It’s now been seven months since my decision to divorce and, while many things have settled in my mind and heart, there seems to be the same core of fears gripping on with both hands.
Questions with answers that never satisfy, angst that haunts me at night. I’m positive I’m not alone in these fears, but they plague me nonetheless.
I am afraid…
1. That she will grow up to hate me.
This is pretty extreme, I realise it, but it’s my number one fear.
I’m afraid she’ll never get beyond her hurt enough to see the struggle I went through; that I didn’t flippantly leave her dad and turn her little world upside down.
I hated my mum for years and years over something that, now as an adult, I totally sympathise with her over.
How do I keep my daughter from making that mistake? How can I help her have compassion on my choices now rather than 20 years from now?
2. That I can’t show her how to be married.
How in the hell am I supposed to teach her about marriage?
I always assumed that I would show my daughter how to have a successful marriage by example, by being a walking advertisement for what a healthy, mutually exclusive relationship looks like. Will she ever heed my advice when I so obviously failed?
Listen: Bird's nest parenting is the approach many divorced couples are embracing. (Post continues after audio.)
3. That she won’t want to be like me.
Naturally, there are flaws in me that I’d never want her to model herself after, but when it comes down to it, who doesn’t want their child to be like them?
I want to be good enough that, should she behave like me, she will have a good life. Have I messed up too much?
4. That she won’t open up and talk about it.
Right before I moved out of town she started seeing a therapist who she really liked. I had such high hopes because my little girl, who historically refused to cooperate with counsellors, actually LIKED this woman.
But after just a few sessions the therapist left for another practice and sent us back to square one.
What if she never talks to anyone again? What if she holds it all in, bottles up her feelings till they spill out in forms of depression, self-harming and eating disorders … oh-my.
5. That I will be blamed for everything unpleasant in her life.
I don’t have the thickest skin and being told I’m at fault for anything sets off a panic in me like you wouldn’t believe. She very well could turn all of her life’s misfortunes right back onto me and the divorce I put her through.
How will I handle that? Will I live year after year feeling like a scolded pet?
Now, let me balance some of this crazy talk with a little truth, because even I know that a tad of grace goes a long way.
Listen: The mum of five who lived in a tent after her divorce. (Post continues after audio.)
To date, I’ve managed to raise a lovely, caring human being and when I push these fears back for a moment I can admit that it’s unlikely that she should suddenly abandon her personality. She has always been reasonable and considerate and I need to plug into that reality when my anxieties rise to the surface.
When I can't find it in myself, I need to lean into people who love me and accept me. No parent is perfect, even the married ones, and all I can do is wake up each day and do my best, whatever my best for that day is.
Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” –Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home