I think most people would agree that divorce sucks.
Certainly when you get married and you’re saying your vows, you’re not thinking, Hmm… I wonder how we’ll handle the legal stuff when we divorce? Will the kids mostly want to stay with me? How will we divvy up the music collection or family photos?
And so it was that after my divorce, I found myself looking for self-help books, as I often do with topics that flummox me, on how to handle my ex-husband meeting a new woman.
Not just any woman either.
Someone much younger. And cuter. And someone my kids actually seemed to really, really like.
My stomach was in knots around her. I felt flustered and developed weird tics in her presence.
Now I really needed a book to help me.
But where WERE all the books talking directly to divorced moms and stepmoms? Nowhere. I guess it was still too niche of a topic.
We actually started out somewhat okay.
Maybe for like, two minutes.
Then, I got so sick of hearing my kids come home and say, “Look what we made with CAROL!” (And me, never doing crafts with them because I’m just not artsy-craftsy that way).
And, “We’re going camping AGAIN this weekend!” (And me, hating to camp because I feel like a clueless idiot who hates wakes up 37 times a night from rocks under my sleeping bag.)
And finally, from their dad, telling me on the phone, “I think the kids should just live here because Carol’s always home and she’s so much BETTER with them, since she’s not all stressed out from working all the time, like you are.” (And me, temporarily feeling like I actually wanted to kill him, though he has since apologized, profusely. We got it all worked out. But then… Then… OH MAN.)
Let’s fast forward so you don’t lose valuable hours of your life.
Things were tense between us for about two years.
Then, they changed.
They changed because of the kids.
I know, I know. “Think of the children!” has become such a mindless, parroted, catch-all slogan that it’s meaningless. Thanks, politicians!
But the phrase itself, the actual feeling behind it still has enormous power.
Because when I did – when I thought of what this experience of dual-household tension must have been like for my two daughters, well, I was rightfully ashamed of myself.
It was seeing this enormous 4′ x 5′ painting in their apartment that jolted me into realizing, “Holy shit. I can really see here how much Carol GETS Maddie. Even (gulp) see how much she maybe even loves her…”
I had to go cry in my car after that drop-off.
The painting itself is no more, since it burned in a fire. But more about that in a second.
I couldn’t STAND how miserable the kids seemed to be, with both sides “innocently” making the other side wrong and using passive-aggressive behavior to set each other up.
Oh sure, it was easy enough to try and disguise that same behavior and pretend we weren’t doing it.
But we were.
And the girls were suffering because of it. They were starting to look really sad and stressed during random times of the day and especially when it came time to switch houses.
Something had to change.
So… I was the one that initially started reaching out to David, my ex, and to Carol to see if we could make things better.
To their credit, they reached back.
My first meeting with Carol alone was to ask her if she wanted to write a book together to show moms and stepmoms how to get along — while we figured it out at the same time.
That’s probably somewhat insane.
To her credit, she agreed to that too.
One of the most bizarre parts of writing the book (which I mostly did, with her input and stories) was asking her if she could provide me with a list of THE DIRT – all the bad thoughts and horrible judgments she used to have about me so I could make sure and put them in the book.
We wanted the book to be real and honest. Relatable.
So she gave me The Dirt — all two-and-a-half pages of it, single-spaced.
Ooof, that was like a kick in the gut, but it was also GOOD STUFF.
Of course, I had to reciprocate.
So she would know what I was going to say about her! That’s the only reason…
We had some setbacks along the way, since we’re only human. But we made a permanent, gigantic leap forward when Carol and David adopted their son, Jacob, (who is now nine!).
I wrote about how he brought us all together, in a two-part essay called The Tiny Bridgemaker. (And am thrilled that I got to read it as part of the Listen To Your Mother performance series. (Here’s my video). It’s also included in the book Listen To Your Mother! due out in 2015 from Penguin.)
In 2010, I was joined on the blog by my friend, writer Jenna Korf – a stepmom coach who is also a stepmom herself. She brought a much-needed balance to the blog. You can find her site StepmomHelp right here.
In 2011, our two divorce-connected households took another leap forward when David and Carol’s house burned to the ground in the Bastrop County Complex fire.
No One’s the Bitch readers and the Daily Paintworks community (an online gallery that Carol and David own) donated over $21,000 to help them get back on their feet.
When David and Carol decided to move to Oregon to make a new start, I joined them, so that our youngest daughter could still be with both sets of parents.
Here, I met my wonderful, handsome, funny fiancé and am now a stepmom-to-be to three wonderful kids, two teens and one young adult.
In 2013, Jenna and I wrote Skirts at War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict to address the concerns of many readers who found they could NOT get along with the other household, no matter how hard they tried. After several years of writing together, we decided to focus on separate projects.
In 2014, our oldest daughter married and had the first grandchild in the family, a girl, Nina Pearl!
Now I’m returning to this blog in 2015 with new insights on divorced families and look forward to connecting with new and old readers alike.
The more official bio:
Jennifer Newcomb Marine is a writer, coach and public speaker. In a previous life, she taught workshops on parenting and creativity, and video production classes to children and teens. She’s an avid traveler, rock climber, and rower. Jennifer is an honorary aunt to Carol and David’s young son, a mother of two, and a stepmom of three.
Carol Marine is a successful fine artist whose work has been featured in national publications and on her blog, A Painting a Day. Her new book, Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist is already a bestseller. She co-owns Daily Paintworks with her husband, David Marine and is a passionate photographer and outdoor enthusiast. Carol is a mom of one and a stepmom to Jennifer and David’s two daughters.
Jennifer and Carol have been featured on The Dr. Phil Show, The Washington Post, CBS, Canada’s Globe and Mail, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and numerous radio shows, online reviews and interviews.
For interviews, please contact Jennifer at 512-522-8541 or send me an email here: Contact Me