Stories of Perseverance: Cassidy Kiser
Today’s Story of Perseverance comes to us from Cassidy Kiser. She is mom to Anistyn (9) and Kai (6). Cassidy is sharing her family’s journey through divorce and raising her children as a single mom.
Briefly describe your experience with motherhood and raising children through and after divorcing. Along with the struggles and successes you've had.
- Motherhood has been nothing like I imagined it would be because I have done the majority of it alone. Even when I was married, my husband traveled a lot for work so it has felt like I have been a single mom for a really long time. I can truly tell you that being a mom saved my life. When I was in the thick of my divorce there were so many days that the only reason I got out of bed was because of my two, sweet kids. It has been so hard, but also the most rewarding title I have ever had. Going into motherhood, I was pretty in control of how my kids were cared for, their schedule, routines, what they ate, who they spent time with, etc.. Once my husband and I separated, the quickest and most valuable lesson I had to learn was to let go! All I could control was what happened under my roof, but when they were with their dad or anyone else I was no longer in control. It was the most painful lesson to learn, but it has changed everything for me. My kids know how loved they are, they know our home is their safe haven, and they know I am there for them no matter what. I pray every time they leave that they will be okay and trust that whoever is with them will protect them and love them like I do.
Who or what helped keep you grounded when you initially went through your divorce? What about currently?
- I have been blessed with incredible support. My parents, siblings, friends, and therapist have been by my side through thick and thin. There have been many, many phone calls, late nights, texts, and conversations filled with tears, despair, sadness, depression, and fear. Every single time, I know I have people who I can turn to who will listen, validate, give advice, and pick me back up again. I truly don’t know where I would be without them and my two kids carrying me through. In the times when I was all alone I relied heavily on podcasts, books, music and journaling. Hearing stories that I could connect and relate to made me feel not so alone. Getting my feelings and thoughts out on paper was, and is, so therapeutic for me and I believe truly allowed me to process and heal.
How did you balance the needs of your children and yourself while still allowing room for coping?
- I think as a mom it is a habit to put your kids first, but I learned that I couldn’t show up for them and meet their needs if I wasn’t taking care of myself. It was unlearning the belief I had that taking care of yourself was selfish. I had to recognize that if I didn’t take care of myself no one would. The first year or so of being a single mom was a lot of “checking in” with myself and naming how I was feeling so I could feel, process, and let go. It was also giving myself permission to have crappy days, to recognize when it was too heavy, to stay in bed, not have a perfectly clean home, or get ready every day. I found on the days that I took care of myself, it was so much easier to give extra to my children when they needed it.
What advice would you give to mothers in a similar situation (or really any parent who is dealing with uncertain challenges)?
- You are stronger than you think you are. You are worth it! You are worthy of love, happiness, and joy. Find your people and cling on as tight as you can because you are going to need them. You will survive and there will come a day when you feel the sunshine again. Feel whatever you are feeling in the moment so you can process and move on. Suppressing your feelings only makes it worse. Feel. Deal. Heal.
What has this experience taught you about resilience?
- That I can endure really hard things even when I don’t want to! There are so many days when I want to throw in the towel. Days when I am so exhausted on every level and when I just don’t want to do it anymore, but I did not come this far to only come this far. I look at my life now and truly cannot believe how far I have come. I am so grateful I chose to keep living, to keep fighting and to find the silver lining in it all. I got to where I am at by taking it a minute, hour, or day at a time.
What is something you wish others understood about going through a divorce, as well as going through a divorce with children?
- People throw the word “divorce” around so loosely. Until you have experienced it, I don’t think you can fully grasp the weight of it. In so many ways it is like death. You are mourning the loss of a life you once knew, a person you loved, and a family that you worked so hard for, BUT you don’t get the closure of having a funeral or burial. There are constant reminders of that person and that life you once had. I know it is different for everyone, but for me it was earth shattering. I had to quite literally pick up the shattered pieces for not only me, but my two kids as well, at a time when I was not functioning. It has taken years, thousands and thousands of dollars in therapy, and more tears than I will ever be able to count. The divorce was not my choice so in no way was I prepared for any of it. I became very well acquainted with grief. There is no pushing through grief. A quote that I have saved in my phone says “There is absorption, adjustment and acceptance. Grief is not something you complete but rather you endure. Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself. An alteration of your being. A new way of seeing. A new dimension of self.” This is exactly how I feel. Divorce changed me to my core. I am not the same person I was because it has pushed me, molded me and truly forced me to strip away everything and decide how I want to live my life, who I am and I confront the parts of me that needed changing. From pain comes beauty and I can truly say now that I am grateful for all of it.
Update on you and your kids (you may want to include details about divorce shapes your life or even how it affects parenting):
- We are good. It has been 4.5 years of ups and downs, really high highs and the lowest of lows. We have adjusted to our new normal as well as can be expected. There is still a void in our life and our home, many times where tears are shed because there isn’t a father figure around and a part of our everyday lives. My kids and I have the strongest bond and relationship. I know they feel safe with me and they know I will always be there for them, no matter what. We are happy and healthy. I can’t ask for much more.
How have you adjusted to co-parenting your children?
- It was very difficult at first, but over time my ex and I have both chosen to put the children first. We keep any and all communication strictly about the kids. Regardless of our differences, we love our children and want what is best for them. It was a process for sure, but now our kids do really well with the transition back and forth. They know they have two homes and two families who love them unconditionally.
How have you adjusted to being a single mom?
- At this point it is all I know. It is like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. What I would give to have someone help with bath time or bedtime or even just fold a load of laundry. But it’s my life and as hard as it is, it is also so beautiful. I don’t think my children and I would share the bond we have without enduring this storm together. I know I wouldn’t be the person that I am today and I know that my kids are growing up to be amazing little humans because of all they have been through. I truly don’t think there is a more difficult job than being a single parent, but I see it as such an honor that I get to raise these two kids and share this life with them.