Growing Up With A Single Mom Made Me A Badass

My mom was over at our house the other day and we were talking about chores. My husband and I had recently been trying to get our boys to do more chores, and we were talking about how it was going. In essence, getting these boys to do chores is like trying to get a rhinoceros into a medicine cabinet. The struggle is real.

My mom laughed at us and told the story of how, when I was nine, she started making me do my own laundry.

“I was an exhausted single mom and I decided one day that I was done doing laundry. I told you, ‘If you want clean clothes, you’ll need to wash them yourself.’ And that was that.”

Yep, that certainly was that. I know for a fact that I protested the day I had to start doing my own laundry. Same went for the day I was told I needed to wash the dishes every night after dinner (back when we had no dishwasher). Or the mornings I had to make my own lunch. Or the afternoons I had to prep for dinner.

But I also know that there was no choice in the matter. My mom was a single mom, and our sole caretaker for much of my childhood. She also worked full time as a teacher. There simply were not enough hours in the day or adults in our home to give me or my sister any kind of free pass when it came to chores.

I don’t think I fully appreciated the stress my mother must have been under until I became a mother myself. When my children were little, even having a dedicated and available spouse around did not seem like enough to manage everything. My kids are older now, and there still is barely a moment to breathe.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

I have no clue how my mother managed to do it all and still provide us with unwavering support and love. But she did. Because she was a badass. And guess what? That badassery rubbed off on me. Big time.

I often think about what it was like when I left home for college. It was clear to me right away that, unlike my peers, I had no trouble easing into adult responsibilities. Whereas some of my friends had never done a load of laundry themselves, I was a pro. I could cook, clean, organize my life and responsibilities, all on my own, without constant prompting from my parents.

I was independent AF from the beginning, getting my first job at 18, supporting myself, and managing my college applications and student loans all on my own. I wasn’t perfect at any of this, and I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I had no trouble taking the reins of my life when I needed to.

It was in my bones, with much credit to my tough, resilient single mom.

They don’t just do it because they have no other choice. They do it because they love their kids more than anything. They do it because they have been through hell and back and they came out fucking fierce.

I know that sometimes (often), my mom worried and fretted about the life she provided us as a single mom. She wished we had more money, more time, more help. She wished things had been easier for her, and for us. The guilt was strong—and I see and hear that among many of my friends who are single moms too.

Although I did experience some pain growing up—from my parents’ divorce, custody battles, and other messed up shit—being raised by a single mom wasn’t the problem. In fact, the life my mom provided us was the most stable and loving aspect of my life.

It was chaotic at times, for sure, and I definitely begrudged those chores, but my mom was my rock. And my role model.

Seriously, single moms are superheroes. Most of the time, the situation they find themselves in raising their kids on their own is not what they would have chosen. But they don’t let that stop them from being an incredible parent, from waking up each day and getting it done, despite their exhaustion, despite their doubts, despite those private moments when they think they can’t go on.

They don’t just do it because they have no other choice. They do it because they love their kids more than anything. They do it because they have been through hell and back and they came out fucking fierce.

I see my mom’s strong spirit in the way I pick myself up even after my most crushing moments. I thought of my mom in the years after the recession when our young family was living off unemployment and food stamps. I think of my mom as I struggle to work and raise my kids and keep my home organized and I wonder how the heck I’m going to do it all.

And then I do it. Each and every day. Because that’s how my mama raised me.

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I Gave Up A Financially Secure Marriage For Love

My husband and I had been married for 13 years and had been together for 18. We had two beautiful children. I was a stay-at-home mother and my husband had a successful sales career. We lived in a big beautiful home on several acres. We both drove nice cars. We wanted for nothing. But I left my husband anyway. I left him because this wasn’t enough for me. Yes, I admit it, I wanted more. I wanted so much more, and he couldn’t give it to me.

We hear from the time we’re little that “Money doesn’t buy happiness,” and when we’re little, we think, “Oh, yes it does!” When you’re young and struggling to find your way in the world, it’s no fun to live paycheck to paycheck in a small apartment, saying no to social events because you just don’t have the money. Oh, how much better life would be if I only had money! And it’s true. Having money is wonderful. You can drive a nice car, afford a nice home and furnish it with all the HGTV fashions. You can throw pinterest-worthy parties and celebrate anniversaries with steak dinners and fancy vacations. No more Two Buck Chuck, you can finally buy wine from the top shelf.  Ah, the life!

But who are you living in your fancy house with? Who are you drinking your expensive wine with and going on fancy vacations with? Do you love that person? Do they make you feel good about yourself? Do you feel heard and respected? Do you share the same life goals? Do they understand your feelings and validate your needs?

Would that wine taste as good if your partner told you that you don’t contribute to the household? Would that steak dinner taste as good if your partner was staring over your shoulder at the woman at the table behind you? Would that fancy vacation be as enjoyable if your partner told you that other women would line up to take your place? Would you enjoy driving your fancy car filled with kids on the way to the zoo, but the seat next to you would be empty because your partner had something better to do than spend the day with his family?

I left my husband because I had to beg him to be my partner. Because I wanted a father for my children.  I wanted a husband. I didn’t want a roommate. I didn’t want someone who would only pay the bills. Even though I had a fancy house, fancy car, fancy purses, nice wine, and freedom to do what I wanted. I would have given it all up. All of it. All of it for true love.

I gave it all up. I wanted more. I want more. I want a loving, devoted life partner. Someone to share the mundane daily tasks with. Someone to share life’s triumphs and tragedies with. Someone who I know has my back and I can always count on. I want someone who appreciates my love of baking and cooking and encourages it and celebrates it. I want someone who wants to throw the football with my son and bake cookies with my daughter. I want to be with someone who wants to make family memories. Sit on Santa Claus’s lap, go to the pumpkin patch, pick strawberries, visit the zoo, the water park, the museum. I want to settle into my partner’s arms at the end of the day and know that we worked together that day, each carrying our own weight of this life we have made and we both appreciate each other for our contributions. I want to be with someone who doesn’t desire others. Only me. I want to be enough.

