*Note on the photo which I found interesting: it was impossible to find a 1950s family with just the mother and children in repose. Our images of family from the 1950s are all represented by the nuclear American family which must include a father.
Here’s a statement I have been mulling over in my mind: kids first.
I started this post in May when I met Mr. E, and he talked pretty consistently how he put his kids (and then his family) first. Always.
Now I’ve met Bennett and he does the same thing. He stays stagnant because his kids come first.
So, I sit and ponder……
Do your kids come first?
If it’s sometimes, when are the right times to put them first and the right times to put someone/something else first?
For me, I waited a long time to put myself first. Some may even question if I waited long enough. I stayed married to a man I no longer wanted to be married to until my children were 12 and 15 respectively. Was 12 or 15 years enough? Should I have waited another 6 years until my youngest went off to college? Would that have been enough?
In my opinion, it was enough. The children could grasp and understand the concept of divorce and navigate the rocky waters. I have hope there is still time they see me with a man who treats me well and have a demonstration of a healthy adult relationship first hand instead of the dysfunctional one they had been seeing between their unhappily married parents.
However, I listen to men like Bennett talk about how they brought these children into the world and are now fully responsible for caring for them, not matter the cost or sacrifice. Somehow this makes me feel guilty.
Am I less of a parent because I don’t feel this way?
Does it make me inferior as a person, as a human, that I believe I can balance my self-identity as well as raise perfectly capable and responsible children?
Will my children be any better/worse for the fact that they had a working mother or a come from a divorced family?
I recall, before I made the decision to separate, spending hours and hours and days and weeks researching the impact of divorce on children. I sought out one therapist after the other to talk to me about the odds of my children coming out the other end of divorce – what kind of people would they be?
And I found, like anything in this life, you can have your answer any way you like it.
Some kids come through divorce unscathed and have no relationship problems as adults. They mature and having loving, normal, healthy adult emotional interactions. Other children get scarred for life. How the hell are you supposed to know what you are going to do to your children?
Of course one of the thoughts in my head was that my children were living and breathing a dysfunctional relationship and as they grew older, this was their only model. How could they learn what a healthy adult relationship looked like if they used their father and I as a model!
Was it more important I chose to be an example of a strong, single parent rather than a dysfunctional married couple?
Did I make the right choice for my children? Did I put their needs before my own?
I could ramble on for days about how I debated with myself to arrive at my conclusion. And I think I did it slowly, after all, it was 22 years of marriage, no short run.
Why should I feel guilty when Bennett talks about sacrificing his life for his children? Why do I feel some deep-seated need to be that person who can do that for my children?
Alternatively, I think Bennett is a fool to stay in the situation he is in for the rationale he is giving. One of his children is off to college and the other is a senior in high school. Just my opinion. Perhaps what I am responding to is the ability to stay miserable and blame circumstance. I know I did it for a very long time, claiming that I “needed to stay for the kids.” At least, until something irrevocably broke and I couldn’t stay anymore.
Those of us who have come from broken marriages and made the choice to move forward on our own look at the people who can’t do it in confusion, even though we may have all sat in that confused state for any given period of time. Some stay longer than others. But all people who exit a marriage by choice (at least, all that I speak to) almost scratch their heads in wonder thinking “why can’t they see how much better life will be when they are out of that emotional misery?’
I don’t regret my decision to divorce. Not once, not ever, It’s not a thought that crosses my mind. I struggled long and hard with my decision and I will never doubt the conclusion arrived in my life at the right time.
But, somehow, I still struggle (as you can see from recent posts) with motherhood and how to be a good mother. I often worry that I don’t invest enough of myself into my children the way a modern parent does. I allow them room to breathe on their own, but oftentimes I worry I give them too much freedom.
How do you decide when to put your kids before yourself?