I suspect this post will be triggering for some. I suspect this post will cause people to judge me (negatively). I suspect this post will be ‘proof’ to some that I’m the hard, cold, selfish person they think I am. But, never one to shy away from being direct and saying what I think, feel and see, this is such an important topic to shine a light on…
It’s important because I think we, as mothers, still accept a raw deal. It’s important because I know there are some of us for whom motherhood isn’t the be all and end all.
It’s important because we’re still conditioned not to put ourselves first, to put everyone else ahead of us and to squash our own needs, desires and wants.
What kind of role models are we providing for our children – especially our daughters – when we still do this?
Despite the rise of feminist rhetoric, if I look around me, in many areas things really don’t seem to have changed all that much…
There’s still a school of thought that we, as mothers, should sacrifice ourselves for our children. And yes, if push came to shove and we were in life threatening danger, I would sacrifice myself for my children. But on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis? No, I’m not going to sacrifice myself for my children. I don’t think that’s in my or their best interests.
I’ve made some difficult decisions in the past 18 months, and continue to live my life in a way which, ultimately, puts me first. Yes, even above my children. Why?
Because I can’t give what I don’t have, and if I’m not feeling as emotionally, mentally, physically well, stable and happy as I can, then how the hell do I expect to give that to my children?
This is exactly why…
I instigated our separation and subsequent divorce. Because I want my children to have the model of a relationship between 2 adults who are happy being together, on every level, in a healthy way. I want them to see love, intimacy, passion, affection and more. I want them to see and feel what it’s like when the adults who model a loving relationship for them actually have a loving relationship in all aspects of their partnership. Jonathan and I were good together on many fronts but we weren’t fully there on several key ones. And I’m not going to settle for ‘almost’ when I know ‘all’ exists.
We work hard to keep things as amicable as possible between us. Even though we have our spats and squabbles, we are both committed to providing a good model of co-parenting, even if we’re not together as a couple any more.
We have joint and equal responsibility for our children. We have them for half of the week each – days and nights – and we take equal responsibility for all aspects of their wellbeing and happiness. This seems to be as unusual for a man to take on this joint responsibility as a single father, as it is for a woman to let the father step up and take that responsibility.
I believe this also touches on the wider theme of masculinity – of redefining what it means to be masculine – and challenging many of the currently accepted norms. It means challenging the notion it’s still largely men/fathers who continue to go to work and be the main breadwinners, while women/mothers stay at home, taking care of all things household and children.
It means starting to question why, when couples split up, it’s still pretty unusual for fathers to take full, 50/50 joint responsibility for their children, often having them only at weekends or during holidays. It means acknowledging that children need a healthier balance in masculine and feminine – across both (all) parents – and that this balance can be fluid on both sides.
And I suspect some of the criticism that could be levelled at me with what I’ve shared here goes like this…
“She’s not doing her duty as a mother. Mothers should sacrifice everything for their children. Even their own happiness“. Sorry but that’s bullshit. How will your children know or learn how to be happy, healthy and functioning adults themselves if the role models they have are depressed, unhappy parents?
“If she were a ‘good’ mother, she’d have stayed until the kids were old enough“. For the record, I believed this one for quite some time and I could have continued to delude myself that I was doing the right thing in creating stability by staying in a relationship that wasn’t fully right for either of us, but I knew that wasn’t my truth nor was it ultimately in the best interests for any of us.
“Splitting up the family is bound to screw the kids up more than staying together“. Proof of this, anyone? It’s easy to believe that splitting up a family will screw up children more than staying in an unhappy partnership but I think that’s a questionable assumption, especially if a relationship is particularly toxic (though mine wasn’t).
Fundamentally, it’s much easier to believe the narratives we tell ourselves in order to keep the status quo and avoid making the toughest of decisions. And it’s easy to believe those narratives keep us safe, secure, liked, loved.
But for me, whatever the narrative, I believe that the happier I am, the happier my children will be. And I’m willing to make the tough decisions to get there.
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