For me, the most important element to any relationship and its survival going forward, is the friendship created before intimacy begins. Don’t get me wrong—by no means is friendship a cure to betrayal, a means to overlooking lies, accepting abuse or a reason to stay in an unhealthy situation. However, a foundation in friendship can lay the groundwork for a healthy atmosphere to raise children, when introducing a new chapter called “co-parenting”—the separation of two parents, after their love has left the building. 

Support your ex…

With that being said, I think, ideally, you should aid in the success of your ex-partner… to a certain degree. Regardless if you are together or not, you’re bonded for life, and the combined efforts and the outcome of your efforts will be felt by the parents eternally. My Grandfather, whom was poetic and full of wisdom, would tell me things like, “you have to do what it takes for your household and that may not be what works in other people’s household.” A failed relationship is not an excuse to be unsupportive of your ex—you’re still creating a nurturing environment where children are at the forefront. So it was important for me to restructure and redefine my household for what worked best for me and the boys. I wanted to create an environment where my children did not notice huge changes, yet subtle differences. Flexibility is key! I would also talk to them about the differences they saw, always reminding them how much we loved them and our expectations as parents remained the same. Listen, *don’t get me wrong–there were times I wanted to choke people out, but I had to learn to compartmentalize those emotions for the benefit of raising our kids in a healthy space. I am very aware that this is for a mature mind and you may be grasping your mouth in disbelief.

Caught on Camera

It’s no secret what happened to me in front of the entire world and how my life changed in a matter of seconds, all while cameras were in my face documenting an epic breakup. What I can now admit, and what you may be shocked to learn, is that I was at the lowest place in my life. Growing up in the South, I was taught that some things are dealt with behind closed doors, so I was extremely uncomfortable having to be vulnerable in front of people I didn’t know, but also in front of the whole world. Being transparent in the public eye, put me in a very awkward position. I must confess, I had no idea how to handle it, so putting up a wall of strength is all I knew to do. It wasn’t until I’d lay in bed at night, trying to sleep that I’d realize the trauma I was experiencing. I would toss and turn, reaching at that emptiness my bed now felt. I was battling extreme sadness and rage. It forced me to take a quick inventory of the company I was keeping. I realized I was surrounded by people I truly didn’t know, and the one person I was closest to—my children’s father—became just as much a stranger to me as the others. 

I was numb for a long time!

Eventually, that numbness grew into an anger that I was afraid of, and then, it turned into a place so dark, that to this day I still cannot explain. During that period of sadness, pain, and confusion, I would do my best Mary J. Blige impression, and “reminisce on the love we had”. I’d drown myself in memories, savoring each moment like I was drinking my favorite bottle of Malbec. It felt good too. I’d be reminded of the game we used to play called “House,” and I’d momentarily forget the life I was forced to walk away from. To indulge in the pleasure of being with him felt good because, even briefly, putting a band-aide over this gunshot wound felt safe. I won’t lie, I wanted to be selfish. Hell, I too deserved to do what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted—without worry, just the same as everyone had treated me. I felt like it was my God-given right, but you know the old saying, “hurt people hurt people.” Truthfully, it didn’t fix a damn thing. Ultimately, in the end, nothing truly helped mend my broken heart.

Piece by Piece…

Putting back the pieces to my heart was something I knew was going to take time, and it was a journey that I would have to walk alone. Imagine going for an amazing hike and how free you are. The fresh air whisking by your ear. You’re taking in deep breaths of relaxation as you press forward, and right before reaching the top, you are confronted by your biggest fear. You’re in a position of no escape. No amount of education, fame, charm, or prior good deeds matter. It’s just you, all alone, and you have one choice: sink or swim. That’s why survival stories lend to the greatest of tales because sometimes we don’t know our own capacity to overcome obstacles and triumph until we absolutely have to.

I dug deep to remind myself of who I was. I thought about how I was reared and the women I knew growing up. As a child, I was surrounded by strong women that never failed. For them, it was survival by any means necessary—through success and defeat. I had to hear their words and remember their movements to get through. They were truly pillars of strength. Their attitude was what I needed to defeat this heartbreak because, although the selfishness of others started this eruption of pain, it was now about me and the action I needed to take in order to move forward for the sake of my children. This defeat would not be about going over or crawling under, but getting dressed for combat and pushing through. I literally had to dig my heels in the dirt, pull myself up by the buckles of my boots, and weather the storm. All the while trying to keep from licking my wounds and peeling the scab back so they could heal properly.

Finding My Power

I read books of empowerment and healing —I even co-authored one,  but it was in my quiet time, that simple epiphany happened.

“This can’t be life… in all of its greatness, there’s something more waiting for Tara.”

Being confident in who I was and the dreams I dreamt, this hiccup was nothing more than a mishap. Maybe a big mishap that turned my life upside down, but being a victim is a choice. I was done with that being one of my options! My calling was calling for me, and it was time to answer.

Easier said than done

The “golden rule” says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It also applies to oneself. What I know to be a fact is, when you don’t do what you have to do for your life, that is punishable. You see, we can only hide behind the bushes for so long until the time comes to free ourselves from all that is weighing us down. I was pushed aggressively because that is how I understand. I didn’t respond to the whispers, as they got drowned out by the voices that spoke louder in my head; you know the way we operate when we want certain things to happen. The universe gave me an aggressive push and was saving me by making me accountable for my life. 

As we progressed in the separation, a new emotion emerged. It was a feeling of disappointment. I felt like I had failed my children. I mean, I did choose this man after all, but this was not what I wanted for them. I grew up with my father in the home, and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s important. I did not want my children to know or identify with the idea of an absentee father. My plan was interrupted—abruptly. Of course, we adjust as strong women, but I felt it. The adjustments were no walk in the park. I had to let go of preconceived notions and fairy tale endings to redefine every situation in my life. The idea I had of how my boys would be shown love and affection from a two-parent household had to be rethought. I had to rethink how I could still create the same level of love and affection that I wanted them to experience while co-parenting. I had to reset what was customary and ask myself questions that I needed to answer. I had to come to a complete understanding of my healing and what was really important. I had to come to terms with what life truly meant. Just because you’re living doesn’t mean you’re experiencing life. Life has to be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted, and the longer you are not doing that, the more you are wasting precious days. Life is not forgiving on the days that we lose or give up, it keeps going. We’re the ones missing out on truly amazing and beautiful moments worried about what was lost in the past, including moments with your children.

Doing it my way

You see, I’m the kind of mom that can’t sleep without my boys home tucked in their beds, and while “me time” is great in theory, the reality of that happening is rare. I find joy in looking at their old pictures, but most of all, I love that their childhood is innocent, carefree, and filled with moments of me being there. My children and my life are my greatest love. I am not an anomaly in this, but to speak to the hearts of moms like me, this “Moms Club” is a special one—and we rock to the moon and back for it. Who you are as an individual is important, but that’s all compromised when you fail at raising emotionally healthy children. I was and still am determined to offer my kids the foundation of love, stability, care and happiness that all children deserve. As my favorite artist Prince said in “Paisley Park”, “The smiles on their faces speak of profound inner peace,” and that’s fact. I’m unapologetically creating the dynamics of my household, and we have to define it based on our needs and what we deem as important!

Excited to get to share my story.

Hope this helps someone

Mommi Tara