All moms have Mom Guilt. Do you work? Then you feel guilty for being away from your kids. Do you stay home? Then you might feel guilty for not “using your education/ skills” or “contributing” to the family’s finances. Do you work part time? Then maybe you feel guilty at home and at work. Whatever our choices, it’s hard to win the mom-guilt war.
Adding divorce to the mix just makes it worse. First, there’s the guilt about the divorce itself. It’s so hard to hear your children say things like “You can’t do this!” or “We didn’t ask for this!” when you’re in the early stages of separation and divorce. It’s hard to hear them talk about how they miss their dad when they’re with you and even harder to miss them when they’re away. There’s so much guilt over the subsequent changes, too, like moving houses/school districts or going back to work, etc. All the upheaval just adds to your guilt. And I went from being a stay at home mom to a working mom, so I got that guilt layered on, too.
This summer, two years after my separation/divorce, I’m finally ready to let go of the guilt.
I’m letting it go because my kids are doing okay. They’re better than okay– they’re thriving– emotionally, personally, physically, and academically. They have good friends and get along well with their peers; they’re close to both parents and both sets of grandparents; and they excelled at school last year. They play and laugh and talk and act like 8 and 10 year old kids– not like victims. Their therapists have confirmed that they are emotionally sound and grounded, as much as they were pre-divorce. After two years, they’ve reached that emotional equilibrium that seemed so impossible when everything first fell apart.
In the past two years, they’ve left the house they lived in for most of their lives, moved school districts twice, and adjusted to a complicated shared custody schedule that means they usually don’t fall asleep in the same bed they woke up in that morning, except on weekends. They’ve been through therapy– group and individual– and learned to enjoy getting two Christmases and two summer vacations each year. They went from having a stay-at-home mom who packed lunches and went on every school field trip to a working mom who barely has time to get everyone out the door and rarely volunteers at school.
And they have adjusted, and they’re happy.
But I still couldn’t let go of the guilt. I still couldn’t let go of “destroying their perfect life” (newsflash: their life wasn’t destroyed, and life before divorce was far from perfect).
This summer I’m working part time so I can have more time with them– a decision made months ago out of more guilt. Two summers ago we all went through the divorce; last summer we went through another move into yet another school district because the building we lived in unexpectedly changed owners and we had to go elsewhere. This summer I wanted to get things back to “normal.” I wanted to relive the carefree summers that we had before the divorce, when I could take them to the zoo or the water park and not worry about work. I wanted a summer of no changes and lots of free time.
But it’s hard, financially. It’s hard to live on our savings for a couple of months so we can have more time together. It’s hard to feel “lazy” for only working part time when other single parents are working full time. And I’m realizing that if I had worked full time all summer and sent them to camp like everyone else, they’d actually still be okay. We’d still have a good summer. I’m starting to let go of my mental image of them as “babies” and realize that although they need me, they don’t need me around the clock. They’re growing quickly into mature, self-sufficient children.
We’ll enjoy our “free and easy” summer one last time. And I’ll try not to cringe as I watch my savings go down until I go back to working full time in August. Because moving forward, I’m not going to make decisions out of guilt. I’m going to make decisions that are good for everyone… including me.
And then, finally, we can all thrive.
Tags: divorced mom