100% mother | 50% parent
When my husband and I decided to have a baby, I didn’t expect our life to slowly fall apart and end in divorce. Our relationship was volatile, and I’d definitely hoped for better, but it was the marriage and life I had, and I was determined to make it as good as possible.
Every weakness in our relationship and difference in our personalities was exaggerated when my “morning sickness” lasted all day, every day, for four months. I was minimally functional, and instead of receiving love and understanding, I experienced a shocking lack of care, compassion, or support. I was lonely, hurt, and desperate to be loved, with a picture in my head of what a happy relationship and family looked like. I grew up in a very healthy family environment, and the life I was living was the opposite of desirable. Believing it was my fault, I owned his unhappiness and disappointment in me for no longer being “fun”, and did everything in my power to change myself to please him. By the time Miles was born I was sure we shouldn’t be together, yet how could my marriage be a mistake without my child also being a mistake? I was so confused and broken. All we had in common was the house we were remodeling, a new baby, conflict, and significant unhappiness. He didn’t like me, I didn’t like him, and as I soul searched I discovered that the things that lead us to marriage were superficial. My dream for happily-ever-after was crumbling around me, and I was face-to-face with a paralyzing fear of failure. I felt stuck and hopeless, but unwilling to face reality, so I pretend I was happy.
Fifteen months later Pierce was born into a loveless home, full of conflict and unhappiness. We avoided each other as much as possible, had fewer and fewer things in common, and we were “officially” separated living under the same roof… it took a couple years of denial before I stopped pretending our distinction was temporary, and stopped pretending for family and friends. The decline was heartbreaking, lonely, and so emotionally damaging. When the end finally came I experienced the most complicated set of emotions… relief was the strongest, twisted up with so much guilt, embarrassment, anger, happiness, and freedom. I was thrilled to have another chance at a happy life, with the freedom to dream, grow and change without hatred, conflict, and judgement. I was equally scared at the prospect of starting over. My life has been hard. Too hard for all the optimism, light, hope and love I posses. My self-sacrificing nature considered staying in that mess indefinitely, so my children wouldn’t have to grow up in a broken family. I questioned: which is better, a happy home and happy mother with 50% custody and 50% influence, or an unhappy home and miserable mother 100% of the time? What example was I setting if I stayed vs. if I leave?
To the best of my ability I want to set a great example for my children… I want them to live in a loving and happy home, and learn from me how beautiful life, love, and family can be. Failing at marriage isn’t an example I wanted to set, but my marriage had been over for years, and the only examples being demonstrated were unforgivable. Everyone involved deserved better, so I filed for divorce. In the process I gained family support, lost some friendships and strengthened others, discovered the depth of my brokenness and went to counseling, and entered the world of joint custody. There was an emptiness in my home and hole in my heart whenever Miles and Pierce weren’t home. I was lost and second-guessed myself thousands of times. But eventually we all got used to the schedule and created a new normal. I started experiencing the peaceful happiness of a conflict-free life, and saw Miles and Pierce blossoming.
When the boys are home with me, our time is about being together and making memories. I don’t worry about cleaning or doing chores on their time, because those things can be accomplished when they aren’t home. I’m so happy that Miles and Pierce have each other, I’m so thankful to be their mother, and I’m happy that I was brave enough to change everything for the ability to be emotionally healthy and able to invest in their growth and happiness with a free and happy spirit.
Life is messy, and every picture I’d created for my family, children, and life didn’t involve being a half-time parent. In the middle of my unhappiness there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. I had no idea what life would look like on the other side, but I had faith that it could be better, and I knew without a doubt that my children deserved better. So I dug deep for strength I didn’t know I possessed, worked to heal my heart and create a new life, and I fought for happiness and peace until it became reality.
There are still days that shit comes up and life is temporarily hard-as-hell, but distance and perspective have been powerful in helping me navigate life, and leave the hurt of the past in the past. I found that holding onto anger and regret kept me from healing, and when I accepted everything as “meant to be”, I was free to start over. My children are a blessing, and I learned powerful lessons that have changed me for the better. A mentor called the experience “a refiners fire” and related it to a “phoenix rising from the ashes”. Recently, my boyfriend said he’s happy I married John because Miles and Pierce are wonderful, and I wouldn’t be who I am without everything I experience. I’m changed in really amazing ways, strangely thankful for all the ups and downs in my life, and proud of the example I’m able to be for my children because I’m a survivor, not a victim. I took a terrible life and turned it upside down, and with faith, hope, and consistency I created a happy and healthy life.