Months before I’m set to give birth to our third baby, my family decides to adopt a puppy. She’s a sheep-a-doodle, cuter than all get-out—although very much still a puppy.
One morning, I’m hustling out the door on my way to the courthouse. I have lunches packed for the kids; my daughter’s gymnastics bag is over my shoulder and I’m carrying her jacket for softball practice later that evening.
I smell it before I see it—a pile of puppy poop on my carpet. I’m the only one home.
What could I possibly do? I faced the situation and started scrubbing, on all fours, wearing my black suit.
Shit happens. We cannot control everything. One time, after rushing out the door to drop off my newborn at daycare after a quick diaper change, I conducted an entire client meeting without noticing a poop smudge on my forearm. That’s just mom life—nothing glamorous or sexy about it.
Moments like these are opportune times for a reality check. Here is a mantra that I use to remind myself when I need to keep it together under duress.
Repeat after me:
You are not the shit that happens to you. You are how you respond to shitty situations.
If you’re moving through a custody issue or a divorce, you are actively dealing with shit happening. It might feel like one pile after another, and it suffocates you if you let it. I am telling you right now that you have to face everything head on, otherwise it eats you alive from the inside.
Think about when you get sick. You go to a doctor and they run some tests. In the meantime, you Google your symptoms. One click leads to another, and you’re self-diagnosing yourself with something awful. The results come back and it’s treatable with antibiotics—great news, but you spent the last five days in a state of self-inflicted anxiety and unnecessary stress.
The same thing happens in a custody case. You file your motion, you hire an attorney, your attorney tells you all the pros and cons of your position, and how they align with your goals. But then as you wait for trial or a settlement, you spend months in your own head thinking about what could happen and you make yourself literally crazy.
Instead of terrifying yourself, face reality and consider what tomorrow brings coming from a child centered approach. Put yourself in a state of mind that says, I’m going to kick tomorrow’s ass no matter what comes my way.
Understand that it’s inevitable that someone or something will try to knock you off your game. It’s your response that will determine your direction when it does.
In almost all of my cases, I tell my clients something that my favorite therapist instilled into my personal and professional life.
Again, repeat after me:
You can only take care of your side of the street.
When you allow someone to make you feel a certain way with what they say or what they do; if you retreat back in your own head rather than brush it off, you make the situation ten times worse than what it is.
When you focus only on your side of the street, you realize that he-said/she-said garbage has no bearing on how you respond to the issue.
It’s incredibly empowering. I am a checklist queen that calendars nearly every waking moment of my life. But with two kids (almost three!), 150 clients, and a growing law firm to run, my day changes regardless of what I have planned.
Inevitably, shit happens. I face it and I deal with it. I set priorities, and rearrange my checklist accordingly, making sure to attack each individual issue on its own, and face it head on.
The days when I do not follow my own advice are the days I am crying in the corner of my office. Which happens, but it’s OK because I always come back to my truth. It may take me a minute or a day (or five).
The important part is that I re-center myself and my priorities with a sense of kindness, reminding myself that I cannot control everything, and shit happens regardless of how prepared or successful I am. How I deal with unplanned moments is the key to my own success and happiness.
If you are heading towards a custody battle or divorce, working with a therapist is just as important as working with a family law attorney. I would be happy to point you in the right direction. Making sure you’re taking care of you and your loved ones on an emotional level while we handle your case is part of what we do. I do my best to take care of my clients in every aspect because we are in this together—and shit happens.
Kristen Holstrom, Custody Queens Managing Attorney