Nutrition and single moms, part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to tell some personal things about my divorce and raising children with a divorced co-parent who has radically different nutrition opinions than a GSG does.

This topic is something I normally don’t talk about. If it has the potential to offend you, please don’t read it. I write about it today because we get a lot of emails from people whose spouses sabotage their nutrition efforts. We also get a lot of email from parents who are divorced and concerned about what happens at the other parent’s house.

I am living in that “real world” too.

First, let me ask this: who are the people most open-minded about eating healthy?

Answer: Usually they’re the people whose mamas fed them healthy food when they were little. This should give you comfort if you’re doing pretty well, but you’re raising kids and you can’t control everything they eat.

Last year, I went into mediation with my ex-husband. I had my $250/hr. attorney, he had his, and a $250/hr. mediator’s bill was split down the middle. I thought it was stupid. I wanted to just sit down and talk it out ourselves. But he didn’t want to. So, several thousand dollars later…..

I lost big on just one issue.

I’d begged him to eliminate monosodium glutamate from my son’s diet because my son starting having occasional headaches accompanied by vision problems when we got divorced and he went to his dad’s one night a week and every other weekend. Generally I don’t ask what they’re fed there, because I don’t want to know. (There’s not a darn thing I can do about it.) Stepmom gives Tennyson Tylenol for the headache, and feeds my older son Ibuprofen for his shoulder after pitching a long game.

But even with my “don’t ask” policy, sometimes I see these things, and it’s painful. At ball games, I see my children fed snack-shack hamburgers and Skittles as a meal. It makes me feel like all my hard work is being undone. It makes me feel like I’ve failed to protect my children. I’ve educated myself far past the ability to stick my head in the sand about the consequences of that diet, even for the 15% of the time they spend eating it. Some of the consequences of eating that way are plain to the naked eye. My children’s father has gained about 50 lbs. since our divorce less than 3 years ago. I cannot help but worry about the effect on my kids of the fast food and junk food.

I have to wall it off and think about the fact that I’m blessed to have full custody and therefore I get to provide the food 85% of the time. I have a litany of other positives I go through in my mind, to survive it. I’ll tell you those tomorrow.

My daughters will sometimes walk over to my house from their dad and his wife’s house (they live five minutes away on foot) and ask for a green smoothie, or Hot Pink, some fruit, or veggies and hummus, or whatever I have on hand. A few of the kids have reported that there often aren’t healthy options to eat at their dad’s. At first he did green smoothies, homemade kefir, and a salad as the biggest thing on the plate. But six months post-divorce, especially after he remarried, those habits were gone for good.

You get the picture: our values and habits in the areas of nutrition and how to deal with health issues are very different.

I had learned that the kids were being fed MSG in Top Ramen and other foods.

In mediation, my children’s father refused to consider eliminating that deadly neurotoxin from his home–or even from Tennyson’s diet.

I had brought a letter to mediation from a pediatrician recommending elimination of MSG from Tennyson’s diet. The letter was accompanied by a half-inch-thick stack of that doctor’s research on the harm that can result from eating foods with MSG. Including headaches.

I won, in mediation, in almost all the issues I had brought, all of which were about my children’s welfare and best interests. But my children’s father was intractable about eliminating MSG, even under pressure from a skilled mediator.

To this day, I don’t know why feeding my son monosodium glutamate was and is important to him. I have had to wall it off in my mind because it’s so painful to me. Painful that I have no choice, every other weekend, about my kids being fed boxed mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and/or neurotoxins that I feel are deadly — but which he feels are necessary to make them “normal.”

My point? How to survive it? That’s tomorrow.

(But p.s. My son has not complained of a headache in the 8 months since our mediation. I hope that even though he was not legally compelled to, my son’s father may have cut MSG out. Sometimes in the situation single moms are in, prayer is the only thing left! And even research bears out that it can be effective!)