After Jennifer Butler, 41, went through a painful and contentious divorce, she had a revelation: she was transformed, and actually joyous. That realization set her on a path to help other women change their perspective. The author of Excerpts from the Heart of a Mom and the new audience development and community leader for DivorceForce recently spoke to ESME’s Jaimie Seaton about her unique philosophy.
Q: Tell me about your own divorce and becoming a single mom.
A: I met my ex-husband when I was 18 and married when I was 22. The short story is that we grew apart and changed very much in different directions. My son was born in 2007, and when he was three, it became very clear that my ex-husband and I were living separate lives. I made the decision to step away from the marriage, and my ex-husband agreed. Even though it sounds like it was an easy process and nonconflictual, it ended up being a highly conflictual end to our story together.
Q: Were you coaching women in divorce before your own divorce?
A: After my divorce, it was a very hard year and a painful process for me, so I decided to take all that I was going through and throw it into writing. In 2011, I wrote a book about conscious parenting and started my first blog to support the book. That kind of took me down this long and winding path. I started gathering tools because I wasn’t really clear what my path exactly was.
Two years ago I decided I wanted to take all of this and help women who have gone through divorce. Having gone through such a tumultuous divorce, with so much of my own personal pain and wounds being brought to the surface, I was really transformed. As hard as it was, I was just happy, really joyful, and transformed as a human being. I wanted to help other women see divorce and see their new place in life in a different and more empowered way than the mainstream, which seems more resentful and angry and bitter and victimized. That is when I began my blog on JennJoy Coaching.
Q: Have you found resistance to that idea? Are the clients who gravitate to you already positive, or do you have to nudge them to that place?
A: Yes, and that is partially why I have moved away from coaching and over to DivorceForce. There was a lot more resistance than I anticipated, so I became really curious about it. I wondered, Why? Here is this possibility for changing your life on so many levels: on a physical level, a spiritual level, and an emotional level. Why don’t people want to seize that? Why aren’t they excited about it?
What I came to understand, and what I was able to connect with in myself, is that when you have an intimate relationship or connection with another person, being angry or in conflict—whatever those emotions are, you are still connected to and in a relationship with that person. For me, and I think for a lot of people, you realize you have nothing if you let those feelings go. The relationship really is over, and you’re forced to face your own stuff—the ways you really let yourself down or turned your back on yourself. I think for many of us, that’s a really scary thing to do.
Q: How does one make that break while still being connected to an ex through parenting?
A: What I have found is that it takes a lot of courage and faith, and it’s the willingness to be accountable and really own your stuff. It’s also knowing your why. If you can’t do it for yourself, you’ve got to be able to do it for your children because they are watching; and the best way to be a parent, the best gift you can give is being your best self and showing what it looks like to live to your potential when the world falls apart around you. Whether it’s divorce, death, losing a job, or going bankrupt, everyone is going to go through something, so you know your children at some point will go through their own challenges, and how they are able to deal with that is going to have a lot to do with how they saw you go through your process.
It takes courage to accept help. So many people want help, say they need help, but when the help is offered, they tend to turn away, and I believe it’s out of fear. That’s a huge part of why people stay stuck longer than they need to—they aren’t accepting the help that is being offered right in front of them.
Q: What is the goal of DivorceForce?
A: It’s a marketplace and community for anyone who is affected by divorce, and the goal is to provide support, empowerment, education, and community—all the things that anyone going through divorce will possibly and probably need to access. You don’t know what you don’t know. DivorceForce is really creating a space where those going through divorce can find out what they need to do and how to execute it. And, there are different perspectives, not just one person’s idea but different ideas and ways of doing it, so whoever comes to the site can find a way that feels good to him or her.
Q: What do you think is the best way single moms harness the network?
A: We provide a lot of content from professionals on how best to parent and deal with conflictual coparenting situations. And also coming on and talking to other people who are exactly like you. In our forums, members are able to speak with one another, and I respond personally to everybody, and we connect members with other experts who specialize in what members are asking. In doing that, you’re building this community of people who get it—and get you without judgment.
Q: What is your goal in your work with DivorceForce?
My goal is to have it be this space where people feel safe and connected, where they can go and be really supported, where they can make a really crappy situation a little bit better. Even the best divorce still stinks.
Q: What is the biggest blind spot for mothers going into divorce?
A: You can do it and you will do it, and I think being willing to be in it and go through it in a very present and conscious way. There is going to be a lot of anxiety and fear about the unknown, but that is way worse than the actual reality of it. For me, I was terrified, and I wondered how I was going to do it. If you stay in it, you find your way, and if you do that you will discover parts of yourself that have always been there but haven’t been accessed. You’re going to surprise the heck out of yourself at how strong and capable you really are.
Divorce is never easy. Our Sisters Only community is here to support you!
Jaimie Seaton, ESME’s Pregnancy Resource Guide, has been a freelance journalist for more than 20 years. She is the divorced mother of two awesome teenagers and often writes about parenting, dating, and relationships. Her work has appeared in numerous publications worldwide, including the Guardian, the Establishment, Glamour, and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @JaimieSeaton.
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