When I think about It, what I want seems too simple. Doesn’t true love encompass all of these things? Isn’t that why we get married? True love. Its so simple, but so complicated. It makes me wonder how many of us have really experienced true love. My experience has made me very cynical, because I thought I was in love. I thought I knew what love was. Romantic love, anyway.

When my children were born eight years ago was when I finally felt love. My heart exploded when I held my children for the first time, and I knew I would never be the same. That kind of love makes you immediately selfless and you know that you would do anything in the world for that kind of love. I didn’t understand why my husband didn’t have those same feelings. When our children were born, we became a family with two sides. The one with me and the children and the one with him. I felt invisible. I felt like a burden. I felt like all I did was bleed “his” money on formula and diapers. I wasn’t fun anymore. I was tired all the time.

What I wished for, at the time, was a husband who stayed with me and our twins at the hospital. Someone who would tell his boss to buzz off, he was a father and he was going to be there for his wife. I had a C-section and I was in pain. I was scared. I was exhausted. I wished for a partner to share in the nighttime feedings and miserable colic of our son. I wanted a partner to soothe me when I fell down the stairs carrying our son, not someone to tell me that I should fear child services. I wanted a husband who thought my post-baby body was beautiful, because beauty is so much more than skin and bones. Later, I wished for a father that wanted to spend his weekends as a family. Taking his son golfing on a Saturday afternoon.  But golf was so much more fun with the guys.  I wished for a partner to do the Christmas shopping with, to share in the magic of Christmas with me. I wished to be seen. I wished to be told that he noticed me. Noticed my hard work and all that I do for our children and the well being of our family. I wanted him to tell me I was a good mother. I waited.

Then one day I decided I had waited enough. I was done. Yes, I had a nice home, car, wine, vacations, a credit card, but I didn’t have the one thing I wanted the most. LOVE.

After begging for change and seeing no results, I decided to leave. I decided to give up all the nice things I had and risk it for the chance at love. I wanted more. Not only did I want to know what true love was but I wanted my children to know what it is too. I want them to see it, hear it, feel it. So, even when you seem to have it all, some things are worth giving it all up for. For me, that was love.

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A 4-Point Plan To Cope With Joint Custody Challenges During The Holidays

The holidays are traditionally supposed to be all about family togetherness — a concept that can really sting when that family has been through a split. And if it’s your first holiday season as a newly separated or divorced person, it’s a complicated time, both emotionally and logistically.

Even a shared custody arrangement that works smoothly during the school year can be thrown into disarray by the holiday season and all of its demands. Maybe it’s the scenes in the twinkling, fireplace-lit TV commercials, maybe it’s your own memories of perfect, or less-than-perfect holidays past, but there’s a lot of pressure on parents at this time of year to come up with something “magical,” or at least memorable.

When I became a family law attorney, I got a front row seat to all of the strife that families go through over custody arrangements, and all of that seems to get magnified during the holiday season. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. With communication, advance planning, and a willingness to sometimes set your own emotions aside and let the better angels take the wheel.

Here’s my simple, four-point plan for keeping joy in the holidays, even after a divorce:

1. Hide the battle scars like you hide the gifts. 

There’s plenty of time to argue all year round. But treat the holidays in your personal life as you would treat them in your work life: take the day off. Setting aside differences can be hard, but if there’s ever a time to take the high road, the holiday season is it.

Remember: holidays are not ordinary days; they’re supposed to be special. Even when you’re not getting what you want, take the message of Thanksgiving into your heart, and practice gratitude: be thankful for those things you do have.  Some people are unable to even have children at all, so concentrate on the big picture.

2. Spell out a clear plan, and stick to it. 

Decide who gets the children for which holiday as far in advance as possible, and understand what the expectations are for each parent. Often, sticking points arise because someone wants to make one. But maybe you can take turns, and say to your ex, Christmas can be yours this year, but it’s mine next year. It may be tough, but it doesn’t have to be a Greek tragedy. And don’t forget, Christmas is often more meaningful to kids than it is to parents. What’s important is to relax and do some fun things, even if they’re simple. In other words, you don’t have to spend an entire day trudging through an expensive, exhausting theme park. Sometimes, just relaxing at home while cutting out paper snowflakes and eating the whole box of cookies might make for a great holiday memory.

3. Have a fallback plan if something falls through. 

Winter weather grounds airline flights, people get colds and flu. Job one is to be the parent who’s flexible and understanding (even through gritted teeth). Line up family or friends who can pinch hit as babysitters, or set aside a bit of emergency money to help cope with unexpected costs, like a flight cancellation fee. If these sorts of cancellations are a regular occurrence — maybe even the thing that led to the divorce in the first place — you don’t have to just put up or shut up all year round. But maybe just during the holidays, postpone your frustration. You can fight over it later. Being the parent who drops everything for the sake of their kids while your spouse has an unplanned diversion might seem like an unfair burden, but your sacrifices will be worthwhile, because kids deserve a holiday.

4. Broaden your view of the calendar. 

Christmas is just one day. It may be tough to not spend it with your child, but if you can do a different December weekend with ice skating, tree trimming, or hot chocolate, those things will count in your child’s bank of holiday memories too. Or start now on advance-planning a weeklong summer camping trip. Don’t put too much emphasis on a single day; think of the holidays as an entire season, and more importantly, think of your relationship with your child as a lifelong affair.

