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How to Stay Close to Your In-Laws After Divorce

My Ex-Mother-in-Law Stepped Up in a Huge Way When I Divorced Her Son

"Nan said that the person who dies goes to a better place, and it's just sad for us because we miss them." My son, Emmet, nonchalantly said this to me as he crafted his slime on the kitchen table. I was still in my work clothes, exhausted, and only mildly present when our random conversation about death started, but his comment drew me in. I was immediately brought back to my childhood, when I had a similar conversation with my own nan about death. "Wow, he really listens to her," I thought. "She teaches him so much." My heart was filled with warmth and gratitude as he continued to speak of his nan.

Later that night, as I looked through his homework folder, I stumbled upon the bag of vocabulary word sorts that he's supposed to do for homework each week. I sighed loudly and said, "I don't think I've done one of these with you all year; I'm the worst mom ever!" He replied, "It's OK, mom. I do them with grandma after school." Again, I was overcome with gratitude. Thank God for grandma. She's always on top of the homework game!

During a period of time when my ex and I struggled with putting our kids before our anger, their grandmothers showed us the way.

Nan is my mom and grandma is my ex-husband's mom. As a result of our divorce, which was finalized over six years ago, my kids spend a lot of time with both grandmas. They're an integral part of our day-to-day lives, and I wouldn't have it any other way. In the mornings when I'm due at work before the school bus arrives, my mother walks through the front door with fresh bagels in hand and gets the kids ready, packs their lunches, and sends them off for the day with her well wishes and words of wisdom. Twice a week, she also picks them up from school while I finish my work day right up until dinner time. When my ex has to stay late for a meeting, his mom meets the kids at the school bus, helps them with their homework, and from what they tell me, even massages their usually stinky feet. Some days I pick them up at grandma's house, and she always greets me warmly as she packs up my children for the transfer from dad to mom. Both nan and grandma, as well as their respective spouses, aka pop and grandpa, have been generous with their time, wisdom, and so much more.

I've always accepted this as part of divorced life: our children's grandparents are more involved than they would be otherwise. Sure, I've been grateful to have the help all along, but when I became a solo act, having those caring hands when the stomach flu unexpectedly hits or I need a little me-time is so wonderful. When I need help, they gladly give it to me, no questions asked.

Nan and grandma are both retired, and I'm pretty sure their retirement plans involved more beach and less grandchildren. But when my divorce happened, both my ex and I needed a village. It wasn't a very hospitable village at all, but they were still the first ones there. I might be overstating it a little when I say that in the aftermath of our divorce, his parents hated me, mine hated him, and we hated each other, but it felt that way for a while. Our family was suddenly split into two — two homes, two parties for special occasions, and two sets of extended families that rarely spent time together. But nan and grandma both pulled through for us, helping to pick up the pieces we dropped so heavily. During a period of time when my ex and I struggled with putting our kids before our anger, their grandmothers showed us the way. They both opened their homes when finances were tight after the divorce. They both have offered time, patience, and support to ease the challenges of single parenting. And they both have taught (and continue to teach) their grandkids valuable lessons they'll never forget.

My children are fortunate enough to have two grandmas, from two separate families, who make their own sacrifices to help us. My children are closer to all four grandparents because of their parents' divorce, and although they probably don't realize it yet, it's an unexpected blessing of mom and dad no longer being together. I'm grateful to my son for reminding me of this with his funny and random commentary. Yes, he has nan and grandma, and I do, too.

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