Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Is there a "Good Divorce?"

April 20, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Is there a "Good Divorce?"
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
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Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Is there a "Good Divorce?"
Apr 20, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

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Sarah Armstrong never thought she'd be the kind of person to get a divorce. She was devastated to find out she was wrong. But she never wanted to be 'that' kind of woman who was always fighting with an ex and making life miserable for herself and her daughter Grace.

In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host and attorney Billie Tarascio talks with Sarah about what she did to turn her marriage into a "Good Divorce," writing about it in The Mom's Guide To A Good Divorce in 2015, and sharing her story on her website of the same name.  Sarah's advice for divorcing parents concentrates on how to navigate the boiling waters of a marital split, with solid advice that's easy to follow to keep your sanity, and your children, from suffering.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Sarah Armstrong never thought she'd be the kind of person to get a divorce. She was devastated to find out she was wrong. But she never wanted to be 'that' kind of woman who was always fighting with an ex and making life miserable for herself and her daughter Grace.

In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host and attorney Billie Tarascio talks with Sarah about what she did to turn her marriage into a "Good Divorce," writing about it in The Mom's Guide To A Good Divorce in 2015, and sharing her story on her website of the same name.  Sarah's advice for divorcing parents concentrates on how to navigate the boiling waters of a marital split, with solid advice that's easy to follow to keep your sanity, and your children, from suffering.

The Good Divorce

​[00:00:00] 

[00:00:00] Billie Tarascio: [00:01:00] hello, and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce podcast. I'm your host Billie Tarascio, owner of Modern Law family law attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. And today we have an exciting guest with us to talk about her book, her journey, and really share some very important information.

For any of you going through Divorce, any Divorce parents, this is really gonna be very important for you. Welcome to the show, Sarah 

Armstrong. 

[00:01:29] Sarah Armstrong: Great to be here with you, Billie. Thank you for having me. 

[00:01:32] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, yeah. Um, I'm, I think that this is gonna be a very exciting and informative show for our listeners.

So first I wanna talk about the book and the website. It's called Good Divorce. The Good Divorce, 

[00:01:46] Sarah Armstrong: right? Called The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce. 

[00:01:49] Billie Tarascio: That's the website Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce. Okay, so this is really geared towards 

[00:01:53] Sarah Armstrong: women. Yes, absolutely. It's geared towards women. But in fairness, I have had many men that have read the book and said, [00:02:00] you know, it's, it's helpful for, for both, for both perspectives to see what I've shared.

But I did write the book with, you know, the other moms out in the world that are trying to figure this out. Um, was really, was really the focus when I, when I wrote the book. 

[00:02:13] Billie Tarascio: Got it. Okay. So first of all, where did this term good, Divorce come from? 

[00:02:18] Sarah Armstrong: Well, it's an interesting, interesting story. So, um, I've been divorced 13 years, but my daughter at the time was seven.

And, um, when we, uh, went through the Divorce, uh, my ex-husband and I decided to go through it in a very specific way. Um, I should say I'm not an advocate for Divorce. And I think couples should get married and stay married if they can, but unfortunately that doesn't happen. So we had decided to go down this path and I'd seen a lot of ugly divorces growing up, even though my parents have been married 55 years this year.

And so, um, about a year after a Divorce, um, my daughter and I were standing in a cvs, uh, and uh, there was a people magazine on the checkout counter and there was a celebrity couple on the cover that were getting. [00:03:00] And Grace looked at me and she goes, mommy, is that a good Divorce or a bad Divorce? And I said, Grace, I don't know what's the difference between a good Divorce and a bad Divorce.

She goes, well, good Divorce is when the mommy and daddy are nice to each other like you and daddy. And a bad Divorce is when they scream and yell at each other. And I stopped and I said, well, it's hard to tell what type of Divorce it is from the magazine cover. But I said, um, you know, and I walked out Billie that day out of the c v s and I thought whatever my ex-husband and I were doing a year after this massive change that we'd done to all of our lives, but specifically for Grace, my daughter, the fact that she could call it a good Divorce, I felt like we were doing something right.

And so I thought, you know, let's, let's continue doing what we're doing. And we did that and you know, now she's off in college now. And, um, but I think, uh, it's, it is, it was really, you know, she coined the phrase. 