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Perimenopause Is A Sh*tshow Of Emotions 

I tossed and turned last night, again. This has been the story of my life for the past year or so. As someone who used to be a heavy sleeper — I could snooze on a shady sofa in college during a beer pong tournament like a champion if I needed some extra ZZZs — this is both unfamiliar and unpleasant.

I rely on a solid nine hours of sleep to get me through the day. Needless to say, my lack of rest doesn’t really fit into my lifestyle. Neither does my irritability, my anxiety, mood swings, or the fact I break out into a sweat and have the desire to walk around naked all damn day.

I always feel like I’m on the cusp of being PMS-y, too. I keep my diva cup and a bag of chocolate and salty nuts on me at all times.

It’s a real fucking treat. I’m 44 years old and peri-freaking-menopause is making its way through my body. This experience has nothing on pregnancy hormones — and I had three children in three years, so that’s really saying something. The cherry on top? My crimson wave comes whenever the hell it wants so there’s no use in tracking it anymore.

Apparently, perimenopause doesn’t care how old you are. It knocks on your door when it feels like it.

Lest you think your mid-40s is too young to experience the hell that is perimenopause and its wild mood swings, you are wrong.

The average woman goes through menopause at age 51, but there’s a lot of shit going on in your body as it prepares to shut those periods down. They don’t just stop overnight. There’s hell to pay first, which isn’t a new story for a person who has a vagina.

I recall my own mother’s experience with perimenopause. My first taste of it was one afternoon when the house needed vacuuming and I was being a “lazy teenager.” She went next level while pointing the vacuum hose at my temple telling me what an asshole I was. She’d just been to the doctor that day to get some things checked out and was informed she was starting menopause.

Well, guess what? She was a few years younger than I am now, and that shit lasted for at least five years. Probably longer, but I’ve blocked it out.

I swore I’d never act like that, I didn’t care where I was in life. But just the other day I lost in on my son over a few crumbs he left on the counter. I reached for the damn hose to suck them up and saw my reflection in the mirror as I almost blew a gasket.

Hello, Mom. Sigh…

Dr. Kate Kiloran of Your Doctors Online, explains perimenopause is when you “have all the symptoms of menopause, but still get your period.”

Well, aren’t we just a bunch of lucky fucks?

They aren’t just regular periods, either. Kiloran says, for many women, their cycles become irregular and heavy as they approach menopause. Other symptoms we can expect to be blessed with, according to Dr. Kiloran are “breast tenderness, increased PMS, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, fatigue, memory issues, hot flashes, and depression.”

Before our reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — start to dry up, they like to keep us guessing. “During perimenopause, these values can fluctuate dramatically. Some months estrogen can be high and other months it is low,” says Dr. Kiloran. “Sometimes it may be the imbalance of the two, estrogen and progesterone, that causes symptoms.”

So, what can we do to ease this madness? Because believe you me, this is a shitshow and I’m looking for some relief.

According to Dr. Kiloran, you can soften the blow a bit. It’s important to address insomnia and depression if these symptoms become unbearable. I’ve started taking melatonin and it’s helped a bit, but it’s definitely time for something stronger. I have a friend who swears by Tylenol PM.

Another option is low dose hormonal contraception or hormone therapy. “Some women are symptomatic due to a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and taking just progesterone during the second half of their cycle (which, in an ovulatory cycle, is the time progesterone is secreted naturally) is very helpful for easing symptoms,” says Kiloran. “Other women benefit from taking both estrogen and progesterone.”

This is not the time to let self-care go either. “It’s imperative to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet as often as possible,” says Kiloran.

Listen, I know this isn’t fair. Not feeling like ourselves due to bouncing hormones feels like a dirty trick. I’ve been struggling hard and my kids and skinny jeans are suffering for it.

I’m not going to try and make it through years of this torture without seeing my OBGYN and getting some assistance. There’s help out there and zero reason to be violent with a vacuum cleaner as a way of coping. Life is hard enough without heavy bleeding between our thighs and waking up in a wash-on sweat every night.

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How To Cope With An Ex Who Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I have a stalker. He doesn’t lurk in the bushes by my house with binoculars. He doesn’t follow me to work or spy on me while I run errands. But he still inserts himself into my life, and the effects of his actions are present in my home. He is the father of my child.

Before I got pregnant, I thought of narcissism as more of an annoying personality trait, like being self-absorbed or selfish, which everyone can be from time to time.

Fast forward 12 years after the birth of our daughter in 2007, and I am now a walking textbook on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I learned the grueling way about this cluster B personality disorder.

For several years, the only label I could give him was jerk. Well, in my mind I selected a stronger word than jerk, but for the purposes of this article I’ll stick to jerk. When my daughter was about ten years old in 2017, I thought about some of his characteristics: lack of empathy, sense of entitlement and superiority, being a bully, angry, and anger issues, to name a few. I typed them into the Google search bar. Voila! Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) popped up.

I was almost relieved to see a psychological diagnosis that encompassed all of these traits… but then I was horrified and devastated. This would not get better. He intimidated me, bullied me, and threatened me.

Twelve wonderful years with my daughter. Twelve excruciating years trying to co-parent with a narcissist. I’ve read all of the articles that say instead of co-parenting, try parallel parenting. The authors of these articles tell those of us who have children with a narcissist to disengage from the other parent, run our households without interfering with the rules of the other parent’s home, and eventually the dust will settle. Then we’ll be able to co-parent successfully and get along.

But that’s not always reality. These authors never tell you how to handle schedule changes, obstruction of medical treatments, manipulation of your child, and a host of other devious and deviant behaviors when the other parent is a narcissist.

My daughter’s father and I are not co-parenting. He is counter-parenting while I do my best to navigate the chaos that he creates and raise our daughter. But isn’t that the point of the narcissist’s onslaught? Once you are a target, the harassment, the manipulation, and the litigation may be relentless.

