We Don’t Need Another Hero

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My blog has become a very personal examination of my emotions, including the ongoing transition from married suburban mom of 4 to divorced professional mom of 4. By externalizing the sorrow, I can reflect on events that led to this change and continue the inner work necessary to create a joyful life.

I don’t like labels, because they oversimplify the qualities they describe, but when I tell you I’d branded the word “hero” onto my ex-husband’s chest, believe it. He’s brilliant and articulate and for many years we shared a wonderful vision of our future. We used to talk for hours and hours, never tiring of each other’s company. Gross as is sounds, I used to pick his socks and clothes from the floor and bury my face into them to inhale his scent. I adored the man. A previous post refers to this relationship as a ‘tsunami’ of love. I’m now in the midst of its destructive aftermath.

Somewhere along the way doubt, discontent and betrayal crept into our relationship. It’s easy to blame the powerfully destructive college girlfriend who never let go, or the alley cat childhood friend who needed to prove her seductive influence. I could make an easy escape and blame his male-ness; postulating that the male psyche dictates the urge to…ahem…’connect’ with a wide array of females. To do that, however, would indict the men who make and keep a commitment to one woman for life. 6ce3c1aabcacc8f8dissapointedlove

No. Betrayal, and it’s twin, disappointment, are a double edged sword of pain that’s rooted in each person’s personality. On the other hand, I believe in owning my role in the failure of my marriage. I was probably attractive enough, and accomplished enough for him, but I wonder what role my unconscious fears played in creating the debacle we are living through. I always feared he didn’t really love me enough to stay true. I’d feared that his upbringing, his self doubt and his need to prove himself would cause him to stray.

My fears could not prepare me for the utter and total lack of respect shown in the 200 emails I found on his work laptop. Think of history’s most despicable, hated figures. I assure you if Adolph Hitler or the Devil himself found himself discussed by a loved one the way I was discussed in these e-mails, we would pity him. Driven practically insane with grief, it has taken me years to discover and pursue an independent path that will maintain stability for my children.

Betrayal, disappointment, fear and grief are the four horsemen of the apocalypse as it related to my marriage. Any one of these feelings would have been be difficult to overcome. Together, they were a toxic stew that destroyed my relationship and threatened to extinguish every bit of joy from my life.

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I Am Not My Laundry

James Mc Neil Whistler

Arrangement in Gray and Black: James Mc Neil Whistler

Without question motherhood has dominated every thought, every decision and every feeling I have had for the past 22 years. I am one of those women for whom the biological clock was a rhythmic sonic boom rather than a minuscule “tick.” That’s not to say that I went peaceably into the night of ‘conventional’ motherhood.

I won’t tackle the difficult subject of what ‘conventional’ motherhood is. I suspect there is no such thing. Suffice it to say that I am quite familiar with the antibacterial properties of bleach, and I have hosted my share of formal dinner parties complete with china, crystal and silver, but I am living proof that the American image of motherhood and real motherhood do not always converge. Real motherhood is about love, mentoring, guidance, teaching, transmitting values, protecting and caring…and sometimes laundry, dishes and grocery shopping. Martyrdom is not part of the program.

When daily chores became the basis of my performance evaluation, or rather, when I realized that my intrinsic value as a human being was being measured by whether socks were darned and matched, I knew I had a problem.

Performance of practical household tasks does not define a person’s parenting ability any more than education or wealth. If they did, I’d say my ex-husband was a horrible parent for refusing to move furniture or perpetually failing to repair a broken toilet. Preposterous…right? We never contend that only wealthy people should have children, or that no one with a Bachelor’s degree or below should have a family, so surely my ex will never contend to a judge that he should have custody of my children because I was challenged to get his meals on the table when he arrived home from work, or because I didn’t also earn enough money? Did I miss something?

The key to this curse appeared on the day the house was spotless and dinner was “on time.” The trash can was empty and in it’s proper place, and every other source of daily irritation had been pre-emptively addressed. I was dressed up like June Cleaver in blackface, and every child in the family ran from their room to kiss and hug conquering Hero/Dad as he arrived, triumphant, to the abode. Hero/Dad looked around with an angry stare, prepared to condemn, inhaled to let out a yell….but there was nothing to affix his anger onto. He sort of deflated and grumbled through the evening, seemingly frustrated that whatever blanket condemnation he had already concocted in his mind had not been uttered for that day.

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I like the judge who told a conniving husband: “Isn’t it strange that since you no longer want your wife, all of a sudden she can’t do anything right?” Do I get credit for the beauty of the family’s garden with its richly diverse colors and shapes, or for the handcrafted Christmas ornaments, or the school projects I helped with? My ex told a (female) ‘friend’: “The only credit she (me) deserves is for those 4 great children she had.” The ONLY credit?! What..!?

In reality, I am an intelligent, warm, loyal, kind and highly accomplished person, but within my marriage, I was only as good as the burgers I cooked, the kitchen counter I wiped, or the laundry I folded. Everything else about me had to die. Am I bitter? You bet. But bitterness doesn’t define my future.

This post started out on the topic of motherhood. I went off track. The love I have for my 4 children used to spring from the tsunami of love within my marriage. Since that dried up, now I love Donald, Justine, Dominique and Julian in their own right for being the people they have grown to be. Nothing else has changed. 4mac

Children Learn What They Live

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte