When I was contemplating my separation, my greatest fear was that I would ruin my kids' lives forever. Thankfully, the universe intervened, showing me that I felt I had no other choice but to leave. It was time -- no more excuses and no more hiding away from the things that were happening in my life at the time.
I had an idealistic view about what my family life would look like, and the life that I was in was far from that reality. My entire world and patterns of behavior that I had grown to know had become foreign to me.
I felt deeply unhappy and restless within myself. The vibrant, energetic mum I had imagined myself to be was nothing more than a past desire. I was closed off, stressed, and, in many ways, so uncertain about who I was.
Like all mums I'm sure, I wanted the best for my kids. I was conscious they were getting older, and I knew that as the years went on their life experiences and influences would become more cemented. What they had grown to know at that point about their family dynamic was not what I wanted them to experience ongoing.
On the surface, life looked OK, but beneath, the environment around them was not harmonious. People kept telling me that kids were resilient and they'd manage if I separated, but I was scared of the unknown.
Being a single mum of two-year-old twins (at the time) was not what I'd signed up for, and with my mum and sister going through their own troubles, I knew the support around me would be limited. What I have come to learn is that if a separation is handled in the right way -- and what I mean by that is that your kids' well-being drives the process of separation rather than your own ego -- it is possible for your kids to transition well.
My kids have been incredible during the transitions and upheavals.
Fundamentally, because I allowed their needs -- not the hurt and anger I felt at the time -- to drive the process. Our kids are here to teach us many valuable things about ourselves, some of which we won't like, but if we embrace this knowledge, we can learn to heal and, eventually, to love who we transition into.
I won't lie. Of course, there have been heartbreaking moments where my kids were upset and could not be consoled for a while. In that moment, the only thing you can do to soothe them is to sit quietly with them, cuddle them, and reassure them that you are there.
To me, there is no point in brushing their feelings away by saying it's OK because clearly, in that moment, it's really not OK for them. I want to encourage my kids to express their emotions, to allow their emotions to rise, not to push them down and pretend all is well.
I stuffed my emotions down for years and I can see the impact that has had on me. Rather than learning to express the underlying emotions and get choked up or make myself vulnerable, I tended to raise my voice to prove that I was handling it all. The consequence of stuffing down my emotions was that my behaviour was misconstrued as being aggressive at times.
Now, almost two years post-separation, I see that I am a far better single mother than I would ever have been in my old family dynamic. I want my kids to see, feel, and express love, and when two people are fighting their own insecurities, it's not possible for kids to have that in an authentic way.
The most precious gift and life experience you can ever give to your kids is to focus on yourself and your own healing. When you do that, every area of your life will transform and flourish in ways you couldn't have anticipated.
That road of personal development can be lonely and difficult at times, but the more you slice through the layers to get to the true essence of who you are, the more gratifying the journey. Most people live unconsciously and move through their lives not ever knowing what drives their behavior.
I look at my kids each day in awe. I hear what others say about them, and I watch them socialise with others and realise that, yes, they are incredibly resilient and well-adjusted. They don't need to live in the fanciest house or attend the best school.
They need boundaries, security, consistent routines, and your unconditional, authentic love to thrive in life. So each time you doubt your own abilities, thinking I should, come back to the basics and ask yourself, "Do I have firm boundaries in place? Are my kids safe and secure? Is there consistency in their lives? Do I demonstrate unconditional, sometimes tough, love?"
If you're doing your best at fulfilling those areas, then know this: You're well on the way to raising resilient, well-adjusted kids of your own.