[00:03:51] Billie Tarascio: So it sounds like you and your ex-husband, um, from the get-go, were really able to [00:04:00] keep the conflict to a 

[00:04:01] Sarah Armstrong: minimum.

We worked, we worked very hard at it. Okay. So not by the way, anything I say today, the, there's huge effort. Um, there's a lot of conscious effort and, um, I think the thing that I'd actually talk about in my book is, um, building a com, a compartmentalization muscle. Um, you know, I think in life, actually in life, I think we need this, but when you're going through Divorce, I think one of the biggest challenges is there's so many emotions and it is, and it is high emotion time.

Um, but I think if you can actually step back and think about what are the things that your children should be exposed to when they are, um, you know, in this process with you, not just the process of going through a Divorce, but the years after. And, um, so I, I, I talk about the, I, I do Pilates, so I talk about you build a core muscle, you know, at your core, but this is about building a muscle that you can say, you know, as you go into situations and if there's going to be conflict, should your children be exposed to that [00:05:00] conflict.

You 

[00:05:00] Billie Tarascio: know, I'm, I'm glad that you mentioned that because not, not every couple, um, can be low conflict from the beginning. They just cannot. And, and all you can control is yourself. So if you know that you're walking into a situation and, and you can't do something joint, right, there is an answer. And the answer is not to do 

[00:05:23] Sarah Armstrong: it together.

Exactly, exactly. And here's the thing, you can control yourself. You can't control the other person. You never will. You never have been able to. You never will. So I think understanding that is really important in life as well. But what are, what are the actions and what are the moments when, if that moment is presenting itself, how do you react to it?

What do you do? What do you choose to say? What, how do you choose to react? Because your kids are seeing and observing everything. They're taking it all in. And so I think that at least from our perspective, we do. I just had said to my ex husband, I don't want this to, I don't want Grace to be collateral damage because we've decided to no longer be married together.

Right. That's not, [00:06:00] that is not fair. I, I think as parents, when we bring a child into the world, We bring them, we make a commitment to them, you know, to raise them in the healthiest, happiest, safest environment, environment possible. And you know, I, I joke that we cover the plugs and we put bite helmets on them and we feed them organic milk.

You know, we do all these things that are, you know, meant to ensure that they're, they're healthy. And then when you go through a Divorce, you are literally potentially putting your children in the most toxic environment possible and leaving them there and letting them stay in that environment for weeks, months, and even years.

And so that's not, you know, it impacts, you know, their view on relationships, their view on marriage, their view on even on their own happiness. And so I really believe we as parents have a, had made a commitment to our children. We brought them into this world. And I think as we go through this process, we should make a commitment to our children that we're not gonna put them in a toxic environment.

We're gonna protect them from that so that they aren't collateral damage at. 

[00:06:57] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, and that's how we're gonna define a good [00:07:00] Divorce. A good Divorce is one that protects children from conflict and insulates them away from things they don't have to have anything to do with. You talk about not only building that that com compartmentalization muscle, but also minimizing gaps.

Talk to me about that. 

[00:07:20] Sarah Armstrong: So it's an interesting thing because when you go through Divorce and the physical environment that your children are in, they are again taking all the signals, you know, and they're reading everything that happens. And so in our instance, um, I was keeping the home that Grace and my ex-husband and I had been living in.

And so, but we were gonna be splitting up, you know, splitting up everything and there was artwork and all sorts of things leaving the house. Um, so one of the things I tried to do, Was, and again, I appreciate there's, there's some considerations here of what you can afford to do. A time. So, for example, if a painting's leaving, maybe you don't put another painting in that space, you know, the painting, maybe put a mirror, but you put something up, you know, you, you, you, you [00:08:00] put the, you try to cover as many of those gaps so it doesn't feel like there's holes all the way throughout the house.

And the story that really sticks with me to this day is that we had a long hallway of black and white family photos from my ex-husband's family. My family all interspersed in this long hallway and I needed to obviously give my ex-husband his family photos. So I took the time, and again, there's some effort that goes into this and I had other photos that I had done and, and put in small frames, and I sent Grace down the street for a play.

Sent her down the street, took an hour, put every, took things down, put 'em in a box for my ex-husband, put the other pictures up. Grace comes home. An hour later, I'm in the kitchen and I hear from the hallway, she goes, Hey mom. And I go, what's that Grace? She goes, the wall has changed. And I stopped and my tracks, and I said, well, what's changed?

