Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
By Susan Solomon Yem
Have you ever noticed that when a group of mothers get together, the topic of conversation inevitably turns towards pregnancy and birth stories? We talk about our swelled ankles, food cravings, sleepless nights enduring uncomfortable positions. We discuss in vivid detail deliveries, C-sections, and the agonies of post partum.
Likewise, people who are divorced eventually spill their gory details when they meet others who have endured the same. Recently I sat with a mom I am just getting to know at a school volleyball tournament. After the pleasantries the conversation turned to single parenting and she told me that she’s in her second marriage now. I had no idea, but have since learned when she was first married and why she is no longer with that husband.
Shared experiences breed familiarity and allow for openness. There is a willingness to dive deep if the person you are talking to has endured something similar. Often I will listen to a friend or acquaintance talk about the pain they are suffering because their marriage is over and I can truly respond, “I understand.”
As a veteran of the divorce wars I am called upon to offer advice. It is frequently a request from caring married friends who just cannot relate. They assume that I have survived well and so have wisdom to share. I have survived. The well is debatable.
Divorce is hard; but there is some relief in knowing you can talk to someone who’s been there and done that. But, here’s the thing: I still have a lot of anger towards my ex-husband and it causes me to be brutally honest with others – like those who think they may be able to resurrect a damaged marriage, even if there is no hope. It would be wonderful if couples can reconcile, but sometimes that’s just not realistic. I am not afraid to tell you how to be singleminded.
I told Kate (not her real name) -- a woman I did not know well – that she needed to figure out how to move on from her ex-husband. The life she had imagined for her family – private schools, church leadership, social status – was just not going to happen. And when Maggie (also not her real name), the wife of a semi-pro basketball player told me about how infrequently her husband was home, I had to ask if he might be unfaithful. Although she would not accept it, he was cheating on her. They have since split up.
My friend, Dorothy, recently published a book about how to build a successful marriage. For one of her weekly online posts, she decided to write about divorce and what couples can do to avoid it. Dorothy asked me to read through the piece before it was published. Immediately my ire increased as I read that even if one half of the couple is willing to seek council and work at saving the marriage, divorce can be avoided.
That’s not necessarily true and I was unabashedly honest in letting Dorothy know she was off base. She apologized for making easy assumptions about divorce and edited her article to reflect that.
In the Trenches
I hear stories just about every day. There’s the co-worker whose son is struggling with his parents’ split. To keep him grounded, they have decided to occupy the same house – at least for now.
And the mom whose estranged husband believes he has every right to have an affair and is. He has been lavishing gifts on the mistress, while his children’s mother is seeking financial help from friends and family to buy groceries.
Two former co-workers’ marriages ended almost simultaneously when both found out their spouses were cheating. In one case, a foster child living in the home informed her foster dad that his wife was unfaithful. They were two of the four of us in this workplace who had endured unfaithfulness.
A mother of four – a woman I idolized as mother of the century – let me know that her marriage ended because her husband had been dishonest about their finances. They lived a lavish lifestyle; she had no idea they were on the verge of bankruptcy.
A childless couple’s marriage ended for just that reason. The wife left because she wanted to have a baby and it was clear that would not happen with her current husband.
My neighbor just told me about her drug-addicted ex-husband. In their thirteen years of marriage, they were apart more than they were together.
There are so many reasons marriages don’t succeed. Some make sense. Some are incomprehensible. All should be told. It’s cathartic. I am glad to listen. What’s yours? Feel free to share it with me.
Susan Solomon Yem is singleminded about raising her five children to adulthood. She’d like to hear your stories about single parenting. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org