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Kimberly Seals Allers Speaks:

Her Secret Life, a Painful Divorce and Facing Single Motherhood Mocha Manual Style

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Two years ago her husband walked out the door and never returned. Faced with the unthinkable and struggling to accept failure, Kimberly lived a double life, posing as the model mom while her marriage fell apart. Now, she shares her life lessons on redefining failure, redefining family and coming out on top.

Her Secret Life…

a Painful Divorce and Facing Single Motherhood Mocha Manual Style

by Tamika Nunley

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Kimberly Seals Allers is looking quite serene as we sit on the deck of her Long Island home. Finally free of the burden of her secret life, Kimberly is at peace.

For years, as a senior editor at Essence magazine and an accomplished author with a fast-growing business, Kimberly had what seemed to be an enviable life. But her marriage crumbled into a painful divorce, her finances hit rock bottom, depression set in, and no great job, book deal or business success could change the situation it or hide her shame.
 
Over two years ago, her husband and the father of her two children, unexpectedly moved out of their family home, leaving her alone with her then 6-year old daughter and two-year old son. It was a sudden and painful blow. But one she kept very private.

"I think as black women we are conditioned to think or tell ourselves that whatever happens in our life, we can just deal with it. Our husbands leave. Our babies die. Our children’s lives are thrown in a tailspin. Our vision for our families is destroyed and we’re just expected to not skip a beat. Just, keep it movin’, as they say. I fell into the same trap, acting big and bad when I was broken and scared," she says. 

As the face of The Mocha Manual Company, Kimberly felt pressure to be the model happily married woman. "When your life is out there, you feel more obligated to set a good example. I didn’t want to be another broken Black family How could this happen to me? I desperately didn’t want to be that. It felt like a tremendous personal and community failure."

Her need to keep up a strong front was so severe that several months passed before her own parents, who’ve been married for 50 years, knew her husband had left. “I made excuses when my parents called and when friends stopped by, I would say ‘oh you just missed him, he went blah blah blah.I shut myself off from friends so they wouldn’t come over. It was terrible. I was deeply ashamed and I didn’t know what to do," she says. 

By day, she kept up the appearance of a successful author and business owner and strong figure for her children. At nights she cried herself to sleep, or didn’t sleep at all, and slipped into depression.

"I was living in a world I created in my head. Not in reality,” she says. 

I
think as black women we are conditioned to think or tell ourselves that
whatever happens in our life, we can just deal with it.

But reality has a way of making sure you sit up and take notice eventually. For Kimberly, her wake-up call came in the form of a serious health scare.

The once amicable relationship with her ex-husband disintegrated.  The divorce was long and painful. "The child support disappeared, he started living with another woman and everything changed,” she says.”Still, I tried very hard to keep the children first and not do the angry black woman thing. I kept our visitation arrangement whether he paid or not. I still notified him of doctor appointments or school conferences," she says. “But I was mad as hell.” 

Financially she was drowning under the burden of paying for properties that were purchased during the marriage with her name and credit.” After he left, he refused to help pay those bills. The mortgages were in my name. But he smartly put his name on the deed which means I couldn’t sell without his approval. The housing market was in the toilet, tenants weren’t paying—it  was a terrible time. " Kimberly says. "I felt like a complete idiot. How many times have I advised women about their finances. And here I was suffering from letting a man use my credit–husband or not, I was embarrassed."

Severe ulcers developed in her digestive tract–mostly caused by stress, the doctors said. The pain was excrutiating and Kimberly was hospitalized for a week. Her full recovery took much longer. “The doctor said if I kept doing this sort of damage to my insides, I’d have one of those bags in less than 10 years. At that instant, I was scared straight.” The deeper lesson was also clear: the stress of her masquerade was taking its toll. It was a wake-up call and transforming moment for me. “What I was doing and why seemed so silly from the vantage point of the hospital bed. Instead of isolating myself from people because I was embarrassed, I actually needed my loved ones and my Mocha Manual family to help me get through this ordeal. ” 

Now, Kimberly is feeling triumphant and ready to take on the world and being a single mom. She has an exciting new attitude and renewed conviction that life is what you make it. “It’s not the circumstances in our life that define us, it’s how we deal with them.”

Kimberly also shares these hard-earned life lessons with you:

Give up keeping up appearances. “I learned that sometimes, keepin’ it movin means we have to first, stop and heal. I didn’t do that. I also accepted that I didn’t to have to keep up this facade of the happy little family. I took the failure of my marriage as a personal failure and me failing my children, but that wasn’t the case.

Redefine what it means to be a strong Black woman. “What makes us so phenomenal as black women is not that we are heartless robots who don’t feel, fail or fall down. We feel pain, we feel shame, we hurt for our children. We are whole humans with a full range of emotions. And there’s no shame in experiencing those emotions.”

Never take it out on the father. “I continue to work on having a strong co-parenting relationship with my “wasband” and redefine what family is, by creating that for myself and my children. Regardless of how he treated me or my personal feelings, he is still the father of my kids and they need him.”

Practice self care. “As black women, we are notorious for taking care of everyone else before taking care of ourselves. This is destructive. We have to look after ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. My family needs me and I can’t properly take care of them if I’m unhealthy on any level.”

Do you. “Now, I embrace being a single parent with style and grace, knowing that I am still creating a powerful life for me and my children. This is who I am now. So I’m ready to “do” the new me with as much passion and confidence as before.  It may not be what I originally envisioned, but it is full of endless possibilities.”

 

 



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