Even though I now know what I’m dealing with, this doesn’t make it easier for me emotionally. E-mails from him read like cyber attacks. When I see a message from him in my inbox, my heart races and my fingers shake. Will it be a threat of a contempt charge or a broken agreement that leaves me scrounging for a backup plan? Will it be blame games or a name-calling session that I can ignore, or will I need to defend myself with a brief e-mail response in case the e-mail is used in family court? On any day that I don’t see an email from him in my inbox, my pulse is normal, there is no tension, and I get to relax for a short period of time.

The holy writ of narcissism is that it is an addiction to power and control. Yes, it’s an addiction. My mind was blown when I first learned this. Like a drug addict needs his fix of heroin, a narcissist needs to manipulate, control, and, in some cases, terrorize.

Framing it this way helped me discern why my attempts to reason with my child’s father, present a logical explanation, appeal to his sense of humanity did not work for all those years. There is no reasoning, there is no logic, and there is no humanity. Her father is compelled to “win” at all costs. And when he finally wins, it feels empty to him because he is an addict. He needs to win even more.

While I am still learning how to create a healthier emotional space for myself and maybe even get some leverage, I am at least armed with techniques to diffuse some situations. Based upon my own research and experience, I have found some strategies that can mitigate narcissistic abuse. I will also explain some ways to conduct yourself and things to consider if you are in the middle of a court battle with a narcissist.

In terms of communication, less is more.

If you are court ordered to tell him medical information, for example, do so briefly. I typically tell my daughter’s father that I took her to the doctor, that she was diagnosed with X and that the treatment is Y. I then add that if he wants more information, he may follow up with her doctor if he wishes. I stick to the facts.

If he accuses me of something, I do not respond. He usually accuses me of doing something that he himself is doing. Narcissists often project their behavior onto their target. When I receive the baseless emails accusing me of wrongdoing, it’s really his confession. He is actually telling on himself. This is projection at its finest.

Canned Responses and The Grey/Yellow Rock Methods

If you do feel the need to respond, a good canned response I’ve learned comes from Tina Swithin, a mother warrior, child advocate, and founder of One Mom’s Battle: “Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted, and I disagree with your interpretation of events.” If he bombards you with more emails, copy and paste the canned response.

Taking all of the emotion out of your reply and keeping it brief and to the point are the tenets of what is called the gray rock method of communication. Its name originated from the idea that people dealing with narcissists become like nondescript rocks and pebbles that we don’t notice while walking down the road. Since narcissists crave drama, the goal is to become as boring as a gray rock.

When he sends a crazy rant, curse at the computer, call your friend to commiserate or punch a pillow. Do whatever you need to do to release your anger or grief. But do not return his insane rant with an emotionally charged rant of your own. This is what the narcissist hopes you will do. Triggering you is his hobby. To him, you and your child are like two-dimensional video game characters that he expects to jump when he pushes your buttons.

Many narcissists are litigious because one way they can control you after you leave them is through the courts. If they file a motion, you must respond. If they file a contempt charge, you must defend yourself. This means that your e-mails might end up as exhibits before a judge.

According to Swithin, if women trying to co-parent with narcissists use the strict grey rock method, they look cold. The sad irony is that we are expected to be friendly to our abuser. She promotes an alternative to the gray rock method that she calls the yellow rock method. It’s the gray rock method with politeness scattered throughout. Using the phrases please, thank you and have a nice day allows you to be boring but with a dash of kindness thrown in.

I always must consider how I’ll be perceived by a judge in my emails, while still trying to protect myself.

Narcissists will not follow the court order, but they are afraid of being exposed in court.

He made getting my daughter’s braces an impediment to my living the quiet life I desired. The court order states he pays 79% of any out-of-pocket medical expenses and he provides her medical and dental insurance. In addition, because he ended up going on disability for a medical condition, he no longer had to pay child support since the Social Security Administration effectively took over those payments. He filed a motion to modify child support to zero and change the court order to make me the payor for her health and dental insurance. In an email to me, he stated he wanted a “satisfactory court settlement,” which meant one that was in his best interests, and then called the orthodontist, telling him not to treat her.

I would imagine a parent who deprived his or her child of a medically necessary treatment (her braces were not solely for cosmetic purposes) would feel ashamed. I wanted him to feel ashamed. He should have felt ashamed. But I knew that he didn’t.

When my lawyer and I were on the cusp of attending the hearing at which a judge would learn of his decision to not let our daughter get braces, he became more amenable to negotiating an agreement. The concern now was being exposed. While he personally believed that his actions were reasonable, he knew intellectually that preventing our daughter from getting braces wouldn’t be acceptable to a judge. The fear wasn’t about hurting his child, it was about being exposed.

#MeToo to Unmask the Narcissistic Parent

If a protective mother attempts to expose an abusive ex to a judge, she runs the risk of being labeled a parental alienator and ultimately losing her children.

Similar to when women are sexually harassed on the street, we often pretend to ignore it and do nothing, letting strange men continue to shout catcalls at us and grope us. Women feel shame when really the men should.

Exposing men’s bad behavior is the key to change, and it’s no different with a narcissistic parent. I believe that one of the biggest fears of the narcissist is exposure. The #MeToo movement for sexual predators should be applied to unmasking the narcissistic parent as well.

Dealing with Court Professionals 

If you’re going to court or have a guardian ad litem (GAL) or a child and family investigator (CFI), never say outright that your ex has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That may blow up in your face. Even if you’re a psychologist, don’t say it. Without a diagnosis from a mental health professional, you will sound like you are badmouthing your ex which will be a red flag to the court. Don’t even recommend your ex get psychological testing.

