Scary Mommy Jill Smokler on Life after Divorce
- Navigating divorce and post-divorce life
- Boundaries and co-parenting
- Dating and next-chapter excitement
I know many of you will relate to the story of how I found Scary Mommy. I'd just had my first baby and was up at night for maybe the fifth time, mindlessly typing into Google every search term I could think of for, "Why won't my baby sleep?" And bam! I found Scary Mommy.
For the first time since I learned I was pregnant, I felt my self-judgment begin to slip away as I read about and began to embrace a new narrative: that of a perfectly imperfect amateur parent.
Scary Mommy's founder, Jill Smokler, lends a raw, honest voice to motherhood. She's a breath of fresh air in this Insta-world where we curate our lives to try to make people think we have our shit together more than we actually do. Jill's candidness about navigating life at home with her kids makes us laugh, cry, and more than anything, feel less alone.
Last year, Jill and her husband Jeff told their children (and the world) that after 17 years of marriage and 23 years together, they were divorcing because Jeff was gay.
It was a secret the couple held close for 15 years, and it took a lot of soul-searching for them to decide to end their marriage. But just as Jill helps moms navigate the turbulence of motherhood, she (and Jeff) have given us a master class in how to divorce while keeping your family and integrity intact. From the outset, Jill and Jeff were public about their commitment to their children. Jill addressed this in her blog:
"While we will no longer love each other as husband and wife, we remain deeply committed to one another as partners and co parents to the three most incredible kids we could ask for. It's our greatest hope that this experience translates into raising empathetic, caring, open-minded children who learn to embrace their differences ... and respect and appreciate that which makes others different."
Jeff told People magazine, "We want to show folks that you can do divorce in a way that not just puts your children first but can come from a place of love." He added, "In our case, there has never been a shortage of love."
I reached out to Jill because I knew she would provide honest, authentic, invaluable advice about navigating divorce we can all learn from. (And she did.)
On navigating divorce and post-divorce life
Erin: Now that your divorce is final, in what ways have you found your overall perspective on divorce has shifted?
Jill: My heart goes out to truly single parents in a way I just didn't understand previously. They are freaking HEROES. Once my 50% kid time is over, I'm beyond ready to hand them off to Jeff. I practically leave tire marks when I screech out of the driveway. Every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember how lucky I am to have an involved co parent.
Erin: Divorcing as a public figure creates so much extra pressure. What do you wish more people had known, done, or not done?
Jill: I went from never telling a single soul about Jeff's sexuality to it being on the cover of People within the span of a few weeks. The immediate period after our announcement is a total blur to me, but what I'll never forget was the overwhelming outpouring of support. Strangers and friends and everyone in between blew me away with kindness and compassion. My only regret is not seeking out that support sooner.
Erin: What frustrated you most during the divorce process?
Jill: I can't tell you how many times people tried to comfort me with, "At least you know it wasn't you." Like that made the situation any easier. With a gay spouse, you're not only mourning the end of your marriage (at least as you knew it before) but also the end of the person you love (at least as you loved them before). I won't say it's harder than any other marriage, but it certainly isn't easier.
Erin: Writing has (obviously) been an important part of your life. How have you used writing to process, vent, or otherwise keep your head about you during the divorce process?
Jill: For the last ten years, I've used writing to connect with other women and have found so much comfort doing so. It's tougher now that my kids are older, and the issues I want to talk about these days are so personal (gross and mortifying to my children). They're already embarrassed enough by me, so I'm trying to forge ahead with my work while also respecting them as people.
On boundaries and co-parenting
Erin: It seems like you truly maintain a good relationship with Jeff. What boundaries have you set to help maintain that good partnership?
Jill: We find the more effort we make to stay connected, the better our relationship is. We were a team for 20 years and in many ways still are ... but it's not always easy remembering that when you're pissed off about the missing school uniform top or the last-minute change of carpool plans. Having regular coffee or lunch dates helps us reconnect and remember that we really do love one another.
Erin: How did you approach co-parenting? What's working well so far?
Jill: Jeff and I aren't the best with rule enforcement, but we've made much more of an effort since splitting. The two big rules we have for co-parenting are simple: No ill speaking of the other spouse, and a commitment to our kids. Putting them first – and remembering to do so even in the most challenging times – is the glue that holds everything together.
Erin: What has surprised you most about co-parenting?
Jill: For me, the most challenging part of co-parenting is not having someone to share the day-to-day minutiae with. It's comforting to feel like you're in the mess of parenting together: side glances when the kids are being assholes and beaming smiles when the kids impress you. It's lonely being the only parent witnessing such moments sometimes.
On dating and next-chapter excitement
Erin: You've ventured into online dating. How does it feel, and what surprises you most about the process?
Jill: I met my ex-husband when I had barely turned 18, so this is really the first time I'm dating as an adult, and it's been ... interesting. The hardest part is putting yourself out there. The first time it's unbelievably daunting. (OMG, where did all this hair come from, and didn't my boobs used to be higher?) But it does get better, or at least a little easier, the more you do it. Man, it's work, though.
Erin: What do you love most about this next chapter in your life?
Jill: For the first time in my adult life, I really can't imagine how my life will continue to unfold. It's mostly exciting, but it's terrifying, too.
As far as I'm concerned, Jill is wildly successful in both business and life. She has shown us and continues to demonstrate that real living isn't about cherishing only those (near) perfect moments. Rather, it's about staying present during the most painful, triggering events and courageously moving on to the next version of ourselves with childhood wonder, humor, courage, vulnerability, and a lot of self-love.
What Does Life After Divorce Have in Store for You? Start Your Next Chapter Today.