Today, divorce appears to be a common phenomenon. Nearly everyone in America can say that someone they know or they themselves have been impacted by divorce. Yet, according to Divorce Statistics, only 10% of the U.S. population is divorced and less than 50% of those divorced couples have children. From my perspective, that’s still far too many.
Wedded Bliss, or Not
As a teen, my dating relationships were anything but positive. So when I met my first husband – let’s call him John Doe, JD for short – right after high school graduation, it was quite a treat. I quickly fell head over heels. Three years later we were married, and three years after that we were going through a divorce. I had a string of reasons and made some mistakes that compounded the issues. I had expected the perfect, romantic love I had internalized from fairy tales, romance novels, and movies. Real love, I have come to discover, isn’t the heavy beating of your heart or the repeated writing of Mrs. Doe. It is respect, honesty, loyalty, and selflessness. He had loved me the right way, just not the way I had been expecting.
As I stood holding our infant daughter, watching him load boxes into the back of a pick-up truck, something tugged at my heart. Something inside pushed “Wait, don’t go” forcefully into my throat, and I heard myself shout it in my head, but my voice failed to make the sounds. The first of many tears slid down my cheeks as he drove away.
The divorce took about eight months to finalize. Most of the decisions seemed irrelevant compared to the idea that I’d have to part with our eleven month old daughter for days at a time for the next seventeen years. I would be missing half of her weekends, half of her holidays, and then some.
The bills for the divorce attorney didn’t help the fact that I was now a single mother with only a part-time income. I maxed out credit cards to pay for necessities. Eventually, I lost the house to bankruptcy.
The Long and Short of It
I had been certain that by divorcing when our daughter was so young, I was sparing her from the pain of divorce. She would have no memory of us ever being together. Little did I know that as our baby girl grew into a lively child and then a beautiful tween, being shuffled between two homes was wearing on her.
She has grown tired of being away from Mom every other weekend and holiday. She is saddened by missing Dad when she is with Mom. Attempting to coordinate dance, sports, and vacations is frustrating us all. Parenting time disrupts her routines, confuses her sense of rules and boundaries, and makes her feel like a traded pawn. I now see a growing young woman struggling to find her sense of self, to fill a void in her daily life, and to see the good in relationships.
As for myself, I still struggle with all of it. While the regret and pain of having walked away from a marriage are still there; while the questions of “what if” are never-ending; while what could have been haunts my dreams at night… None of that compares to the heaviness in my heart when I look at our daughter. She is a joyful young lady, spreading smiles and kindness where ever she goes. But when I look into her eyes and we see soul to soul, I see the dimness that is there. I want nothing more than to go back in time and turn her inner sunshine on as bright as it will go; to take away the pain that has consumed us all.
Instead, I have to try to focus on the now. Adjust my goals and dreams for the possibilities that still lie ahead. Enjoy every precious moment I do have with Baby Girl. And continue trying the best we can to function as a family, because regardless of how many separate houses we live in, we always will be just that – a family.