“I think we should get a divorce,” he said the day after Christmas.
My first thought was, Oh, thank God. I was relieved. I felt many other things- fear, anger, betrayal, embarrassment, heartbreak. But first and foremost, I was extremely relieved.
It was very difficult for me to see how bad things had gotten from my own inside perspective. It was not until my weekly sessions with my counselor that I realized how much abuse I had put up with for so many years, and how terrified I had been. Fear is a paralyzing force.
That first week, I vacillated between a strange sense of freedom and a paralyzing fear that everyone was looking at my empty ring finger with judgment. I was frustrated, because this was not going to happen to me. I was never going to be a divorced woman, and my kids weren’t supposed to have divorced parents. I was so worried about how this was going to affect them, but I knew that staying together would have been so much worse for them.
I am a single mother of three, hilarious children. I am also a grad student trying to get my Ph.D, I am the managing editor of a peer-reviewed academic journal, I teach two Business Communication courses each semester, and I own a large Victorian house that needs a lot of work.
People sometimes ask me how I go to grad school with three kids. I usually jokingly reply by holding up my coffee mug. While I do drink entirely too much coffee, the truth is most of the time I am barely hanging in there. Some months I don’t get any child support, so I supplement my adorable income with another freelance editing job and stay up all night working on it. Some nights I fall asleep while my 8 year old is reading to me. I actually bring homework with me to church and work frantically during the Sunday School hour, sipping coffee and typing as fast as I can. I am the parent who hates it when the school does fundraisers, because I don’t have time to take my kids around town selling overpriced pastries. (Also, I think fundraisers like that are stupid.) I am the parent who got nasty looks from the other moms at Boy Scouts because I was desperately reading Rhetorical Theory and trying to figure out the wifi password while the scout leader was talking about something. (Something about leaves. I think.)
I am always the parent who shows up to her kids’ sports events with a bag full of homework. I always cheer on my kids, but when they aren’t up to bat, I am annotating articles. This is how I survive.
Some days I just can’t do it. Like this winter when my daughter had strep throat and the flu at the same time and she couldn’t keep down her medicine, it snowed about 6 inches, my snow blower stopped working, I knew I couldn’t actually get out of the driveway to take her to the doctor, and I had 14 group projects to grade, 2 articles to read through, and lessons to plan. I couldn’t do it. I curled up with my feverish daughter, trying to get her to keep down a little bit of liquid, and after her fever finally went down, cried myself to sleep.
The next day, a neighbor cleaned out my driveway for me, my boys went to a couple of friends’ houses for playdates, and my daughter (fever completely broken) successfully ate a little bit of soup, sweetly smiled at me and said, “Thank you for making me feel better, mommy.”
I curled up with her and cried again, but this time, I knew I could do it.
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Danica Schieber is a 3rd year Ph.D. student at Iowa State University, studying Rhetoric and Professional Communication. Some of her research interests include Transfer Theory and Business Communication Pedagogy. She loves playing tag and listening to music with her three children and her boyfriend.