You loved your partner and now for some reason, they are gone. You’re angry, sad and bitter all at the same time. You have no idea how you’ll put your life back together again and all you want to do is curl up in a corner and never move. But, a big but, you have kids. While you didn’t sign up for taking care of them by yourself, yet this is where you are now.
Divorce is a life-changing decision and you thought through it a million times before signing on the dotted line. But your kids can’t fathom why their lives have suddenly changed so much. Why don’t they live with both mommy and daddy like their friends do? Was it something they did that made them split up? Are they not loved anymore? Kids have thousands of questions running through their mind, some, which they may not even, be able to verbalize.
I’ve struggled with these questions for the last six years. When I separated from the ex I had no clue where life would take me. But I knew that I had to pull myself together for my son, barely 1.5 years old at the time. I had nothing to go on but pure instinct. I knew this would be something he and I would grapple with for the rest of our lives. I also knew that it was upon me to minimize the damage it would cause him.
The first and most difficult step was to never bad-mouth the ex in front of him. Not with friends, not with family. He always just heard how his dadda loved him very much but needed to be somewhere else now. I saved the rants for mommy’s night out with friends because a girl has to get it out of her system. In my opinion, kids don’t need to know the reasons why marriages don’t work. It’s too complex for their young hearts and minds to grasp and can cause way too much emotional trouble for them.
As my son grew older, the questions started pouring in, and I tried my best to answer them as honestly as possible. The ex would visit very irregularly, causing a lot of emotional upheaval for my son and me. Yet, I knew it was not right for me to stop the visits. So I did the best I could.
From answering all my son’s hard questions to holding him while he cried as though his heart was breaking every time dadda left, to being held by him when I cried the same way. Showing my vulnerability to him was important to me. As a mother, I want him to know its ok to be sad, to cry and then to move on with life. I stayed as honest as I could be with him, in a way that was appropriate for his age.
When he turned 4 I realized he had little connection with his father’s family. As hard as it was, I started taking him for weekly visits. In a strange turn of events, my relationship with his grandmother became much better, and I’d like to think we became friends. She was very respectful and supportive of my choices. The visits also helped my son get a sense of belonging with his father’s family. This year both his grandparents passed away, and while it was very traumatic for both of us, I was happy knowing that he had forged strong bonds with them.
I know my son will always carry some hurt with respect to his father. I also know now that there is nothing I can do to erase that. But I know that keeping the channels of communication open and letting him know that he is loved deeply by both his parents will help him deal with and sort out his pain as he grows. One day, he will hopefully understand our choices. Maybe he will even be happy that he grew up with two parents who lived apart and were more satisfied with their lives but loved him still instead of parents who stayed together and made each other and themselves miserable.