Last night around dusk I was out walking the dogs, the sky was just beginning to darken due to the end of daylight savings time. I could see people in their homes who hadn’t closed their blinds, or drawn their curtains for the night. They were unaware as I watched moments of their lives being played out, like flashes of short-film previews. The images reminded me of who I’d been and who I’ve become, and everything in between.
In a rental home I saw three women-early twenties- sitting around a dining room table, while a fourth modeled a jacket, twirling around for the others to see. The girl’s seemed happy, and content, but also at the juncture of frivolous and responsibility. Their space in time represented for me catfights in cubicles over whiteout, break-room gossip, boyfriend troubles, and the race to get married. I thought I knew myself then, but I only knew that version of me. The gathering of their shadow’s reflected a note of nostalgia across the sidewalk, free from enveloping guilt of parenthood, at least in my version of their lives.
I walked a little further past the lawn of a hilltop church, where dogs take chase, and children sled when it snows; and on to a home lit by warmth. Inside a glass-enclosed porch sat a man in a cushioned armchair watching a little boy in footy-pajamas. The child was spinning around the room with a toy in his hand, landing in his Father’s lap. Their intimacy accosted me, reminding me of a life I once shared, a place where my children were nourished and loved by two parents in one home.
The boy retreated from his father and left the room. The father picked up his glass of scotch and brought it to his lips as he looked out the window. I made eye contact and then pulled the dogs along. Up ahead under a cluster of trees I saw the outline of thin woman with a dog. I didn’t realize it until I reached her, but it was my divorcee neighbor walking her dog as well. She like me was alone on a Sunday night without her children. I projected the same sadness on her face I felt in my heart. The sadness I feel isn’t for me it’s for the loss I assume my children have suffered.
Anyone who’s been through it knows what I’m talking about. I’m on both sides of pain, and I hate them both. In the realm of divorce, when children are involved, there’s always heartache no matter how pretty and neat the marriage is unwrapped. I felt lost, and in limbo as a child of divorced parents, and I sometimes feel lost, and in limbo as a parent of children with divorced parents.
I keep thinking the guilt will ease, and the shame will lessen, and they have, but on occasion, I slip back to the original pain, like the Christian concept of original sin, it doesn’t ever go away. When a feeling aligns with the origin of a particular experience, or has a similar emotional vibration, it’s hard to grow away from it without the lasting impression.
I do what I can to manage the emotional damage of breaking up a home. We’ve enrolled our children in a *support group for children who’ve experienced the death of a parent, or who were abandoned, and for children of divorced homes. The first night they went I cried when my ex told me my son looked sad. It ripped me open to the core of my vulnerability, the pain only a mother knows. The feelings I have won’t ever go away,they may fade, but I get through them by focusing on what’s good in our lives.
During the first meeting, my daughter spoke of her family, and said, “I have two moms.” Her innocence didn’t prevent her from sharing the truth about her life, and my son told me, “I was sad because none of my friend’s were there. Sophie had a friend there but I didn’t.” I can live with my decision because my children need me to be the strong one. My grief and guilt isn’t theirs to carry. They’ll eventually grow up to be adults with lives of their own, and spectacular responsibilities, until then, I will care for them with the knowledge I have today.
I can only be the person I am now. I’m a woman of courage; and I’m willing to be the best mother I can.
*The non-profit support group I mentioned for children is called, “Rainbow’s.”