She said, there are a lot more pictures of me up there. It looks great. And she ran upstairs to her room. Now I can tell you, Billie, that if I had not taken the. To reframe some photos and put some photos up there and left those [00:09:00] little hangers on the wall interspersed throughout that wall. Years later, Grace would be a therapist saying, my parents got divorced.

My mom took all the photos down of my dad and his family, and she left those little hangers up. 

[00:09:12] Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um, I love that. I love that you put pictures of her up. Children love seeing themselves and it's just, it's an easy win, guys. It's an easy win because it's sort of hard to redecorate after Divorce.

Mm-hmm. You go to these stores and there's all these signs about, you know, families forever and, and the, the are not reminders that you or your children need at that moment. And so figuring out how do I, how do I decorate my house? When I'm no longer part of this unit can be hard. But focusing on your children and what they like is an easy win.

[00:09:58] Sarah Armstrong: Is an easy win. And the other thing I will [00:10:00] say is in Grace's room, there are, were we, we like photos. There were photos of her dad, her aunts and uncles, her grandparents from her father's side. Those stayed. Sure we stayed in her room. Those are her. That's her family. You know, it's, I did not want to, in any way take that away from her.

She doesn't need to just see my side of family, just so, I think that's another thing. And, and some people like it, you know, you still have pictures of, you know, and I said, yeah, that's, that's Grace's family. That's, again, that's where you, um, you said earlier, you know, I literally think a good Divorce means people set aside their personal feelings for one another and focus on what's best for their children, like full stop.

[00:10:36] Billie Tarascio: It's definitely a modern approach and understanding to Divorce, and obviously as a Divorce attorney, somebody who lives in this space. I know, I know because I've seen it both ways. I know unequivocally that there is a good way to Divorce, and this is it, but it requires you to change your mindset of, [00:11:00] you know, this person's dead to me, or I hate them, or I can't hear their voice.

You can't do. You can't do that and be a good parent to your child. 

[00:11:09] Sarah Armstrong: Yeah. And I think that it's such an important thing. I think, again, it's so hard, I won't say this is easy again, you'll hear me say that often, but it is so important for your children. And there was a moment in our, in our journey about five years after our Divorce.

Um, so Grace was in first grade when we got divorced. This was in sixth grade. We went to a parent-teacher conference and it was one where she joins us. So it was my ex-husband, myself, Grace, and her teacher. And we sat down, we went through about an hour long discussion about Grace and how she was doing in school.

And at the end of the session, the teacher stopped and looked at us and she said, wait a minute. Are you two divorced? And I said, yeah, we've been divorced for five years. She said, well, I had no idea. And I go, well, it didn't occur to me to come in and announce that at the beginning of this teacher conference.

By the way, we're divorced. Can we now talk about Grace's education? Like [00:12:00] that literally has no bearing in this. And she said to us, and, and I'll never forget, she goes, you would be surprised at how a few couples that are divorced can come into this office for one hour with their child and sit down and talk about their child's education.

It is very, very rare. Mm-hmm. And she said, that makes me so sad. Mm-hmm. And I, I said, that makes me so sad. By the way, Grace is hearing this entire conversation. Mm-hmm. That makes me so sad because what is more important? To two parents than how their child is doing in school and wanting to both hear it.

And otherwise, what happens in those instances is a child has to go twice. Right? Both parents want to hear it, and then they're going through two parent teacher comment. Yeah. And by the way, the teacher is doing too. It's like, why, why? Why is that? Okay? Why, why is that the way that people think this is supposed to happen?

So it's, again, it's just, these are all, everything I'll explain are kind of the, they seem like small. But everything is a [00:13:00] signal to our child about how we're approaching this. And those are moments that I think we have to take the high road and we have to say what is the best thing for our children? And then do it 

[00:13:10] Billie Tarascio: right.

The other thing that, um, I get from that story is it was an opportunity for Grace to feel proud of her family. And I think that we as parents don't, maybe aren't paying attention, but our, our children feel shame. When their parents get divorced. Now that is not logical, right? It's not their fault, but they feel that.

So if you can give them a reason to feel proud of their family, that's a gift. 

[00:13:40] Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, no, it is. And actually, I mean, because Grace was so young, and in fairness, we were the first couple in our kind of friend group to go through this, and so she was the first child. She didn't have other points of reference, but over the years she did have friends, you know, sadly, whose parents went through divorce.

