I’ve been separated from the father of my children for three years now. It’s not what I wanted for myself, or my kids, and I’ve suffered many, many pangs of guilt about raising them in this way. Poor things, having to shuttle between houses, having to (potentially, even though I’ve tried to prevent it) divide their loyalties, having to deal with emotional separation every single week.
By all external measures, though, they seem to be doing fine. The younger ones don’t have clear memories of our previously intact household, so this way of operating is their status quo, but even the older two seem to have adapted alright.
Today’s a school holiday, and all the shops are closed, so I’ve had the luxury of a day off. No diving, no basketball, no errands, no field trips, no swimming, no schedule. I’ve had the day to watch the kids do their own thing, which as usual, means traipsing in and out of the house in batches with their friends. Right now J is next door, T is out scootering, L is baking cookies with two other girls, and R is hanging out with G. The neighborhood is lovely in that way. Lots of kids, lots to do. I went for a run, leaving R in charge, and contemplated the state of the household. It occurred to me that I like the way it works. I like the feel of it. I like being the head of this loosely organized bunch. On days like this we don’t have meal times, and all of them are perfectly capable of making their own food. We usually sit down for supper in the evening, tonight it’s pizza, and one of them has often made some sort of dessert, but there isn’t an expectation that it’ll be at any time in particular, or that they have to be there if they’re busy somewhere else. They know that I trust them, they’re good about letting me know where they are, and I enjoy letting them revel in their freedom.
I like the people that they are, and I like our relationships. I like the way we treat each other. I’m proud of who they are, and pleased to be a part of their growing up. I like being the single head of the household. I like being able to do things my own way. The feel of it would be different if there were two adults in charge. I think there would be a much more delineated hierarchy between adults and children. I like that the line is a little more blurry now, and that feels comfortable for me. There’s no question that I’m in charge, and in fact, I think we’d all agree that I’m fairly strict, but I don’t feel the need to impose rules out of arbitrary adultness. My rules are about respect for the other, no matter who that other is, and I encourage debate. We often hammer out ground rules based on recurring disagreements, and the kids are all getting quite skilled at this sort of negotiation. It isn’t a top-down sort of organization the way I remember my two-parent family being when I was growing up. I like being free to devote myself to my kids, to meeting their emotional needs, without having to incorporate another adult in the mix. It’s just easier. I know that many women end up being the emotional glue in families, and that they often carry most of the responsibility for relationship dynamics. I don’t have to do all that work anymore.
The other thing I thought as I was running was that in our split-up family, the kids are forced to each of their parents as individuals. It used to be that I was proxy parent for their father, and now he’s a parent that stands alone. We’re different people, we make different decisions, and the kids are exposed to different lifestyles at each of their homes. That’s not such a bad thing.
I would never in a million years have chosen this way to bring up the kids, but if I look at it objectively, it’s got it’s benefits. For me and for them.
Read Full Post »