Let me first say that my lawyer is not happy when I blog about my divorce. But now that I’ve been in a front-page article of the New York Times for blogging about the divorce, I think we’ve passed the point of discretion.
And anyway, I think it’s okay to blog because I am the transparent type, so it would be weird for me to have this huge thing in my life and not write anything about it. How is this blog at the intersection of work and life if I cut out the life?
Also, I noticed that Nino has started commenting on my recent divorce posts, and he seems to be updating my family about our divorce via Facebook, so at this point I feel that all is fair in social media. And maybe working out one’s divorce is going to be the killer app for Twitter.
So the first thing I’ve done to make sure the divorce doesn’t undermine my career is that I’m not pretending that it is irrelevant to my career. But here are some other steps I’ve decided are important for trying to keep both the divorce and the career on track.
1. Surround yourself with smart people. They’ll help you make faster progress.
I hired the two top attorneys. As if there is top anything in little Madison, Wisconsin. But alas, in any sea, there are big fish. I spend most of my time worrying that Nino routinely complains of me stealing our marital assets. Like, he’ll mention it while we’re watching a soccer game, or under his breath taking the kids to violin class.
Usually this accusation is reserved for men who buy a yacht and a condo for a hot little mistress and twelve first-class airfares to see her. So the accusation won’t hold for me. But still, my attorney decided that our best strategy is make sure that Nino has a great attorney so it is two smart lawyers who are used to negotiating with each other and things will go faster.
I hope this is a good strategy. If my site starts loading slower you’ll know that the lawyers have been so expensive that I had to cut back on bandwidth.
2. Be consistent — be the same in the divorce as you’d be in your work
Our first official divorce fight was Nino refusing to refer to me as Penelope in his emails. I told him he has to use Penelope, but I tried to say it in a nice email so that we were not having animosity. In my heart of hearts I still believe the most important thing is to be nice.
So we tried. He wrote a long email about how my old name—which I’m not even writing here because I’m so done with it—is more appropriate. I ignored the email. He ignored my pleas. It’s like we’re still married. Oh. Wait. We are.
3. Keep a sense of humor — it gives you fresh perspective.
Surprisingly though, our efforts to downplay the divorce animosity are paying off. For example, on Mother’s Day, Nino agreed to go on a hike with me and our kids and our eight-year-old neighbor who spends tons of time at our house. It was a big favor for him to do because I’m the one who really wants the kids to feel like we’re still a family, and I’m the one who likes hiking.
On the hike, the boys comforted me by being their normal boy selves, and they turned mud piles into cannon balls and every long stick became a sword. We sat down to rest at a campsite.
Nino said, “Wow, they have everything at the campsite, even a place to chop wood. If you have a hatchet.”
The eight-year-old neighbor says, “We have a hatchet at our house. My mom’s boyfriend bought it for her last Valentine’s Day.”
Nino and I looked at each other, incredulous, and smiled. And for one, small second I felt like we were a family—the parents sharing an inside joke while the kids try to kill each other.
4. Be a good time manager; the divorce takes time, so manage it well
Ignoring the fact that my lawyer’s time is probably more expensive than mine, I had him meet me at McDonald’s. I had breakfast with my two-year-old and then, while he was crawling up and down in Ronald’s Playland, I gave my lawyer a summary of our debts and assets. My son asked two or three times who the guy was. I said, “It’s my friend, Allan.” And as I said it I thought maybe this would make it so I get the hourly rate for friends. (Do divorce lawyers have any friends?)
My son offered Allan an ice cream, which he declined, (and then Allan’s clock ticked in Playland while I bought my son the most expensive ice cream ever purchased.) Then my son asked if Allan wanted to go down the slide. He asked if Allan was coming to our house. All this made me wonder about eventually bringing home some guy to live with us. Though honestly I can’t wrap my head around integrating another man into our life beyond some guy coming to Playland with us.
But I know it happens. I know that somehow women work this out in their lives. And since I learn so fast from stories, could people write stories in the comments section about how they introduced a step-parent successfully?
5. Be honest. If you are shady about your divorce people will think you’re shady about everything.
It would be so fake to tell you that I’m not worried. I’m very worried.
I’m worried that I’ll never fall in love. That’s normal, right? I mean, I know it’s normal if you are fifteen and get dumped, so it must be true now, too.
I’m also worried about money. How does anyone separate their career from their divorce? A divorce comes with a promise to earn a certain amount of money. All the things I’ve done in my life to insure that I have flexibility to do whatever career I want could be going down the tubes. I’m very scared about that.
I also worry that you are only reading this stuff because I’m a train wreck. People like reading about other peoples’ divorces because they feel better about keeping their own marriage together. So, okay. I hope I can make some of you feel smug today, because sometimes I write posts and I’m the one feeling smug. We should all get our chance.