While you can’t say he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you can show it. Narcissistic rage makes people with NPD impulsive and stupid. I don’t recommend creating conflict on purpose to wind up the narcissist, as that can backfire on you. Allow him to dig his own hole. Underneath the calm demeanor is a psyche filled with chaos, self-hatred, and extreme insecurity.

When you don’t follow his “rules” or “behave” according to his specifications, you are reminding him of his lack of control. Narcissists lash out without thinking about the consequences. Their lack of control may be used against them. Present the CFI or GAL with his scathing emails and incriminating text messages.

Until family court judges become more educated about NPD, be careful with recordings, and ask a lawyer about using them in court. However, you may be able to play them for the GAL or CFI.

The Narc Decoder

In her book, “The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist,” Tina Swithin from One Mom’s Battle presents the reader with tools to decipher the hidden messages in vitriolic emails from the narcissist. Narcissists speak a  language of distorted reality, lies, and projections of their shortcomings. The Narc Decoder translates the language of narc-ish so you can find peace and clarity. 

I had taken my daughter for several sessions with a psychotherapist for issues regarding school, friends, and other typical pre-teen angst (her father had approved of it). After her father began filming me at exchanges, my daughter wanted to see her therapist again. I notified him of the upcoming session. The next day, I received the following email from him: You are not to take my daughter to see her therapist or any other therapist. Further, I have spoken with her therapist to discuss this matter and informed her that she is not to see my daughter. You have refused to speak with me or behave as a responsible co-parent since October. Your behavior has placed a great deal of stress on our daughter and sending her to a therapist is not the solution. Correcting your behavior is the solution. 

Using the Narc Decoder, here is the real meaning behind those words: I own my daughter and she is only my child. I am scared that if you take my daughter to see the therapist, she will tell her how manipulative I am and that I harass and film you when you pick her up. I am the only one who can make decisions for her and I will exert my control by calling the health care provider to veto your decision. 

I will not acknowledge that you have communicated with me and instead will lie in an email so the judge thinks you are not a good co-parent. I know that you have sent many emails communicating pertinent information about my daughter but I will still try to persuade the judge otherwise. I will place the blame on you for any stress that my daughter is feeling because I cannot take responsibility for my actions that put my need to punish you above her best interests. 

Sending her to a therapist makes me nervous because then my manipulative behavior will be exposed. I again place all blame on you so the court thinks that you are in the wrong and I may continue to feel superior to you. I have no intention of putting my anger towards you aside and changing my behavior so that we may co-parent. 

The Narc Decorder won’t change the narcissist. Nothing will change the narcissist unless he decides to change, which would mean admitting that the narcissist has a personality disorder. The Narc Decoder makes communicating with the narcissist easier because you’ll end the effort to find any logic in his words.

Interpreting his email to uncover the true meaning takes the sting out of his lies, accusations and blame. You’ll soon discover that it’s a frightened, insecure shell of a person who is barraging you with emails, texts and phone calls. If you can picture him as a toddler having a hissy fit while typing his nonsense, you might even laugh about it.

Give choices.

When your child was a preschooler, the best way to get him to eat his vegetables was to give him a choice. Would you like broccoli or carrots? If you need something from a narcissist, offer him a choice of two things that are acceptable to you. You get something you want and he feels in control. Not providing a choice may make him feel like a threatened animal backed into a corner. He may stonewall you or lash out like a tiger.

Always remember: narcissists lack empathy.

Because my child’s father is on disability, my daughter receives a portion of his monetary benefit which substitutes for his child support. As the custodial parent, I am the representative payee and manage her money. He has told her many times that I am stealing her money and called the Social Security Administration to have me investigated.

Of course, his allegations were unfounded, but even in the midst of the turmoil that I was going through, I thought perhaps he believed I was stealing the money and he was trying to protect her. However, I realized that would be granting him the attribute of being able to feel empathy. It was simply a tactic to create more havoc.

Never accept any “favors.”

Be wary anytime a narcissist is giving or helpful. If my daughter’s father offered me $100, I would say no. Literally, if he handed me a $100 dollar bill with no strings attached, I would say hell no. Narcissists don’t have one altruistic bone in their bodies. There are always strings attached. And if I took that $100, he would eventually use it against me and string me up.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo. Something for something is absolutely essential when co-parenting with a narcissist. Maybe he wants to deviate from the schedule. Maybe he wants to switch holidays with you.

Before realizing that my daughter’s father had NPD, I gave him extra time with her when he asked without requesting to make up that time. For me, doing someone a favor was never an expectation of getting one in return.

It wasn’t until the an employee with the Social Security Administration (SSA) informed me that he told the representative that we have 50/50 parenting time because of the extra overnights he got (you know, my acts of kindness) that I changed my tune. He told the SSA rep that he should receive her monetary portion of disability because we share parenting time equally.

The only thing is, we don’t have 50/50 parenting time. It’s 65/35. He used my generosity to stab me in the back. Now, if he asks for even two extra hours with her, I make sure to get those two hours back. This may seem petty but you never know how a narcissist will twist your good deeds.

The other reason that a quid pro quo is imperative is that just because you do something nice for a narcissist, does not mean he’ll return the favor down the road.

According to clinical psychologist Al Bernstein:

Never extend credit to, or accept promises from, a narcissist. As soon as they get what they want, they will be on to the next thing, forgetting whatever they said they would do for you. Sometimes they make promises they don’t intend to keep, but just as often, they merely forget. Either way, you should keep a ledger in your mind and make sure you get what they dangle in front of you before you give them what they want. With other people, this mercenary approach might seem insulting. Narcissists will respect you for it. Everything in their world is quid pro quo. They will rarely be offended by people looking out for themselves.

Final Thoughts

At this time, the courts don’t much care about emotional abuse, and even with a confirmed diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, narcissists may still get 50% parenting time.

