Last night I went to the first of two court-mandated co-parenting classes. These sessions are required in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for anyone with minor children who is getting divorced. I had no idea what to expect of this experience but, I have to emphatically admit that I left the session feeling truly grateful for my own situation and horribly concerned for some of my classmates.
While there is a mandatory syllabus for these sessions, our instructor said that, in his 20 years of experience in teaching these classes, it is far more effective and powerful to allow everyone to simply have an open and respectful discussion. During a round of introductions we each gave our name, the ages of our child(ren) and the length of our separation from spouse. During many of these intros, the instructor asked follow-up questions and more context was provided that led to a lot of dialogue among the group. The most powerful situations, to me, stemmed from women who had husbands or partners with substance abuse issues. It shocked me how many in the class could not afford legal representation and were filing their own paperwork within the court system. Many others remain in their house with their soon-to-be-ex spouses due to the lack of funds to maintain a second home.
My feelings of gratitude stemmed from the fact that none of these egregious situations pertained to me and that I was very fortunate to have a husband who loves his daughter and desperately wants and enjoys his time with her. We each are able to afford excellent representation and can maintain two safe, clean homes for our child within minutes of one another.
My standards for good fortune have been lowered by this experience and it reminds me of how necessary it is for each of us to take a step outside of our own reality, at times, and to consider the world at large and where we fit on a relative scale.