WHAT SORT OF MOTHER COULD LEAVE HER KIDS?
10 years ago I decided to end my 11 year marriage.
The feeling of needing to end it all hit me like a train. I knew we’d been having a tough few years trying to navigate our way through early parenting, buying a house and keeping our heads above financially challenging waters, but, I don’t think anyone (including me) saw this coming.
My husband was a good man, a helpful partner and a loving husband, but could also be a bit of a dick and it was becoming increasingly obvious that neither of us was getting what we wanted or needed from our relationship. When we first met we were young, we then had kids young, got a mortgage young and saddled ourselves with grown up lives when we were young.
Over time we grew apart, he wanted to climb mountains I wanted lazy pub lunches, neither of which ever seemed possible again now we had young children (you don’t ever imagine that they’ll grow, that your life will change again) but it was evident that as we grew, we would no longer ‘fit’.
And so, I called time.
I told my husband it was over and that it was time we separated. I then applied my heavily weighted blinkers, faced forward, eyes front and detached emotion. It was now about getting through to the next round for what I truly believed would be the best thing for us all, rather than staying in a loveless relationship, faking it to our kids and secretly wishing we were having a life we could all enjoy.
He told me that as this is what I wanted (I still think he did too but for him, it was easier to lay blame at my door) then I had to be the one to leave.
Our children at this point were 8, 5 and 1.
Could I leave my children? Am I leaving my children?
My children were and still are my world (obvs) and for that reason, I chose to leave. It was my parting gift, the gift of keeping the peace, the gift of making sure my kids didn’t endure us fighting, us putting them in the middle, us growing hateful towards each other and damaging any future relationship we could muster in a bid to co-parent our children in a healthy loving family (all be it in two houses).
This meant I left my own home, a home that I’d built, a home that was full of furnishings that I’d chosen, photo’s that I’d framed, memories that I held.
I left my security, my sanctuary, my home and worst of all my children.
I agreed to share the childcare 50/50 after being threatened to be dragged through the courts as he applied for full custody. Losing them full time was not an option for either of us. I had to agree to this compromise for the sake of us all.
I was keeping the pain inside and the peace outside.
Pain, so much pain.
It was crucial to me that we kept things as amicable as possible and that my children had a strong, healthy relationship with both their parents, and so I agreed to missing out on my kids for half of their lifetime. The worst part of this pain was that it was self-inflicted, I could have just stayed? I had no room to complain or feel sad? And hadn’t this been my own doing?
I took every bullet that I felt raining down on me and I drove my plan forward in the best way I could.
And then came the judgement.
I became the mother who had left her kids behind.
My ex however had become the hero who was left behind, alone, single handily raising his poor motherless children.
We both raised OUR kids the same amount of time and yet because he was the Father and I the Mother, he got all the glory for his parenting, I got all the accusations and ill placed judgements.
When he was at the school gates he made friends with all the sympathetic mums, his parenting reinforced with ‘it’s so amazing that you’re raising your kids half the week’ whilst I got ‘watch her she’s a home wrecker, she walked out on her kids and will be after your husband’ (that’s not even a joke, that happened)!
Our marriage ended. One of us had to leave. He wouldn’t, so I did. It’s that simple.
That does not define us as parents that does not mean that I am the devil and that most defiantly does not mean that he’s the saint.
Whilst I was taking this barrage of abuse from the playground mafia, whilst I ignored the whispers and side ward glances, whilst I justified my position and swore down that my kids were and always would be my main priority, I was still the mum who left her kids.
I just couldn’t help to wonder how my ex would have been treated if he had left and still had his kids half the week? Would it have been, ‘wow look at him, living in a flat while she lives in a nice house, holding down a job whilst raising his kids half the week, what an amazing father’? Would he have got a medal and adoring looks from all around because he stepped up to his role as parent because he was a Dad who helped raise his kids?
And yet I was the one living in a flat while he lived in our nice house, I was holding down a job whilst single parenting my children half the week, but I was never viewed as anything other than the mother who left her family.
This parenting disparity is bullshit. I love our kids as much as he does, I raise our kids as much as he does, I care for our kids as much as he does.
This preconception that I was someone who they thought I was, left me feeling like utter shit, the mere unfairness of how I was being treated left its mark, big time.
I began to feel as though I wasn’t good enough, not a good enough mother, friend, partner, woman, and I spiralled into a desperate state trying to continually prove my worth, the whole time sinking deeper and deeper into a dark hole of feeling just not good enough in any part of my life.
Over the years I’ve worked on making peace with my decisions, making peace with my mothering, accepting that I mothered my children to the best of my abilities with the situations I’d been given, accepting that I had made the final decision, accepting that I had left my family.
I have learnt to forgive myself and I forgive every single incomprehensible thought that others thought about me.
I have learnt to banish the energy zapping guilt and I’ve learnt the importance of truly loving myself (including all my faults and failings), and I now feel enough in all areas of my life for the majority of the time (I’m still only human right?).
My 3 kids from that marriage are now 20, 18 & 13, we’ve all had quite the journey but I feel it was handled in the best way possible.