End of story.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I'm glad you wrote about it, in so many instances people try to associate what they've gone through as if it was the same. Until you walk that journey yourself you truly don't know. You can Sympathize, you can be there for etc...but This is not the same as That. Two different words, two different meanings. Much Love and Many Blessings

  2. Totally agree that others should not assume they know what you are going through and that every struggle is unique. Don’t agree about the single mom part. There are single moms who have very supportive co parents, single moms with financial resources and family help, married moms with little emotional or parenting support, etc. if someone says she is a single mom for a few weeks, it’s how she feels, and she’s entitled to feel that way. You don’t really know what’s going on in her life or marriage and that doesn’t detract from the fact that your situation is challenging right now.

    1. If someone's marriage is bad its still not being a single mom. Temporarily being without your spouse still doesnt make you a single mom, doesnt matter how supportive your parents are or whatever... Its still a very different situation. People can say they are struggling, but that doesnt make them single moms, and calling themselves that has been repeatedly said to be hurtful to actual single moms.

  3. IMO the worst of the comments is when a supposed friend tells u, "well it was your choice to get divorced".
    Your life choice was one for survival and not only like a choice between two flavors of milk or ice cream !
    And I do understand parts of went u went thru in getting divorced as I applied for divorce when my daughter was three weeks old.
    Your situation is so much more complicated and difficult when u have more been married longer and possibly/probably tried marriage counseling, u have more children, and not always the support of your family members that can help u. And if u have to also deal w your children having emotional trauma from the marriage/divore - it is all much more different that other people ever realize.
    It is bad enough to feel your family does not understand u or try telling u that u are making the wrong choice or decision for your life, and what u are doing to your children;and similarly if your friends give that feeling..but to go to a professional therapist for help and then to feel so invalidated.
    Widowed is similar to divorce only in its alone status, but not its living status and how it affects your life because becoming widowed is never usually a choice (unless suicide was involved). Divorce is a long painful personal choice.

  4. What bugs me about my divorce is that people assume my marriage was unhappy. It wasn't. My ex had a midlife crisis and walked out (with another woman). I was shocked, still am.

    and yep, when people ask I do always say I wish he'd died instead.

  5. I also am a single divorced mom, but even you and I wouldn’t understand each other hundred percent since each story is different. A psychologist should know better!

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