Man, parenting is hard. Doing it by yourself is pretty much like standing in front of a firing squad All.The.Time. No buffer. Just you. Alone with your every decision. I don’t have the luxury of man-to-man defense. These lady shoulders are the only ones carrying it all.
Truth is, I didn’t get married thinking I would ever get divorced. And I certainly didn’t have babies thinking that I wouldn’t be part of a “traditional” family. But after 10 years in a crummy marriage, I realized life wasn’t sustainable on that trajectory. I was so consumed with trying to fix the relationship. We met young. We married young. We had everything figured out fast. We both had well paying jobs right out of college. We bought cars and a house. For twenty somethings, we were really slaying at life.
But then slowly things started to change. He courted me as a 19 year old college girl from small town Pennsy. He took me to fancy restaurants, Broadway shows, bought me expensive jewelry. But I felt like he didn’t let me make a single decision. I never opened a piece of mail. I felt like he paid every bill, made every meal. We couldn’t even get take out because it wouldn’t be hot enough when it arrived to our home (insert eye roll).
I always wanted kids–we even discussed it on our first date. But it was never the right time for him. We never had it all figured out…enough. So in order to start a family, I had to find a bigger home so there would be room for our new addition. I did. I did all the legwork to find a beautiful 3 bedroom town home. After several failed attempts, we finally bought our baby-suitable home. But just like that, we still weren’t ready. It took another 2 years before our daughter was born. And another 3 1/2 after that before our son joined us. The wheels were off. He was rarely home–always working long hours to make money since we had 2 kids. I found us in a place I could have never imagined.
We had grown up together. The problem was: I grew up, I felt like he stayed still. I found myself constantly trying to breathe life into someone who was determined that the universe and society was trying to keep him from succeeding. He started complaining about coming with me to family gatherings. He had to work. I was also working full time and even took a higher paying job with a promotion in order to contribute more to the family. I was sure that if I could add more to our bottom line, I could get my marriage back. But it was never going to be enough.
Our baby boy was just about 2 when I moved out. I was just simply exhausted with all the fighting. I had suddenly become part of the conspiracy against him. That was 2012. I suspected the narcissist (unofficial diagnosis) I married and subsequently left, would obviously be angry with me. I grossly underestimated the level at which the conflict would increase and how I would be tortured about every single thing that I found to be minuscule.
It’s been 6 years now. The landscape of my life looks nothing like it did back then. I’m grown up now with grown up stuff going on. I’m in the midst of living with cancer, not working a full time job, and raising 2 babies.
Sure he sees them during the week. But I believe that time unfortunately is not spent getting to know our kids and being open to working together on raising them. I’m in a world where “but dad says it’s okay”. Inevitably in two households there are bound to be different rules. And that’s just fine with me.
I’ve got my own family now. The 3 of us do everything together. When my son looks out into the crowd at his basketball game, I’m there. When my daughter peeks out from behind the curtain at her dance recital, I’m there. We cook together. We get in heated games of Monopoly together. We talk in our favorite movie quotes together. All the time. Mom is the one who gets all the “hard stuff” (doc appointments, transportation to dance lessons, etc.). Dad gets the trip to the toy store as a reward for good report cards. That’s cool. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
And I keep my own house. I can actually do anything I want to. If I want to leave the dishes from my take out in the sink for a few days because I don’t feel like moving them the 15 inches into the dishwasher, I can. It’s not the picture I could have ever imagined painting for myself, but I love it. I’m happy. I’m raising 2 awesome kids. I’m proud of the life I’ve built for us. It’s our family life.
And I even open my own mail now.