A couple of weeks ago I came across an article about two best friends living in NYC who were struggling to find affordable housing — and realized the best option was to move in together with their kids to save money. How awesome is that?
One of these trailblazers is Ashley Simpo, the author of one of my favorite book recommendations, “A Kids Book About Divorce.” I got curious and I pseudo-stalked her online. What I found was that Ashley is one of those rare people who walk the talk — she courageously lives her values. And… she’s aspirationally stylish, creative and cool. I’m excited and honored to have her contribute to the Hello Divorce blog.
Erin: Hi Ashley. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. You have such a full life but let’s start with divorce and co-parenting. Can you talk about your co-parenting relationship with your ex today, and how that has evolved since your divorce?
Ashley: I’m not going to preach perfection. We have our ups and downs. I think anytime two people are equally invested in a little person, tensions can rise — especially if there’s a miscommunication or a disappointment. I think that’s part of co-parenting though. Whether you’re married or divorced or got knocked up on the third date, there will be ups and downs. But we’ve settled in and also grown up a lot. We met in our early 20s and now we’re inching closer to our late 30s so we have sort of grown up together through this process. We support each other, try our best to communicate, and stay transparent.
Erin: Writing has (obviously) been such an important part of your life. How have you used writing to process, vent, or otherwise keep your head about you during or after the divorce process?
Ashley: I have always had a journal. My mom gave me one when I was 6, and ever since then, I have taken to a page whenever I need to sort things out. That turned into poetry and creative writing and then essays and op-eds for publications. But, for me, journaling is a healing tool. I got very used to my own voice through that process as well. So Twitter and Instagram are platforms that kind of extend my journal in a way. I talk about my thoughts and feelings and I get to engage with a bunch of other people who might feel the same. It’s helped me to create a community. I’ve met other mothers, and we’ve provided support to each other in one way or another. I’ve made some incredible connections.
Erin: What frustrated you most during the divorce legal process?
Ashley: Ugh, it’s so complicated. We threw in the additional kink of moving across the country, so we had to deal with waiting periods and establishing residency as well. I learned a lot about the way the divorce process is set up and how it very often fails families. Things like a child and spousal support can cause lifelong rifts between two people, and that’s most damaging to the children. We both went into this process unwilling to make it any more complicated than it needed to be within our control.
Erin: You are so multidimensional — it’s hard to limit my questions because there’s so much I want to ask you! But let me start with some stuff I know is near and dear to you. You’ve been referred to as the quintessential “millennial mom.” Do you think your choice to live with your BFF had anything to do with being a millennial? How long have you lived together now and how is it going?
Ashley: Tia and I lived together for about nine months total, and we haven’t lived together for almost two years now. But, I would definitely say that being a millennial has some influence over the choice. Even though women have been co-mothering in some form for decades, ultimately it takes some out-of-the-box thinking to attempt that living model. It’s not “traditional” in many ways, but at the same time, I really don’t get why it’s not more common.
Erin: In your article, How to Raise a Child With Your Ex-Lover, this quote really resonated with me: “Don’t be one of those people stuck on punishing themselves because of their last ‘failed’ love. No love is a failure. You’re seasoned now, that’s all.” Do you have any other advice for those going through heartbreak?
Ashley: Oh man. Heartbreak is so vital to the human experience. I think it’s important to feel failure, but not the shame that comes with it. Hold on to the lessons of what not to do and what your boundaries are, but let go of the blame and the “what ifs” — that stuff is poison. Work on building yourself up, the confidence, the self-trust. Tell yourself you will make it, even if you don’t believe it when you say it. Say it every day, ’til you believe it. Set tangible goals, work toward them an inch a day. Ask for support. The rest is the rest.
Erin: Do you have advice for parents who are considering getting divorced and how they can talk to their kids about this difficult decision?
Ashley: Try to have the conversation together, as a family. If you can’t, that’s OK. Be supportive and patient and keep the door for questions open. Ground yourself in knowing that you are pursuing happiness, not destruction. The rest is highly individual and based on variables like the needs of your family, the ages of your kids, and the support system you have access to. Ultimately, the goal is for your children to get through this still believing they are important and loved.
Erin: What do you love most about this next chapter in your life?
Ashley: I love how well I know myself now. I understand my boundaries and my needs and that’s so validating. It takes a while to get back to a place of trusting yourself, trusting your own judgment. My healing process was by no means linear, but it was what I needed and for that I’m thankful. I am much more gentle with myself and much more accepting of the tumbles. I can’t at all be regretful about any part of my journey because I love who I am today.
Erin: Thank you again Ashley for joining us. If our community wants to learn more about you, do you have any links or social media handles you’d like to share?
Ashley: Sure! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram (@ashleysimpo for both)
Ashley Simpo (she/her) is an author, editor, advocate, and speaker. As a freelance writer, she has penned essays and op-eds for Essence, Shondaland, Huffington Post, and BET News. She writes and speaks on Black motherhood, co-parenting, and personal and creative development. Her book, ‘A Kids Book About Divorce,’ is part of a collection of conversation starters for families from the ‘A Kid’s Book About’ series. By day, Ashley serves as Managing Editor for a global tech company where she works to cultivate diversity and amplify emerging and underrepresented voices in the tech space. She co-parents her 8-year-old son with her ex-husband in Brooklyn, New York.
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