And she and I would talk at dinner and she'd be explaining things. She's like, mom, it doesn't have to be that hard, cuz she was watching more contentious [00:14:00] situations. She's like, it doesn't have to be that way. And I said, I know Grace. She's like, I'm trying to tell my friends. So again, because she saw how we approached it, she, she saw a different way, you know, and she was trying to help her friends understand.

But again, her friends aren't the ones that are acting that way. 

[00:14:15] Billie Tarascio: Right? Right. They're the victims of their parents. 

[00:14:21] Sarah Armstrong: And so, but, but she saw it. And so, and I think that it's interesting. Um, it's interesting, Billie, when I talk about the concept of good Divorce, there's a lot of skepticism, you know, and even with the title of my book, when people are like a good Divorce, and, you know, I don't think there's enough discussion in society about why isn't a good Divorce an attainable outcome?

Why, why is this so rare? And when you think about. And, and when people say that, like, you know, I know one other couple that's done what you, you, you two did, and I said, wow, great to hear of one other couple. But why does one other couple, why is it that it is such a rare thing? Why aren't, if if 50% of marriages end a Divorce, why [00:15:00] can't we have a belief that you can do this again?

I'll step back and say something. No one gets married to get divorced. No, no one gets divorced for positive reasons. But children are the most greatly impacted by this decision. And so if that's the case, if all those facts are true, then why can't we look at a different way of doing this so that everyone can be happy at the end of this?

And it's, it's interesting when I, um, when I was prompted to write this book, one of the reasons I was, uh, at a business center in Mexico City and, um, a colleague of mine turned to me, who I'd known for years, and he looked at me and. Sarah, you're so happy. And I said, oh yeah, I, I am. He said, but you're divorced.

And I looked at him, I said, Salman, getting Divorce is not a death sentence. My ex-husband and I decided to no longer be married to each other. I said, I am happy. Grace is happy. My ex-husband's happy. I'm like, we're all happy. I [00:16:00] go, that is possible. But it's also because we decided to take a specific approach because I didn't want this Divorce to define.

Or Grace or or our lives and be this negative cloud that like follows you throughout life. You know, getting divorced is an action. You get divorced. 

[00:16:19] Billie Tarascio: Well, and it should make your life better. That's the goal. 

[00:16:24] Sarah Armstrong: That would be the goal. But you know what, interestingly, I don't know that that's not the perception within society.

Hmm. That is not the perception within society. I think that it's almost, it seemed like a scarlet letter. Like you, you, you know, something, something bad has happened. I mean, I, I joke, and this is a true, you know, true reality. I go to the dentist's office and they ask me my status and ask for Divorce, and I go, why does it matter?

You're cleaning my teeth? Yeah. You need to know that I'm divorced. 

[00:16:49] Billie Tarascio: No, no. 

[00:16:52] Sarah Armstrong: But, but, but they, again, these little micro signals you get through society Oh yeah. That are, that are meant to tell you, oh, you're in this box. 

[00:16:59] Billie Tarascio: [00:17:00] Absolutely. 

[00:17:00] Sarah Armstrong: You need to say in this 

box, 

[00:17:01] Billie Tarascio: and I, this is an inferior category. 

[00:17:04] Sarah Armstrong: Yeah. And I just, I don't buy it.

I do not buy it. And, um, you know, it's interesting. People sometimes, you know, I, I joke that again, I never imagined obviously getting divorced, but I've kind of become the poster child for a good Divorce. Mm-hmm. I've had people, by the way, tell me that I make Divorce look too good. I think trying to be happy.

I want Grace to be happy. I want life to be good. So why, why is that? Why is that? 

[00:17:33] Billie Tarascio: Another thing that you talk about in your book that I think is important for us to chat about is preparing the professional traveler. 

Yeah. 

[00:17:40] Sarah Armstrong: This is a real, again, another poignant moment in our journey. So, um, the week before we were gonna tell Grace that we were going to get a Divorce, we went to a child specialist that was gonna see her after we told her, and he sat down with us and he looked at me and he said, Sarah said, do you travel?

And I said, yes, I travel internationally for my job. And, uh, he looks my [00:18:00] ex-husband, he says, do you travel? He says, yeah, I travel domestically. He said, well, Grace is about to become a professional traveler. She's gonna travel every week for the next 11 years until she heads off to college and she's gonna have to pack a bag.

