The beauty of life, although we cannot undo what is being done, we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change, so that each new moment is not in regret, guilt, fear or anger but in wisdom, understanding and Love is spent.
Single parent or not, I don’t think there’s a room where guilt doesn’t somehow get into the psyche of your day. We never feel like we’re enough on the best of days.
But single parents have a unique extra shoulder that sits on them like an ox yoke because they have to be so many people at the same time. If you have to please your child, your job can suffer. When you have to please your job, your children can suffer. When you need to please yourself, well … this is a rare opportunity that usually doesn’t even register on the totem pole of your life’s priorities.
We tick the boxes on the laundry list with the tasks that need to be done each day. Tasks that reflect everything from waking up to having breakfast in your kids’ wombs to getting dressed and checking that their homework is in the backpacks tucked next to lunch.
They make sure you’re not at the door a minute past 7:20 or you will hit the traffic lane on Western Avenue which will slow you down and put you last in line to get to the first of the two schools Visit children.
If you drive, pray, arrive on time and not be late.
After the proverbial drop-out, swing yourself to your first cup of urgently needed coffee at McDonald’s, which is also part of the time game. Be late and you sit in line and then you will be late for work.
When you drive to work, cross the bridges and sip your cup of joe, a moment in control will make you feel comfortable again.
You are only in the car when you make your positive statements to yourself … “I intend to have a quiet, confident day!” … “I am successful beyond my wildest dreams!” And so it is during the day.
You literally feel like you have lived 6 hours of your day before it even started.
What did my children learn from me?
Did you see the guilt I’ve lived with every day?
Did they feel responsible for the guilt that I put on myself and yet picked up on them?
When I look at her now at the ages of 24 and 20, I see that some of it is actually rubbed on her.
I had previously written an article about my children’s comments after interviewing them about their experience of divorce. I asked the following question which gave me some insight. That was my son’s answer.
Now, as an adult in a divorced family, if you had one wish, what would that wish be?
“I wish I would deal with it better and not show any resentments or fears that should have been addressed earlier. I wish I could have been more supportive too. Even though I was young, there was always more I could have done. “
My son was 4 years old when our marriage ended. What did this little boy think he could do? He was a child. There was nothing that was his responsibility.
However, he is now 24 and has articulated this. And honestly, I think he still feels that way. So the answer to my own question would be, yes, they learned that their mother felt guilty, so maybe so should you. My mental absence was not my intention. I just felt what I felt and they took it in.
The work of two is done by one. The work of two is done by
Do we ever stop feeling guilty?
So what is this guilt that single mothers generally feel?
Why do we feel so obliged to be everything for everyone?
In my case, I had the feeling that because her father no longer loved me and found someone new, I felt that I had not abandoned him … but her. I was no longer lovable and so they felt unpopular even from him.
To this day, both of them will shorten their conversations with him to please him. They will avoid topics and requests that they think will displease him because they feel the terms of that love.
After all, he left his two children and married another woman with two children. That action alone made her feel somewhat invalid, and so the terms began. I’ve never had a day in my life that my parents, and especially my father, didn’t love me. Because they didn’t get the everyday love I experienced, I’ve spent most of the past 20 years feeling guilty, which sometimes undone me.
The guilt of feeling like a bad mother means that you are a good mother.
So what did you learn?
What impression has this guilt made on their lives since they were young adults?
Was it good?
Or wasn’t it that good?
Notice I didn’t say bad. I don’t want to believe that everything I did as a single mother was bad for her. I don’t think anything was. I just think that there are varying degrees of what a child ingests simply because their single mother is navigating waters that are unknown to her.
And in many cases terrifying. Maybe the bigger question is what did I learn?
Was this guilt caused by my need to keep the compassion party going? Or was it real and did I just feel deeply sorry? And was I just too overwhelmed? I think all of this above.
What often happens is children of divorce see what is happening to the parents they have to live with most. And in almost all cases it is with the mother.
I often said loud things like, “My God, I’ll be surprised with this stress if I make it to my next birthday!” That was my way of letting off my steam. I never meant it for a day. But both of them commented on how my saying affected them. They literally worried that I was going to die. And the very thought of it was terrible to her.
They had already lost their father to another family. The next thought that raced into their young minds was what will happen to them when I die?
You only shared this with me a few months ago, and I never said it again. And if I could take it back all those years ago, I would. It breaks my heart to believe that I put that kind of fear into her.
“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a choice. “
I still feel guilty about a variety of things. I feel guilty about not being able to give my children the security I felt as an adult. I also feel guilty about giving them so much priority that I haven’t spent time looking for a possible stepfather for them. You’ve never really seen a husband and wife in a good relationship. And I’m sorry about that.
My son’s only example may have been in my father with my mother. My daughter has learned to take care of herself and be strong because, as she said, love is never guaranteed. But as Winston Churchill said, it takes courage. Courage to step into fear. Courage to find wisdom. And courage to be your true authentic self.
And at the end of the day … yeah, I’m still to blame. But I also have perspective. My fears of the past sparked reactions that made me hopeless. My courage for the future is how I will find my way through this next chapter of my life. And I know they’ll both watch me from afar.
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