More than five years ago, my now ex husband suddenly announced, I don’t want to do this anymore. I was stunned to my core, but in hindsight I realized that our marriage for the past few years before, had been one-sided. He hadn’t been invested in our family, nor our marriage. I thought it was a stage he was going through and while I was concerned, I never believed he’d actually walk away. But he did.
He walked away from the marriage and from being a father. Call it mid-life crisis, mental breakdown, narcissism or whatever happened to him, he became even more withdrawn and angry with everyone. I tried many times to help him, encouraging both he and our kids to have a relationship, but now so many years later, the relationship is tenuous, strained and unfortunately occasional when they communicate. So I have been parenting alone for longer than the years we’ve been separated and divorced. He now lives the bachelor lifestyle and the kids live with me, only seeing him at Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe a few weekends a year when he visits his relatives who live nearby.
What has grown after he left has been a strong sense of family without his presence. While the kids mourn that he is alive, but not a part of their lives, they struggle with missing him and have for a long time. But that has been changing recently for the better. They still hang on to the vestiges of hope that he will be more fatherly or take more of an interest in their lives, but it’s fading. And I think that’s been healing, yet sad for them to accept.
Being Mom and Dad to my kids has been a transition, but one with many benefits. My kids have bonded as brothers. While I am still Queen Mum (LOL), we are bonded in such a way that we make united family (the three of us) decisions. Whether it’s what to eat for dinner, school troubles, sometimes necessary discipline or life’s challenges, we work it out together as a group. As a family – where everyone is important, loved and feels that bond, knowing that this is our home, our family and we all count!
An interesting part that’s emerged is that when I need to occasionally discipline (because they’re good kids), whichever kid is in the hot seat is met with a loving mom and brother who explain and help him to improve. A few times I’ll admit that they have bonded together and I have been the one in the hot seat which was hard, but we worked through the situation with love and kindness. And I think it’s been because I can take criticism. I’m not a perfect parent nor are they perfect kids (but we’re darn close – LOL!). So any type of criticism is given with love and kindness so that it can be heard. I am still the parent in charge, but on certain subjects they have more of a say than in most families. Because of their ages, late teens to early 20’s, they are old enough to have a significant voice here in our home. They are not babies, but almost full-grown adults who need to know about some of life’s challenges. This does not mean that they are in the midst of every decision having to do with our lives. But in certain situations, they have an almost equal say as is due the members of our little trio called a family.
There’s an unspoken rule here that everyone has a voice and is heard. We share more than most parent/kid relationships that I know. Subjects have no limit so we talk about everything. We share meals together. We talk about life, relationships, university, friends, problems, etc. There’s nothing that they can’t come to me to talk about if they’re concerned. They’ve shared private matters with me that I would have never shared with my parents and perhaps they should have shared with their dad, but since he’s not around, Mom’s it. Sometimes those types of conversations can be uncomfortable, but the trust is there that we are here for each other. I love that they feel they can trust me and tell me things when they need advice. And the highest honor is that they seek my advice, so I don’t ever turn them away.
It’s not easy being a single parent 24/7/365. My life revolves around my kids. I’m grateful that we’ve forged such a bond that for the most part, we’re all happy. We’ve dealt with anxiety issues that still have us on edge and that are worrisome, but hopefully things will keep improving, even if it’s ever so slowly.
It breaks my heart that my kids now come from what’s commonly known as a ‘broken home,’ but their lives are still good because we’ve made the necessary sacrifices that are needed to keep things good. They’ve chosen what they want to role model from each of their parents and respective families. They have bonded together like no other set of brothers I know – each taking turns being the big brother with the undying support that unifies them together. Because they’re in this together. As much as I’d like to think that I know how they’re feeling, I don’t have the same experiences from the divorce that they have and lucky for me, they’ve chosen to talk about it and not stuff it down to fester.
They walk a fine line between their parents now that the ex and I don’t speak (his choice). I no longer have a relationship with his family either (again not my choice) so there are occasions when the kids feel in the middle as his family demands the kids’ presence at certain functions without warning. I have given in more times than not to keep the peace for my kids’ sakes. And they appreciate it and can see what is happening clearly in the push/pull that has developed. It’s not pretty at all and could have been completely avoided, but things are as they are and we roll with it. There’s nothing beneficial to my making things harder on my kids as long as they understand that Mom’s not a pushover, but a peace-keeper for their best interests. I have had to put my foot down occasionally when the narcissists have over-demanded and it made it harder for my kids. But in the end, it was a life lesson for them and resulted in a learning experience like no other.
So if you’re in a similar situation, I get it. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating and time consuming and exhausting. But the benefits! The benefits of being HOME to my kids in every single sense of the word is more precious to me than all the money in the world. I will always be their Mom and parent and friend. They are loved here as no other place on Earth. They have the freedom to be themselves and to be appreciated for who they are. And someday, when things are little bit easier for us all and the right man for me comes along, we will hopefully make room for him in our little family and they will enjoy his presence as he enjoys theirs. That’s my hope. Someday, I will find a man who holds dearly what I do, loves with his whole heart and wants to be a part of our family.