This is the first in an embarrassingly long time that I have felt compelled to write. Although it is an opinion piece that would only be “felt heard” by my generation, this conversation is with my mother’s generation.
I am 40. I have two small kids and I am divorced. It was my decision to leave the marriage. Yes, I knew who he was when we got married. No, I didn’t think he would change. What I didn’t know was just how radically I would change.
How could I not? How do you become a mother and stay the same human being? You don’t. And your husband stays the man you married. I don’t see fault on either side here. Why didn’t anyone tell us this shit? We were given a ton of advice on giving natural birth and breastfeeding until the child was eating solids but some of us couldn’t or didn’t want to be those moms. God forbid you should need the help of a night nurse. Unintentionally, our mother’s advice made us feel judged and somehow less than.
I’ve overheard this a 100 times: “What is wrong with your generation? In my day, we just coped.”
We’re also told how we are a “disposable generation.” You tell us that in your day you didn’t just throw things away because they were broken. You fixed them. That’s not how I see it. I see how my generation grew up in homes where their parents lived “scrappily ever after.” How mom and dad slept in different beds, barely spoke at dinner tables, never forgave one another for past transgressions. Marriages were carried out as though they were death sentences.
Were women were too afraid to leave? I don’t blame anyone for not leaving. Divorce is the most terrifying experience. If you think divorce is the easier option, you have clearly never been divorced. So, when I hear remarks like “you should stay together for the kids,” it makes me seethe.
I speak only for myself here, but I have spoken with enough other women to know that my sentiments are not mine alone. So let me tell you a bit about my generation. We believe in changing careers – studying and receiving post-graduate degrees in English and then become pilates instructors. We change our minds. We’re organic. We accept that life is about change and instead of fearing it, we embrace it. We don’t believe that just because you made your bed you need to lie in it. We buy new linen and make another bed.
No, I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. I don’t think there is a perfect man out there. I believe in integrity and loyalty. I love people and relationships that are raw and real. I believe in roots and feel gratitude for my Jewish heritage. I also believe in wings. And in my truth.
My children are my priority. Their happiness and their needs supersede my own. Every single day. So when a woman from my generation makes a decision to leave a “safe marriage,” it is made with thinking, reconsidering, revising, overthinking, crying, praying, and seeking advice – and most of this is done with the children in mind. After marriage counseling, the first advice I sought was from a child psychologist. Because they are my priority.
I am repeating myself because I believe we are seen as selfish. We are not. We are also not stupid. I knew full well the financial implications of running two homes, but, because my generation is financially independent, I was confident in taking the calculated risk. Not because I believe marriage is disposable, but rather because my soul doesn’t have a price.
I didn’t want my children to grow up in a loveless home, where their mother had zero respect for their father. I was the worst version of myself in that marriage. I’m not blaming him at all. Within that relationship, my light couldn’t shine. What kind of role model would I be if I stayed? What would I be teaching my little boy and my little girl? I left the marriage because I felt unloved and invisible. And we were only 10 years into the relationship. I was taking my mother’s advice on how to be married: just one day at a time.
Then the axis of my world tilted.
When my cousin and I were 37 she dropped dead. In the garden. On a Thursday. Heavily pregnant. Again, I changed. How could I possibly be the person I was before that Thursday?
I stopped taking my mother’s advice on how to be married. After Thursday, I realized that I wasn’t living my life. I was coping. Getting through it. And it was no longer good enough. I wanted more. I wanted to feel loved and seen. I didn’t feel this was asking too much. My husband just wasn’t capable. Maybe I didn’t bring out his best either.
I don’t know how I had the courage to leave, with a 17-month-old and a three-year-old, but I did. Yes, it would, on many levels, have been easier to stay, but none of those levels meant anything to me anymore, because Thursday.
I married him with my head, not my heart. I married him with a check list – developed by your generation, not mine. The thing that wasn’t on the list but definitely should have been: Were we best friends? No. We were never friends. We didn’t have enough in common to be friends. Now that we’re divorced, it’s easy to be civil because there’s no hatred. Because you have to have love to have hate.
All divorces are different. The upside of divorcing someone completely emotionally unavailable is that there is very little drama. Obviously we sometimes disagree about things and there are the odd “fuck you” texts, but as a whole, we co-parent really well. For years, all the teachers that have taught both our kids have said they are so well-adjusted you would never know they’re from a broken home.
A term from another generation. Their home isn’t broken. They just have two homes. It’s different. Anyone who has grown up with parents who bicker and argue and openly despise one another can tell you – that’s a broken home.
What is seen as the kids being shunted from one home to the next isn’t a true reflection of the reality. My kids flow seamlessly between their two homes. This has made them flexible, adaptable human beings who aren’t afraid of change. They know the routine and if there are changes to it, it’s discussed with them. Sometimes a PT uniform or a dudu blankie is forgotten at the other house and it gets dropped off. Big fucking deal.
My kids see their dad every day because he takes them to school. This was put in place because that child psychologist told me they need to see him often. Easy. I don’t talk to my kids about what a pathetic dipshit I think their dad is. I’m not an idiot. They adore him – why would I hurt them like that? And he affords me the same respect.
The parenting plan is organic. The kids’ needs change and we evolve with them. For the sake of what is best for them. If they’re hurt or sick, obviously they want their mom, and their dad respects that. We both just want what’s best for them. No, my kids aren’t from a broken home. They’re from two very caring, very considered homes.
I have no idea what I’ll tell my kids about marriage. Do I think it’s a good idea? Right now I don’t believe in it. Obviously. I’m scarred and that’s normal. Will they be damaged by my decision? I don’t know. Do I lie in bed for many, many hours thinking about it? Yes.
I believe you don’t get to live life without getting damaged. Life is a mad ride: Sometimes it hurts and sometimes you laugh so much your stomach and face hurt. Can we protect our children from any of it? No. Can we stop Thursdays from happening? No.
I just want you guys to know that we’re doing our best. Just like you did. And you know what – you fucked us up too. Staying in unhappy marriages for the sake of your kids, taking dummies away too soon, not letting us sleep in your beds. Whatever advice you were listening to at the time, you were making the best decisions you could because you loved us.
So, from the bottom of my heart, back off. Stop judging and comparing us to you. We’re not you. Not better. Not worse. I’m pretty sure I’m nowhere near done making mistakes because I’m not done living my life. Sit back and enjoy the show. It’s going to be amazing, I promise.