And I burst into tears. Yeah. And I said, that's not what I want for her. That is not what I want for her. So we walked out of that session. And I looked at my ex-husband and I said, I don't know what it looks like yet, but I want us to think about how Grace doesn't feel like she's a professional traveler Every week I.

We can't do that to her. So what that ended up looking like, and it's interesting, again, this goes into a combination of effort and I do appreciate there's some socioeconomic considerations as I share some of these details. But we decided to have the basics at both homes. So jeans, you know, socks, underwear, you know, two pairs of running shoes, one for each home, you know, just so that when Grace left for school, she did not carry an extra bag depending on where she was ending up.

At the end of that, [00:19:00] Yeah, she had her, she had her backpack. Right. And she good school, 

right? 

[00:19:05] Billie Tarascio: Yes. That is without a doubt, the very best model for exchanges. Yeah. Children should not have to pack a toothbrush. They should not have to, but at the same time, I have teenagers and they will have things that they want to take back and 

forth 

[00:19:21] Sarah Armstrong: and, and that's a choice.

And, and I didn't agreed. And I mean, Grace played golf and she had set a golf clubs great. You, you had to make those choices. But I think the thing was, if you could get the basics there, and I always joke, I don't know how all the socks get at one home or the other, Billie. I don't know how 

[00:19:36] Billie Tarascio: that happens. It happens somehow.

[00:19:38] Sarah Armstrong: It does. And so when we'd have rebalancing days, sure, by the way, not for Grace rebalance. She shouldn't have to go in and figure out, I'd say to ex-husband, you know, can you take a look? I feel like I have no socks over here. And he would figure out. And then when we did our swap, he would hand it to me. I would take the.

And go put them away again. Grace was young, but I like this isn't, she's 7, 8, 9, she shouldn't have to [00:20:00] rebalance her clothes across two homes. She didn't choose to wiggle across two homes. We did that. Right, 

right. I think this is important. Um, So many now grown children talk on my TikTok channel about how they were made to feel responsible or guilty when they forgot things, and I wish that I could.

I wish that parents could change this mentality and understand that this is our fault. We need to get in the car and go drive and get the thing and not make them feel guilty. 

Oh, oh, Billie. Yeah. I mean there are moments, right? There's a, there's the moment where it's like, mom, my dressy shoes, cuz we did only a pair, they're at dad's house and it's dress up day and I would have to stop.

And I knew we had a tight time window and I, I'd take a deep breath. I'm like, let's go get the shoes. And I didn't say a word to her about. Why don't you, you know, that's not her fault. Nope. It's not her fault. So I agree with you, but it's, it's those moments and again, you have to take the high road of [00:21:00] many levels, but you have to like stop.

It's a compartmentalization muscle I mentioned earlier and just have a moment to say. Okay. I could react, I could, I could make a comment that I'm gonna regret. Just try to keep it in. Now, I'm not saying, by the way, keep those emotions in all the time. I should mention that earlier because it's not healthy.

But when you have those moments of frustration, whatever they are, whether it's with your ex-spouse or the moment you're trying to juggle so many things, you have to just take that deep breath and say, let's go get the dress up. Yeah. 

And it's going to happen. There's no, there's no possible way that their favorite bathing suit isn't at the other house before you pack to go on vacation.

It's just part, it's, it's now built into the planning. 

I was just about to say, you, you do need to build it in. You need to, especially with vacations or, or things that you're trying to plan, where things are going to be, you just have to add a little bit of padding to say, and we're gonna figure out what's missing, right.

And then, and then we're gonna go get it. Right. I mean, in the instances where you have the ability to go, you. And, and do that in a, in a moment. But yes, those are all, it's [00:22:00] in what, it's interesting what you said in terms of children reflecting back. Yeah. Because I'll tell you one story that sticks with me, and it was a, a moment as Grace was packing.

So Grace was getting ready to go off college, um, two years ago. She's a sophomore this year, and it was in August and she came home one day from her dad's house and she goes, mom, I'm calling this a great consolidation. And I looked her, I said, what does that. She goes, when I head up to college, it'll be the first time in 11 years where all of my stuff is in one place.

