One of the things I love about my BFF is that she loves to play devil’s advocate and loves to challenge my thoughts and broaden my perspectives. Sometime when she plays devil’s advocate, I do shift my perspective. Sometimes, it only solidifies my perspective. And sometimes our discussion shows the need for more clarification.
This morning we had a chat about the whole Smom role. We have always shared our perspectives and views on mothering together – and since I’ve become a Smom, I’ve found her advice to be invaluable as she is pretty good at taking the opposite perspectives to help me be more deliberate – in being a Mom and a Smom.
This morning however, she suggested that I need to clarify some “circumstantial” stuff to help make sense of my role as Smom and the challenges with everything surrounding it.
I thought about it, and it is true, there are a couple of key points that fuel my perspectives on how I choose to mother and s-mother.
And some clarification may be needed around how I came to be a Smom too – since that influences my perspectives as well.
So, here goes:
1. You may think that given how much my skid’s Mom dislikes me, that I must have been the cause of the decline of their (my husband’s and her) marriage.
Interestingly, I had heard about Rob and the messy demise of his marriage which led to his divorce through my best friend’s sister’s best friend’s neightbor. Make sense?
It was quite the story. When I did meet him, I had no idea that he was “the unfortunate husband” I had heard about.
On our second date, we swapped stories. I felt pretty strongly about not dating anybody who was the “leaver” , or anybody who was a “cheater”, so I wanted the goods up front. We both shared our stories – both being the “leavee” or “dumpee”…which often leads people to ask “what is “wrong” with them if they are the losers that are left”? Needless to say, my perspective is often there is nothing “wrong” with the leavee or the dumpee per se… ironically, my concern has always been about the leaver or dumper…if they can do it to someone else, they can do it to you too.
Back to my original point…. I just wanted to clarify the “role” I am in, and the fact that the daggers coming after me don’t have anything to do with any leftover jealousy of me being the “other” woman in the breakup of their marriage.
2. About the “leaver” vs “leavee” or “dumper” vs “dumpee”….
Regardless of who left whom and the reasons behind everything, both people in a marriage are responsible for their own behaviour. There really are two sides to every story, and there really needs to be accountability from both people. That being said, I think there is unresolved pain on both sides. I had always thought that the leavee suffered the most (and often in some cases it is true). However, one of my best girlfriends could be classified as a “leaver” and I can see her pain – from a very different perspective though. I see how she struggles with feeling like her husband didn’t really fight for her, didn’t really stick up for their relationship; perhaps didn’t love her in the way she needed or deserved. So despite being the “leaver”, she harbours a lot of resentment and has some anger still to contend with. Then you layer on some guilt…Leavers do have to deal with their stuff too at some point, so that could explain some displaced hostility.
I remember my dear and very wise aunt visiting me in the midst of my divorce. On her way out the door, she turned and told me that “women like me” (which I interpreted as being “the leavee” who was devastated but trying to pull it together and forge ahead to not let my marriage break down completely take over) always end up coming out ok.
And now I would argue, sometimes they come out better.
But, it took a lot of work. I’m not ashamed to say that I had a rough couple of years, but got myself some good counselling, had amazing and supportive girlfriends, turned to my Mom a lot for help, and relied on my family and faith.
The reason I bring this whole thing up, is perhaps some can say that my comfort in being a Smom or having my kids have a Smom must be because I was the “leaver” and created this whole situation to start with.
Again, not so.
I was the leavee – and like every leavee, at some point you have to take reponsibility and move on. Forgive. Forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook, or absolving them of anything. It doesn’t make what someone else did ok. It just allows you to accept what happened and move forward from there. It took me a long time to come to this place. Trust me.
3. The third piece that I think helps define my view of being a Smom and the role I have chosen to play as a Smom, is my belief in free agency and consequences.
I love the analogy about picking up a pencil: You can choose what pencil you would like to pick up, but once you pick up one end, the other end automatically comes with it.
We all have the free agency to make decisions and choices for ourselves. However, you can not choose the consequences that come along with those choices. Sometimes there are natural consequences and sometimes consequences are imposed on us by others. The point is, there are consequences to all our choices.
How does this relate to being a Smom? Well, it more relates to getting divorced.
When there is a break down of a marriage, there is an inevitable fall out. There are consequences. One might like to control the consequences, or pick and choose the consequences, or select certain consequences for ourselves and different ones for others, but we can’t do that. Unfortunately as well, our children have to live with the consequences of our actions.
When a divorce happens, the natural fall out is that you lose time with your children. Often 50% of the time. They will now spend half their lives without you. Harsh, I know. But that is the reality – whether you are the leaver or the leavee. They will spend that time with their other parent and that other parent will (hopefully) move on and you have no control over who they move on with. You can try to stake your claim, and kick up a fight, but essentiallly, you are powerless. You can only hope that while your children are not with you for that 50% of the time, that they are loved, well taken care of, and enjoying life. If those are the fallout consequences of your decision to divorce, then you are seriously blessed.
And yes, of course YOU are still the parent. No one can take that away from you. You are still the biological parent, the one that holds their past, can retell their birth stories, and have that incredible blood bond. BUT, you do now have to share their present and their future in many ways, whether you like it or not.
4. Which leads me to my last point.
It’s not about YOU. It’s about the children.
I think as mothers we tend to be pretty territorial. They are MY children. You have no right to sign their tests, or attend their curriculum nights, or attend their recitals, their games, their lessons on MY days. Step away all Smoms, these are MY kids.
I’m sorry. Did I miss something? Is it all about YOU?
Is a Smom’s mission in life to get under the skin of her husband’s ex/her skid’s mother? Does she sit and only pretend to love/like/have a relationship with her skids because she knows it bugs their mother??
What about the amazing idea that the Smom and Skid actually have a relationship? That the Smom wants to do things for the skid? That perhaps even (gasp) the Skid wants the Smom there, or to do something, or to support them?
Don’t forget as divorced parents, we move on and create our new life, with our new partner (hopefully), and create one new world to live in.
But for our children/skids, they actually have to build two lives in two homes, and somehow try to amalgamate one family in these two realities. Perhaps they want to be able to be happy in two homes. Perhaps they want to feel loved in both homes. Perhaps they are happy and loved…and it doesn’t detract or take away from their love of the other home or parent. Why not allow them to have these feelings?
We have had many conversations with our kids/skids about the kind of family environment/culture we wanted to create when we first merged, and as we continue to blend. The vote has always been unanimous.
We decided that we are one team; two captains, managing the same team when we are on our playing field. In our home, we are the “parents”. Many families choose to merge with “you take care of your team, and I’ll take care of mine”. We chose not to do it that way, and have never looked back because it is working for us. People do different things. There are many different “right” paths to go down. Different does not mean “wrong”. My job is to ensure that the path we have chosen for our individual family is the right one for us.
So, I think that sheds a little bit more perspective on my mothering and s-mothering….