This blog was originally posted on Life in a Blender: Finding Our New Normal.
I had the best childhood. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn close. My parents were together and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We got off the bus and my friends would come over to my house to eat popcorn or cookies that my mom made before we arrived. Even during the holidays when we were in college, everyone came to my house to congregate before going out. She would always have pimento cheese and other appetizers for us to eat.
My mother was ever-present. I can't always remember everything about my childhood, but I know my mother was always there. Even if she was giving us our space when I had friends over (which was a lot), her presence was still known. She would pop in every once in a while to see if we needed anything or to ask if we needed her to take us somewhere.
Even through boarding school and college, my mom was there for me. It was before cell phones (well, unless you call a bag phone a cell phone), so she wrote me a lot of letters and we talked a lot. I would look forward to the holidays when I would go home and we would sit around the dinner table laughing and telling stories until at least midnight!
Because of this pretty idyllic childhood, I have had expectations of the kind of mother that I wanted to be. I too wanted to be the mom who was able to be home when my kids got home, with popcorn and cookies for their friends. I had full intentions of being that same "ever-present mom" that my mother was.
Divorce robbed that from me. Now before you start saying that this is the life I chose, hear me out...
I don't write about this because the emotions are so raw, but my world turned upside down when my son casually said, "Mom, can we talk about something?" He was finishing up eighth grade and had lived primarily with me for the past 10 years of his life. He said he wanted to go live with his dad for high school. I was devastated and I did not handle it with the grace and calmness that I would have liked. After visiting the school, his dad and I took him to lunch to discuss the decision with him. As I held back my tears, I told him that I would support him.
Since that time, my son has thrived in this new environment. He is a sophomore, and he has a high GPA and excels in basketball. I thought I had come to terms with it all until recently when my daughter expressed her desire to also go to high school where her brother is. All of the emotions, hurt, and rejection came flooding back to me. Everything I had just tucked away so that I wouldn't have to think about it or feel it was fresh and raw and painful.
I was devastated yet again. When my co-parenting counselor asked why I was so upset about it, I said I felt rejected. I felt like my children didn't want to be with me. I couldn't stand the thought of another woman spending more time with my children than I would. I felt like a bad mother.
There it is. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I was losing my children. Although I would still have them one night a week and every other weekend (and can still see them at practices and games), I felt like I was a bad mom, because I couldn't be the "ever-present mother" I wanted to be. I questioned why I had worked so hard to ensure my children had a good relationship with their father, only to have him take them from me. Why had I driven an hour and a half every Wednesday night for five years for the kids to have dinner with their dad? I next did what any other crazy mother would do and I started searching MLS to find a house out in the country where their dad lives. I wanted to FIX IT.
Then one night I talked to my daughter about my feelings and she said, "Mom, you will always be my mom, no matter what!" And something clicked in me... She was right. Standing in my kitchen waiting for the pasta noodles to cook, I realized my perspective was all wrong.
A few days later, Joe and I walked on the beach together and talked about everything. We were deep in conversation and walked a lot longer than we anticipated, but I needed that walk. And it was appropriate that it happened on the beach, because for me the beach represents our future and hopefulness. Joe and I look forward to the day when it's just the two of us and we can move to the beach full-time.
On the beach, Joe helped me come to the realization that I will never be the mother I want to be. That's a tough pill to swallow, but it's true. Things change in divorce -- custody, remarriage, and new families -- but the one thing that didn't change was my expectation of what kind of mother I wanted to be.
That expectation was killing me inside.
I realized that day that although I will never be the mother that I want to be, I can be the best mother that I can be in the situation that I am in.
I must say that since I released those expectations of what a "mother" looks like, I have been so much happier, but more importantly, I have been able to be a better mother to my kids. I have started working on me and how to be the best I can to help our kids through the circumstances they face with divorced parents. My kids aren't choosing to be away from me, they just want to be fair since they have spent so much time so far in their lives away from their dad. This is not a competition.
I'm looking forward to the day when they come home from college and we can sit around the table and laugh until midnight, but I now recognize that realistically it may not happen as often as I would like since we will be sharing time with another set of parents. But I'm ok with that... I now have realistic expectations and a confidence that I will always be their mom. No matter what.