Now you have to know Billie, in 11 years, Grace never complained once about going between two homes. Never said a word, never not a word. But that moment told me regardless of how well we had done things right, that there was a moment where she's like, this is gonna be, you know how it was supposed to be.

Yeah. And I looked and I said, Grace, I'm so glad you're gonna have all your stuff in one place. I said, I'm so happy for you. And I go, and I can't thank you enough for how amazing you've been. Mm-hmm. Seven years of having things in two places. I, you know, we, [00:23:00] your dad and I didn't have to do that. You had to do that.

Yeah. And so I'm really happy that you have a great consolidation going on. Yeah. Hey, you don't need two of everything now. Mm-hmm. And be, it can all be with you. So it just, it was a moment, you know, she's 18. She could say that. We could reflect on it. Yeah. But it, um, it just showed me that even though she was a trooper through the whole time, right.

There's those moments you go, okay, this is, this is how she had to live her life. Absolutely. 

Absolutely. So if we can give our kids more Grace, um, When they forget things, when they need things from the other house, like I think it's our obligation and I don't, and again, this is a mindset, this is a mindset shift.

It is. And a mindset shift. You have to, ideally you start the beginning with that mindset. Mm-hmm. Now we'll be tested. Mm-hmm. Potentially on a daily basis like it is. It can be really, really hard. None of this is something I'd say is easy to do, [00:24:00] but the mind, if you go into it with the right mindset, If you decide there's going to be, the effort is there and it's worth it cuz it's for your kids.

And then you kind of think about, okay. Again, some days you're not gonna rack a bell, or some days it's, you know, things aren't gonna go as planned. Then you have to say, give yourself the Grace. That's okay. That didn't go as I would've liked it too. Right. And do things differently. And you know, I talk about that your first, the, the first year post Divorce.

Yeah. Which is a lot of things that you may say, okay, I'm gonna do it this way. Whether it's how you celebrate birthdays together, or how you go on vacation, or whatever it looks. And then, or how you celebrate holidays, which is always a really tough one. And then you have to look at and say, do I wanna do that again next year?

Is this, did this work for me or did it not? Because I do talk about that you're kind of recovering from a Divorce hangover, you know, that first year. And then by the way, you're still driving carpool every morning. So it's like you, you're, you're not feeling great. You still gotta get up and, and do what you need to [00:25:00] do, um, with your children, you know, and, and whether you're working and whether you're involved in their school.

Whatever the case, you have to show. And sometimes it can be really hard, but you're first of figuring out what works and doesn't work, I think is so fundamental to then the next year, the second year gets easier and you may take, make some tweaks, you know, in terms of what worked or didn't work. So I just think that that's a really important part of it.

[00:25:23] Billie Tarascio: Absolutely, and relationships evolve. There might be times when you can't do parent-teacher conferences together and other times when you can. And as time goes on, if new people come into the mix in terms of stepparents, that's gonna change the dynamic. If new children are born, that's gonna change the dynamic.

So, 

[00:25:47] Sarah Armstrong: All you 

[00:25:48] Billie Tarascio: can do is strive to continue to keep these values and beliefs of how do I make it easiest on my children? 

[00:25:58] Sarah Armstrong: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I [00:26:00] just think that it, again, it's a conversation you have with yourself, right? And you keep, you, do you have to kind of go back to keeping that mindset in check, taking the high road, by the way, the high road can be really.

It can be a mountain, right? It can be, you can be feeling, you can, you'll be feeling it. But that high road is so worth it, and it is, it's a day in and out conversation with yourself about how you want to, to handle this and what, what you want life to look like. You know, I, I talk about embracing the new normal.

You know, this isn't the life you may have imagined. It wasn't, I did not imagine at all that I'd be divorced and a single working mom ever. That was, that was not, that was not in Sarah's. But I had to embrace that and say, okay, this is our new normal and, and what does this look like? And then the other thing I'd say that I think is important in these situations is to cherish the memories of the past.

Those that are positive mm-hmm. With your kids, about your, your marriage or the family dynamic or funny moments. And, you know, and, and Grace and I would do that, we'd be sitting at dinner and something would come up and [00:27:00] her dad would come up and we'd laugh about something that, you know, we had all done together and.

I think that's important too. It's not, you don't wanna the good, I know that there's a lot of contentious divorces and there's a lot of things you may wanna put in the past and never think about again. Completely got that. But if there are positive moments, like celebrate those, recognize and talk about them because those, they're part of your collective history.