One of the most disturbing things my daughter has told me is that she feels like she has to make him happy. I know that feeling and the fear behind it. When you cross a narcissist, he will make you pay. In my case, this includes mentally, financially, and physically. My daughter has internalized the message that she needs to appease him or face his wrath.

The good news is that as long as you are an empathetic role model, your child will grow up to be a loving and emotionally healthy adult. Children need one stable parent and you must be it. One of my friends whose ex is a narcissist reads books with her young children and asks them how they think the characters are feeling. She instills empathy in them because their father can’t.

On the days when the narcissist’s crazy-making is blasting at full speed, you still need to be composed and supportive to your child. I know those days when I’ve wanted to pull my hair out. I’m fortunate to have a loving husband and friends to hold me up when I want to crash. Therapy and meditation help too. Self-care is critical.

I’m also now an advocate for educating judges and other legal professionals about Cluster B personality disorders and family court reform. Activism provides an outlet for my frustration and anger. Yes, I’m angry.

I recently watched the movie Late Night. Emma Thompson’s character, the arrogant snide late show host, says, “When you hate yourself, the only thing that makes you feel better is to get other people to feel the same way you do.”

Because the father of my child is miserable and I have become his target, his goal is to make me miserable too. I sometimes wonder how obsessed a person must be to come up with such devious and cruel actions.

When my daughter turns 18 in a few years and I am no longer legally bound to her narcissistic father, I may even find sympathy for him. As difficult as some of my days are because of him, at least I’m not him. I can find solace in that and knowing that when my daughter is with me, she is in a loving and emotionally healthy home.

The post How To Cope With An Ex Who Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m In My 30s And I’m Finally Ready To Come Out

I’m going to jump right in and get real with y’all. It’s time to get something off my chest, because the weight of it is just too damn heavy to hold anymore. I’ve been living for over 20 years with an epic secret only a few people know.

You ready? Okay. Here goes nothin’.

My name is Lindsay Wolf, and I’m bisexual.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

I’m just going to repeat that because dayummm, that felt good to say out loud! I, Lindsay Wolf, love the dudes and the ladies.

If I’m being 100% honest – which I want to be, duh! – I should inform you that I also love everyone else too. Basically since I was a young teen, I’ve identified as someone who believes that romantic relationships transcend gender. And bisexuality has been the label that feels like the best way to describe all of that.

This is literally the first time in my entire life that I’m talking about being bisexual so openly. So, I guess you could say this is me officially coming out to you.

Congratulations. You have, in a really awesome way, become my immediate support system. Thank you for sticking around, because I have some things to say.

I’ve been crushing on girls since middle school, but I didn’t realize it was actual attraction until one of my high school besties and I were dared to kiss one night. I was about 16 at the time, and she was one of the most popular girls at our school. Her lips were soft and full, and I didn’t want to stop kissing them. Of course, I awkwardly pulled away, pretending like it wasn’t the most magical experience of my young life.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

But it sure as hell was.

I wish this was my only memory of that amazing kiss, but some A-hole at my school totally ruined it for me. As I sat in English class the next day, he randomly blurted out details of our smooch that made me realize my entire grade had been gossiping about it. The whole room started laughing, and I felt the hot sting of tears as I ran out. My English teacher made the kid follow me down the school halls and apologize to me. While I appreciate that he did, it certainly would have felt better if no one had talked to me about it ever again.

Then my little brother began noticing that I was dressing differently and in true rival sibling fashion, he started playfully ragging on me for looking like a stereotypical lesbian. It wasn’t very long before I changed my style to something else.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

At night, I felt most safe to be myself. I’d stay up until the early morning with my bedroom door locked, watching gay women kiss in movies like “If These Walls Could Talk Too,” “But I’m a Cheerleader,” and my personal favorite, “Gia.” Angelina Jolie had it goin’ on, and I was totally hooked from the first moment I saw her gorgeous face onscreen. I immediately splattered photographs all over the walls above my bed. My mom thought it was because she inspired me, and I guess you could say, she did. She inspired me to feel things I’d never felt before in ways I never thought I could.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

I had this wacky idea that when I went off to college, I’d find a willing BFF and we’d hop around gay clubs as a way of finally getting to experiment with my sexuality. At the time, I was definitely attracted to boys too, but they were easy to crush on because I was expected to like them. But girls? That was like a tucked away cookie jar I couldn’t tell anyone that I desperately wanted to reach into.

Just three months into my freshman year, something unexpected happened. I fell in love with the man who would become my first husband. And that’s when shit got really messy. Because while I was very much in a long-term relationship with a college boy, that didn’t stop me from drunkenly making out with every single woman who was interested.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

This was, as you’d expect, a very confusing thing for my boyfriend to make sense of. Especially when the sloppy drunk kissing turned into semi-sexual experiences. And TBH, he started jumping in at a certain point, even if he didn’t fully understand why I was doing what I was doing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em, amiright? Through it all, he supported me as I wildly danced in the chaos of figuring out exactly how to be the most authentic version of myself possible.

Unfortunately, being authentic also came at a painful cost. One college summer, I dyed my hair red, chopped it all off, and after years of disordered eating, happily gained a little bit of weight. I came home, super confident and so ready to tell my younger teenage siblings that I was bisexual. But as I was in the middle of officially coming out to them in our family’s kitchen, my mom quickly barged in. Terrible words about my sexuality were flung at me. Shame-inducing statements about my appearance were made. And there was a whole lot of yelling.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

That’s the day I moved out of my childhood home and began living with my dad. That’s also the day I stopped talking about being attracted to women. The radical phase of sliding lips with the ladies had ended, and before I knew it, I was married to my college sweetheart.

And then four years later, we got divorced.

