My happiness vs. what I thought would be my kids' happiness...
That is the place I was in while considering leaving my husband. A decision I did not take lightly, an agonizing, heart breaking, painful decision. How could I take my children away from their dad? How could I break up all they knew as a family? It simply came down to what I truly wanted for my children: Their happiness.
Flashback 15 years ...
Walking toward the alter, I saw the man of my dreams. My heart filled with nothing but (what I thought was) pure love. I nervously clutched my dad's arm as we walked toward the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. This was what I was born for, I thought to myself. This is what I always wanted, this man, he was going to be my forever. I will never forget, or regret that day. I am flooded with wonderful memories even now, as I write this. It was a perfect day.
I lost myself somewhere in that relationship.
No one gets married thinking they are going to end up in a divorce, but shit happens. It gets complicated, and just because it got hard, it doesn't mean I didn't try. I did, I poured my heart into that marriage and my family. I just couldn't stop crying — I cried every day, every time I didn't have to show my brave face, I cried. It started to affect my parenting, which was unacceptable to me.
Do I know the devastating effects that my divorce had on my children? Yes I do. They are my children and I am a good mom!
Living in a tumultuous house can be just as detrimental to children.
I did not take breaking my family up lightly. In fact, for years, I chose their so-called happiness over mine. I still do, I believe all mothers do. It wasn't good enough for me; I believed we all deserved to be happy. That is when I decided that our happiness could only be achieved if I left their dad. Toughest decision I have ever made.
I clearly remember driving my kids home from daycare about six months after leaving my husband, and my 4-year-old daughter asked me why we couldn't live in the big house with Daddy anymore. She wanted to know why we had to move to this little town house without him. My heart was broken and all I could say was, "Sorry baby." I cried myself to sleep that night because I felt like I was ruining my children's lives. All of those great things they had, the big yard, the toys, their own space to play and a stay-at-home mom. I felt as though I ruined everything! I apologized to them almost everyday.
These are the reasons I stopped apologizing and started explaining to them the truth.
Everyone has the right to be happy, even their mom and dad.
"Much as we might like to believe the opposite, children are much more concerned with their own personal happiness than anyone else’s. Parents contemplating divorce should remember their own emotional concerns are not naturally aligned with their child’s. So when a divorcing parent argues, “How could my children be happy if I wasn’t happy?” I always think, “Quite easily, in fact.”
Yes, my children should do all they can to make sure they stick with what they have signed up for. I do not teach them to take the "easy way out." Divorce (or quitting anything) should be well thought through, especially when it feels like it is not always an option. Yet, I believe that I deserve to be happy as much as the next person, as do my kids. Why I disagree with the above quote is very simple: Living in a tumultuous house can be just as detrimental to children.
I never wanted to put my children through a divorce, but I stopped apologizing and started explaining. I started talking with them, not to them.
We as parents have to pick which option we believe is better for our children and teach them that hard decisions will have to be made. They will have to live with something that wasn't their choice, true. Who doesn't? There will always be tough times and not everything is in our control. I do not preach quitting anything! I teach my children, that their happiness is important and they deserve it. They have to work at it.
People aren't perfect, I am most definitely not perfect. Of course I didn't want to hurt my kids and tear them away from all they once knew, but I stopped apologizing for it. Every time I apologized to them, they had no choice but to believe it was a bad thing. I mean really, we are supposed to only apologize when we do something wrong, right? It only perpetuated the problem. I had to be strong and stand up for my decisions — so do they. I can't possibly teach my children to stand up for what they believe in if I don't, can I?
I never wanted to put my children through a divorce, but I stopped apologizing and started explaining. I started talking with them, not to them. They know it is not their fault I left their dad.
I recently did a mock interview with them, a Q&A about what they think about divorce and how it affected them. That blog entry is soon to come.
To all the moms still apologizing to your kids for your divorce, take some time to think about what you are apologizing for. Take some time to hear what they have to say. They deserve to know why you made a life-changing decision. It doesn't have to include all the gory details, but they are much smarter than you think. They may already know.
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