And kids, it's like there is a pre prevo moment, right? For families. And do you wanna wipe that hole? Pre Divorce moment away like nothing existed. I think that that's unfortunate as well. It's, it's 

[00:27:35] Billie Tarascio: not possible. Like your family is restructuring, it's still your family. It's kind of like a sibling. Like you are stuck with this person forever.

Yeah. If you have to sing with them. So maybe think about them like a sibling. They're not going anywhere and they've got pros and cons, and you guys might have conflict, but you, you gotta learn how to live together into a, in a different way. Well, and 

[00:27:56] Sarah Armstrong: in fairness, it's, it's co-parenting. Right. And you were, what [00:28:00] you're, what you need to do is co-parent.

Well, you do, you do not need to be friends. Right. You not need to ask each other how they're doing. I mean you, if that's something you don't care about, you don't have to ask those questions. I do talk about it. It comes down to logistics of life. Mm-hmm. To manage the logistics of. On behalf of your child in a way that's healthy and responsible and shows the support that they deserve from you.

And then that's, that's the relationship. Now, if you want it to be more friendly or not, that's, that's your choice. But there's just some foundational expectations that you need to each set for yourselves. As a couple of what, of what healthy co-parenting looks like. Mm-hmm. And then decide, I mean, communication's a great example.

I mean, I mean, thank God for texting and emails and things these days. Um, but, you know, I would, I would keep a running list of things that I'd wanna talk to Max. I didn't need to be texting him every day or calling him every day. I, I kind of call the things that weren't timely. I'd collect on a list and then I'd pick and say, Hey, do you have 15 minutes?

I've got some stuff to run through. And we'd, we'd have a call and we'd run [00:29:00] through it and, and then we were good. Now, certain things are, you know, um, more urgent than others that we need to jump on a quick call for. But again, you can decide how much they're in your day-to-day life by how you choose to communicate, communicate about the logistics of your child's life.

Which is what you're really managing is their, their logistics, but also their emotional health, their physical health and all those things and, and what's required. So it just, it's, it takes a com a combination of, uh, planning and discipline and, and some effort, but, uh, well worth it. Well worth it. How long 

[00:29:35] Billie Tarascio: after your Divorce do you think it took to settle into an what 

[00:29:40] Sarah Armstrong: felt like normal?

I'd say it's. Two to three year range. I mean, the first year's, there's nothing normal, right? There's nothing normal. The second year, there's some things that, and then three, and then by five, you know, I think it, you know, it is what it is. And now I'm, gosh, 13, I can't believe. Um, [00:30:00] so, but I'd say it's in the two to three plus range.

And I think the thing you mentioned earlier though, there's, there's different dynamics that come. So your new normal is a new normal, and then there's different dynamics come in, either in terms of your child's age. And the things they're going through going from maybe, you know, grade school to middle school to teens and all that comes with that.

So like, life is changing anyways, you know, and then there could be people that are in both of your lives and what that looks like. Excuse me. So I think that, um, but in terms of kind of resettling and saying, okay, this is kind of how this life works, I'd say it's in that two and three range. I did have a, a moment, um, When Grace was, it was about two years after the Divorce, we were sitting at a dinner at a, on spring break, she and I, and there was a family across the way, a mother, a father, sister, and brother.

And she looks at me, I think actually it was, it was about, yeah, it was about two years after. And looks me, she goes, that's a real family. Hmm. And I was like, well, and I said, Grace, we're, I mean, I jumped right in. We're a real family. She goes, no, we're not [00:31:00] mom. She's like, there's a mommy and daddy. And she goes, and there's a sister and a brother.

And I thought, and I'm thinking to myself laughing. I'm like, well, you weren't gonna have a brother, but, ok. But, but it was, um, it was a moment. So I actually wrote to the child specialist that she had seen, you know, during the Divorce, and I wrote to him and explained the story and, and he, he, he said to me, he said, Sarah, you should not have told her she was wrong.

Right. That's, that's her reality. That's her mental model of what, what a family looks. And, and I actually asked her at that point, I go, do you wanna go back and see Mr. We, we called to Mr. Dick. Do you wanna go back and see Mr. David and talk about something? She goes, that might be good. So she went back. She knew she had someone she could go talk to.