Heartbreak is a bitch, as most of you know. But the end of my marriage also felt like a liberating beginning, as I could finally open myself up to the possibility of dating both men and women. I wish I could say that I did just that. But I didn’t. I lost all confidence and got scared as hell when a few of the ladies I was flirting with on a dating app wanted to actually meet in person. I had never given myself the chance to tangibly show up in this way before, and now that the moment was upon me, I was fucking terrified to seize it.

Again, I eventually fell in love with and married a man who is now my ultimate life partner. We have two adorable young kids of our own, and I’m also the stepmom to his 13-year-old daughter. Once I met my husband Matt, I thought I’d need to stuff my true sexuality as deep down inside of me as humanly possible. Which makes sense, since most of my past experiences had taught me that who I really was didn’t jibe with the Lindsay everyone else expected me to be.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

But when a young family member in my life began vulnerably questioning their own sexual identity, I knew I had to get honest with Matt and myself.

It took several long talks, and by the end of them, I felt closer to Matt than ever. Not only did he accept my bisexuality, but he’s totally cool with me openly crushing on the same female celebrities as him. As of right now, it’s Lizzo, Scarlett Johansson, and Tess Holliday.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

My name is Lindsay Wolf, and I am — finally! — an out and proud bisexual woman.

If you’re reading this and you have yet to come out as however you identify, I want you to know that I’ve been there. It’s so damn hard to own who you truly are, especially when the world around you is feeding you the lie that it’s not okay to be yourself. And it’s even more challenging to allow yourself to be fully seen by others, regardless of what they may think about you. But after surviving the hardest mental health year of my whole life, I’ve realized that I don’t want to spend another minute pretending to be someone I’m not.

I’m ready to be exactly who I am. And who I am is absolutely wonderful.

The post I’m In My 30s And I’m Finally Ready To Come Out appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Fat Positivity Requires Me To Be Positive About Every Kind of Body

I’ve been fat my entire life. Literally. The whole entire thing. If you’re in a fat body like me, we probably have some things in common. I’d love to chat with you today because I think there are a few things fat people should probably consider when we talk about bodies and self-acceptance. I think we can do a little better.

I hated my size for most of the first 30 years of my life. Honestly, I still have my days where the voices in my head tell me I’m not good enough. But over the last few years, I’ve come to see my body totally differently than ever before. I’m happy now. My body size is just not important to me anymore. I care more about my health and happiness than some kind of bullshit ideal size or shape.

A big part of getting here was confronting my own internalized fat biases. It was an uncomfortable idea. It hurt me to realize how much I detested fat bodies. But I admitted it anyway, dealt with it, and did intentional work to change my mindset about weight and size.

I would venture to say most of us are dragging around some ideas about fat people and our bodies that really need to be dealt with. Like, now.

It’s not our fault. We have lived in the disaster of diet and “wellness” culture for so long.

But it’s still our responsibility to be better.

Maybe you are clinging to some idea about the hierarchy of fat body acceptability, believing smaller fat people with fairly even proportions are inherently more attractive than larger, rounder fat people simply by virtue of being closer to the cultural ideal. Do you have unwritten and unspoken limits for how big a person can get and still be considered beautiful, sexy, and acceptable?

Do you think you can tell someone’s health just by looking at them? If a person was very large but reported that they received a clean bill of health from their physician, would you high five them while raising an internal eyebrow?

Those are just a few examples of size biases that might still be clanging around in your brain, effing with your chances to see yourself and other people as whole and well and beautiful.

It’s time to let them go.

We have to end the obsession with thinness as a prerequisite for health and beauty, and we also have to reject the idea of health as the gold standard for worth. If we can only validate and respect people who are healthy, we aren’t honoring bodies of any size. Health is not attainable for everyone. Some people of every size are sick and will always be sick. They still deserve a place in the conversation about self-love, body acceptance, and living peacefully in your skin.

I can’t imagine a world where I will ever go back to seeing some bodies as inherently better than others. It was such a heavy state of mind. I am grateful for the way I see things today. It is a more peaceful place to live. I feel better now that I can honestly say that I don’t think my body is inferior to thin bodies.

Everyone has the right to live happily in whatever body they have.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Let’s be honest, though. Living comfortably in your body is easier for some people. Saying it isn’t verges on absurd. There are certain kinds of bodies — usually cis, white, thin, and athletic — that are validated everywhere they go. I get why it feels frustrating sometimes to include people with that specific kind of privilege in the body positivity conversation. It is important to acknowledge that many bodies are validated by virtue of existing. Because that’s a fact.

Sometimes, to stay the course and see myself as amazing, I need to have conversations where fat bodies are the singular focus. I think that’s okay. People who have walked similar difficult roads need and deserve spaces where our experiences reign supreme. We need a time and place to be the norm instead of the exception. Sometimes, in fat positive spaces, it’s appropriate to celebrate fat bodies exclusively without mentioning that it’s okay to be thin, too. We need that.

But there’s solidarity, then there’s toxicity. Fat babes, we have to be careful we aren’t choosing to be catty and toxic, pretending it’s healthy community.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Yes, it’s important to declare, “Hey, fat people deserve to exist happily, too!” Too often, we are excluded and undervalued. It’s not okay. We have every right to feel like Horton’s Whos once in a while, chanting, “We are here! We are here!” The world isn’t always nice to us, and we are totally allowed to be done with that bullshit.

But while we endeavor to be comfy in our fat bodies, we need to be able to say, “Come over here, thin girl. We see your struggle, too. You can sit with us.”

Our message isn’t diminished if we include people in thin bodies in the conversations sometimes. Everyone needs a little help feeling comfortable and at peace in the vessel that carries them through the world.

Finding that peace looks different for everyone. I had to change my mind, but some people have to change their bodies. Some people will never find peace with their body if they leave it as-is. If someone knows that they must make a change to their body to live in comfort, there is no choice involved for me. I’m going to support them a million percent.

