I got for myself "What About The Kids" by Judith Wallerstein. (Purchased February 14th, 2004! Valentine's Day!!!) and it was great. Well written, full of common sense, and backed up by empirical data! What more do you need!
So anyhow, fast forward to today (Three years 5 months later!!!) and I'm complaining to a friend about X, about his style of discipline, about how the kids will be with him for Five Whole Days! The friend reminds me about the book. Tells me to look at the chapter called "A New Kind of Mother." Says it will give me strength.
So I read it and Oh My Freaking G-D!!! If that chapter was not written Just For Me -- I don't know what was?!?!
She starts off by acknowledging that women really get the short end of the stick. How they take care of the home, the kids and work - and get no recognition for that. (And that's really for married couples too, methinks.)
She goes on to say how if you ask any mother where their children are at any given point in time - they will know. Just as you will know their schedule, appointments, friends, play dates. And, when you're married and your children are with your husband.. well.. you kind of feel that they're still with you. That you are in control of their care. What they eat. Where they go. What movies they see.... (I stuck that in 'cause X took them to see Monster House and Nathan is STILL talking about how scary it was!)
Plus, you can talk to your husband about the day. What they did. Who was happy/sad/good/bad...
But - and this is where my jaw dropped - she writes:
But after divorce that sense of knowing where your children are - and
feeling secure in that knowledge - is a lot harder to maintain. When
your children are off with your ex, the might as well be residing in a black
hole. Sometimes the children will tell you what they did, but not
always. You don't get a full report. Because you don't want to
coach them or nag them for details, you mostly won't know what they
did. You certainly can't ask them to tell you what your ex did with
his girlfriend. Their dad is not likely to tell you, either."
Ugh!! That's ME! That's me!!!
And ok - a bit more and then I'll stop -- before Judith tracks me down for copyright infringement. (I'm only doing this out of love Judith! Really!)
You feel bad because you can't give your child the full-time supervision and
protection that goes with your inner vision of what a mother should do.
Had the marriage stayed happy or at least functioning well enough, you would be
providing a different level of care and protection...... For a mother that
makes a world of difference. This loss of feeling in control can really
shake you up [Yes! Yes!] How can you be privy to this partial view
of your child's life"
So I'm just about yelling at the book at this point. "How do you know! Omigod! Yes!! That's so how I feel!"
But, it gets BETTER!!!
(And I'm sorry to be quoting this whole book - it's just so amazing to me that all this is so normal... and that I was obviously interviewed for a book and I don't even remember!!!)
She goes on to say: "A second big change is that you're often lonely or disoriented. One day the children are with you and you know who's in charge. Then suddenly they're gone. It's not easy to shift gears to being alone. It's all very well to say you now have time to see your lover or to write a new Broadway play [or to blog?]. But the truth is that when you're used to having the kids around and they leave, it gets lonely."
Ahhh, Judith, Judith... thank you.
Then she wrote the paragraph that when I thought of it this morning on the subway brought me to tears:
"The third change is perhaps the most difficult. Who fuels you as a mother? Who takes care of you when you need to take care of the children? Divorce leaves you stranded."
"After divorce, when you put the children to bed after a
hectic day and they seem so calm and angelic in their sleep, no one is there to put his arm around you. No one says "You did great." Or, "Sit down, let me get you a drink." So where do you get the courage, energy, love and hopefulness to keep going? The answer is simple and undeniable. It comes from you and no one else. All of your mothering comes from inside you. [Ok. Crying again.] "
Here it comes.... "
Given these incredible challenges, is it any wonder
you sometimes lose your temper? Maybe you even scream or slap on
occasion. In your worst moments, maybe you even feel that you've not done well by your children, that you've failed them or hurt them.
Or is it any wonder that in the rising passion of a love affair you give your lover priority? Sometimes a love affair can trump everything in a person's world. If you temporarily neglect your children, forgive yourself. Despite these lapses you were there when they
I feel like I can't really explain this feeling... how she hit the nail on the head absolutely with every feeling or thought I've gone through. When I first started dating I was like "kids? what kids" and felt so guilty. And ok, I don't slap - but I have been known to give a good shriek now and again... Just to have all this normalized. Just to have it written down. So precisely. Wow.
Then she ends with the best part, since I think that if my kids look the wrong way its because of the divorce & I hyper analyze everything they do or say (or what they DON'T do or say.. because that speaks volumes, dontcha know?) She says:
"Lighten up. You would have made mistakes if you
had married Prince Charming or if you had stayed married to Satan. You'll do alot that's right because you love your children. Try to forgive yourself for your real and imagined sins of commission and omission. Try to be a gentler person with yourself. Take pride in the enormity of your accomplishment. Whatever your aspirations, you can't do it all. Give yourself a break from your self-accusations."
Ahhhh..... long, deep sigh.
I'll think I'll read this to myself every night before I go to sleeep
Sorry - this is like the longest post EVER! And the formatting is all whacked....