Yeah. And um, and in talking through it all, I realized that that was her mental problem. Now over the course of time, I think the structures of family, again, even the last 13 years, have changed a lot. Right. And I think that, you know, if you were to maybe. You know, Grace's perspective on that now age almost turning 21 this fall versus at age eight or nine would be different.

But I think it's where you are and it's, and it's that picture [00:32:00] you see, right? And society puts that picture of that's, you know, that's a family. And so we had to restructure what family and what, you know, a real family looks up. Right? 

[00:32:12] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. And I think when we have this goal of creating, you know, the best possible Divorce or the best possible environment for our kids and, um, trying to mitigate against all damage.

It can be hurtful to hear sometimes we're not a real family or I hate going back and forth, or whatever it is. Um, how do you suggest parents handle. 

[00:32:44] Sarah Armstrong: I think if you first have to acknowledge and understand and appreciate that what they're saying is true, and kind of what Mr. David said to me, don't tell them they're wrong.

That is their reality. That's what they're feeling. That is their reality. I think the question is then talking to them about what, what can help [00:33:00] them see, maybe see things differently or experience things differently or help them, like the, the going back and forth is the reality and, and it goes back like, what can you just help to minimize that feeling so taxing in them?

Right. So it, you know, it's, it's, uh, it's a tough thing and, and kids, you know, they really are the ones that bear the bear the burden of that during a Divorce process. So I think it's being open to the conversation, telling their, telling your kids for them to share what they're thinking with you. That it's important for you to know where their head is so that you can help them if you know, and, and sometimes you're gonna feel helpless cuz what they say, you know, that specific dynamic is not gonna really change.

Right. What can you do to. Minimize how they're feeling about that dynamic. Right. And again, not easy, super hard. Some of the biggest tests in life we can have as a parent is, is helping our kids through these moments. But, um, you know, I, I think it's an interesting one. And again, the signals we give them, um, you know, I, I think about when we go and sh sort of show support to them at school [00:34:00] events, whether it's a soccer game or.

Play or what? Like my, my ex-husband and I always either sat next to each other or near each other. So if Grace was looking in the crowd, she didn't have to look like two sides of the soccer field. But don't make them choose, right? Don't make them choose and don't make them have to look both ways. Like why do they have to look on both sides to say, oh, my mom saw me score, or Dad saw me score.

Like, they don't, they shouldn't have to do that. Now, if you don't wanna stand right next to each other, fine. Be on the same side of the field or be in the same section of the theater or what, you know, there's, again, these are all these decisions you make that you might not think matter. They so matter.

And your kids pick up, pick up on every one of those signals, and those are the things that start to then really, you know, weigh on them. You know, and that those are the things they carry as they go through these years post Divorce. 

[00:34:48] Billie Tarascio: Well, Sarah, this has been an excellent episode. Where can people find your book?

[00:34:53] Sarah Armstrong: So they can find it on Amazon. Um, and it is available in a paperback, an ebook, kindle, [00:35:00] all those things. And also I went into the studio and did an audiobook. And uh, the reason I think that's important is, you know, people and, um, that are making decisions, uh, about Divorce and the things that you need to think through.

Um, excuse. May wanna consume it in different ways. Mm-hmm. And you know, I, the one thing I just explain is the book is, um, broken up to three. It's uh, 185 topics in bite size pieces. There's just a topic per page, and there's three phases preparing for the change during the change in post change. And it's actually not meant to be read, cover to cover.

It's meant to be, you know, wherever you are in your journey and you're, you know, just going and look at a topic or two and, you know, process what that topic is about. And then you can set it aside and come back to it when, when you need to. Um, and Billie, I will share that I was, uh, right after I wrote the book, I did a, a book signing the Barnes and Noble, and about two, three months later I was in the grocery store and this woman walked up to me in the produce section.

And [00:36:00] she said, are you Sarah Armstrong the author? And I stopped cuz I hadn't, I didn't think about myself that way. And I said, oh yeah, I am. And she said, well, I was at your book signing and I'm going through Divorce and I just wanna thank you for writing this book. I carry it with me everywhere and it keeps me calm.

[00:36:16] Billie Tarascio: Nice. That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here. If you all have enjoyed this episode, make sure to download it, share it with your friends, rate it, leave a review, and until next time, we will see you later. Thank you so much. [00:37:00]