“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…”
I have agreed to grant residency of my children to their father.
God, that sounds awful. What sort of mother does that? Not a loving mother with a stable home environment, I’m guessing? Not the sort of mum who reads bedtime stories, and builds princess castles, and helps with homework, and arranges trips to the zoo, and bakes homemade birthday cakes, surely? Not the sort of mum who would go to work on three hours sleep because she was up in the night breastfeeding her booby-mad toddler, or who makes hallowe’en costumes, or sleeps with their teddy bear because she misses them, obviously? Not a bold and brave mum who loves her children fiercely and unconditionally, right?
Because I love my children with all of my heart, I’ve spent a full year contemplating a decision that’s gnawed relentlessly at my soul. I almost didn’t do it – who would? Why on earth would someone do that without a court order forcing their hand?
Because I love my children and I want what’s best for them more than I want what’s best for me, that’s why. I won’t go into the details because they’re not mine to share; suffice to say that doing this will ensure the children’s lives continue exactly as they are, without interruption or change. Their dad and I both retain parental responsibility, and our current arrangement of equally split time with the children remains the same. In short, nothing changes except that one piece of paper filed away in a courthouse (or, more likely, a scanned document on a hard drive somewhere) which confirms I agreed to this.
When I read that, it makes me wonder why I spent a year of my life wrestling with that decision. It literally ate away at my heart for twelve months, and the potential fallout from whichever choice I made was never far from my mind. Until last week, I’d decided I couldn’t do it. Yes, there would be consequences and the children would have to readjust, but wouldn’t that be a small price to pay for never having to hear that their mum had just signed them over one day? I tried changing my mind so I could try to figure out which decision sat most comfortably, but neither of them did. I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t. Of course, anyone who’s ever been through a divorce will know that there’s never any shortage of unsolicited advice – people who are compelled to tell you how to live your life before skipping happily back to theirs, blissfully unaffected by whatever it is they implored you to do (or not do). People who tell you they’re just thinking of your children, as if you’d conveniently forgotten about those little humans you birthed and now feed/clothe/hang out with.
I eventually sat down and had an honest conversation with myself. Not out loud, obviously, because that would have been weird. I had to sit and really think about what was holding me back from making a decision I was comfortable with. The first answer I arrived at was that I was worried about what people would think. I’d either be the woman that handed over her children, or the woman who refused to do what was best for them. Either way, I couldn’t win. Except other people’s opinions of me isn’t something I dwell too much upon these days: it had to be something else. And then I realised… It wasn’t just anyone’s opinion I was worried about, I was scared of what my children would think of me. Would they overhear a hushed conversation and draw their own conclusions? Would someone come right out and tell them in years to come, and leave them to think I just didn’t care enough? Would my precious children think they just weren’t that important to me?
With that realisation, everything fell into place. The answer was obvious: I had to talk to the children about it. The eldest two are old enough to understand, and we’ve had several open and honest conversations with them about our separation and how it would affect them. Their dad and I sat down with them and explained everything. We chatted about what was involved, what would be affected and, most importantly, what wouldn’t be affected. My wonderful, clever boys listened so carefully and concluded that, actually, it wouldn’t make any difference to them. Nothing is going to change and that’s exactly how they like it.
So that’s it, really. The decision is made and I’ve agreed to do something I never thought I’d be able to bring myself to do. I love my children, and they absolutely know it. Their dad loves them too, and they know that too. Being a parent isn’t about where the law says your children usually reside; being a parent is about loving your children enough to put them first. I know people will have their opinions and I’m sure one or two of them will revel in the fact that I’ve ditched my children with such wild abandon, but the people who matter know otherwise. My children know otherwise, and they’re the only ones who matter.