You need to change your size to find peace? Rock on, friend. Don’t hurt yourself, and don’t buy the lie that you’re not enough today and every day — no matter what that scale or that clothing size says. Nourish your body with foods that contain all the things a human body needs. Move in a way that feels good to you, and watch your body change so you can feel the peace I finally feel. I’m not here for diet culture, but I’m here for YOU.

I’m in for personal transformative growth, whether than means changing your size, adjusting your body to reflect your gender, sculpting your muscles to appear stronger, or any other thing a person might need to do to feel at home in their body.

Fat people are the perfect group to lead the charge on speaking the hell up about bullshit body expectations and unrealistic depictions of size and beauty. We fight against it so much. We are experts.

But we shouldn’t only declare, “Our fat bodies are fine!”

We really should add, “Because all bodies are fine!”

And we need to believe it.

All bodies. Fat bodies. Thin bodies. “Perfect” Hollywood bodies. Post-baby bodies. Trans bodies. Shrinking bodies. Expanding bodies. Healthy bodies. Chronically ill bodies. All of them. All the bodies.

We need to find space to celebrate and validate every kind of human body or our body positivity isn’t very positive at all…and wouldn’t that mean it’s kind of for nothing?

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Chrissy Teigen Was Mom-Shamed For Showing Cleavage In Front Of Her Daughter

The Queen of Clapbacks, Chrissy Teigen, strikes again. On Friday, Teigen posted a photo of herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Luna, seen wearing an adorable zebra-print dress and adjusting her mom’s blush-hued blazer. “On set with my stylist,” Teigen captioned the post.

View this post on Instagram

on set with my stylist

A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

It wasn’t long, however, until people took issue with Teigen’s choice of wardrobe. “Jesus cover up your daughter is right there,” one user wrote. “Do you ever wear underwear?” asked another. And Instagram account Comments By Celebs were quick to point out the trolls and subsequent clapback à la Teigen.

“She sucked it for months and doesn’t mind it much,” Teigen responded to the former troll. Comments by Celebs also pointed out that that same troll changed their profile photo to that very image!

“There’s no troll quite like the kind who changes their profile photo to the very picture they were trolling,” Comments by Celebs wrote.

What a plot twist.

Come for Chrissy, and she’ll clap right back – as she’s proven time and time again. About one week ago, she expertly responded to another troll who criticized her for her household staff. “Grateful for people that make our dysfunctional house functional,” Teigen captioned a group photo posted on Nov. 29 of her staff and her kids.

One user commented, “AKA ‘thankful for my household staff of chefs and nannies,” to which Teigen snarked back, “Literally just said that but you sure got me.”

“Way to really hit her where it hurts, Sophia,” Comments by Celebs captioned their own post.

 

In addition to Clapback Queen, Teigen reminds us frequently of her other title of Most Relatable Celeb Mom. Mere days ago, the cookbook author revealed why her Instagram account is mostly comprised of photos of husband John Legend and her kids.

“I never post myself because no one in my family takes pics of me,” she captioned a selfie posted on Dec. 1.

And if that isn’t the most relatable caption ever written, we don’t know what is.

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A ‘Ratatouille’ Ride Is Opening Next Year At Epcot Theme Park

It’s taken about 13 years, but a ‘Ratatouille’ ride is finally making its way to the U.S.

It should come as zero surprise that the most popular rides at Walt Disney Theme Parks vary by geographical locations. Of course, rides like Space Mountain and It’s a Small World are universally adored. However, other attractions have a more regional appeal as certain movies were more popular in specific parts of the world. Take Ratatouille, for example. The 2007 animated film is set overseas in the European city of Paris, so it makes obvious sense that the ride, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remy, is wildly popular at Disneyland Paris. For whatever reason, those people out there who have the seriously cool job of coming up with creative rides and deciding where to place them, had found it unnecessary to give the Ratatouille ride a home stateside for the last decade-plus – until now. Sometime in summer 2020, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is set to open at Orlando’s Epcot, and we are seriously psyched.

The culinary themed ride is part of Epcot’s current renovation. They announced the ride would be coming in 2017, but finally gave reporters a walk through of it last week. According to Theme Park Insider’s Robert Niles, who was one of the lucky few invited on the walkthrough of the construction site, it is based on the Paris ride. So, for those curious what the ride will look like, you can watch a video of the current Paris ride; however, reporters weren’t allowed to take photos or videos of the new ride, so you’ll have to wait until next summer to see it.

But here is what we have heard about it so far.

 

“The loading area is made to look like the rooftops of Paris, with oversized chimneys and rain gutters. This is the area where riders will board trackless ride vehicles built to look like rats,” Ashley Carter of Orlando’s My News 13 reported after the walkthrough. “After that, we were guided through a scene that resembled Gusteau’s pantry. There were plenty of oversized set pieces in this part of the attraction, including a 2.7 ton ham and other food items. Disney is using a technique to make riders feel like they are the size of rats. In addition to the set pieces being oversized, many of them are tilted ever so slightly. The lines on the buildings in Paris aren’t completely straight. The rain gutter isn’t quite even. Special effects, including projections, will give the attraction a 4D feel.”

According to the Orlando Business Journal, the human shrinking technology used is a design style called “crookedology.”

“The architecture throughout the ride has the same artistic, odd and crooked look from the film, said Mike Davie, project manager on the ride with Disney Imagineering,” the publication explains. “The whole bizarre look is throughout the ride,” and it “truly looks like you’ve been transported into that world.” Additionally, each ride car is “expected to behave differently, making each ride unique.”

People on social media are super psyched about the ride.

https://twitter.com/daniela_ruedaa/status/1202302977941348354

Same, Ratatouille fanatics; same.

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