I'm going to try to get through this post without crying and do my best to make sense of what I want to say...but you'll have to forgive me if I accomplish neither of those because I'm already welling up and babbling out loud to myself. Change.
A major change occurs in our lives today. I made mention over the weekend that it was on the horizon and promised to tell you what it is....so...here goes.
Alex is moving today. He is going to go live with his father, my ex.
I will still get to see him on the weekends, but after today I will be a passenger in this parenting car, as I am letting my ex take the steering wheel. My ex will be full-time daddy and I will be part-time mommie.
Part-time vs. full-time.
No...I didn't come to this decision lightly.
In order to go from just thinking about it to actually deciding to do it, I had to shed A LOT of tangles and sticky spiderwebs along the way.
Just what were those tangles and webs?
- feelings of failure
Every single one of those tangles I mentioned were caught up in one giant web called EXPECTATIONS.
I talked about those on Friday, remember? Those standards we hold ourselves and others to?
Yes. Expectations. I had been living my life by a rather unhealthy set of those and I was choking on them. You see I'm an African-American Christian woman. If you're a part of either of those cultures or just a woman period, then you know all about the standards set in place for us. If you're a single parent and a woman, the expectation is that your child will live with you and you will be the primary caregiver. I know there are exceptions to the rule and that joint custody is a regular occurrence. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the expectation society has, the standard we are expected to live by. I know that in the black community, single mothers ARE the end all be all, and there's no complaining about it. You do what you have to do to take care of your kids, sacrifice what's necessary and you pull yourself up by your bootstraps daily to get through the ups and downs of being responsible for another human. This was impressed upon me by those around me when I became pregnant with Brennan 5 years ago and his father told me he wasn't going to be in the picture. That's when I started striving to live up to the standard. And even though my ex has been in the picture with Alex and Brennan the last 2 1/2 years, the reality is that I've been with them 24/7 during that time. No breaks. No real breaks. My ex helps me with Alex, but I have sole custody of Brennan. If something were to happen to me, I don't know who I would leave him with other than maybe my parents because well, that's just our reality. I'm mommie and daddy to him. The sole responsibility of providing and caring for him rests solely on my shoulders. As a single mother, I used to wear this expectation like a badge instead of the burden it can be most of the time. I wore it like a badge because I needed it to feel strong, to prove to myself and others that I'm not weak. I can be and do all. I AM WOMAN. RAWWRRRR. As a Christian single mother, I wore it like a scarlet letter, feeling like I deserved to be worn out and pushed to the max because I hadn't "lived right,' and had my children the "right" way.
Here's the thing though: I'm tired. Parenting has beat me down the past 2 1/2 years and I'm exhausted. Depleted. Worn down. I have no strength left. If it's one thing that living with a mental illness has taught me, it's that you have to learn what your limitations are and work with them, not against them. It's also taught me the importance of having a solid support system you can reach out to for help.
Well...Back in December I cried uncle. I called my ex. Said we needed to talk. Told him that I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't be everything to both boys and take care of myself anymore. Said that if I was going to be a full-time student and have to get my BP under control I couldn't be a full-time mother to TWO children under the age of 5 anymore. Said I didn't want to end up being that mom at the grocery store cussing out her kids because the strain of single parenting is causing her to buckle and bend. Told him I didn't want that for me and I didn't want that for the boys.
So...he agreed. Today Alex is moving to Philly.
When you're a single parent, especially if you're the only one calling the shots, the hardest thing to do is give up the driver's seat and let someone else navigate. But today I'm taking a major step for all of us in a healthier direction by doing so.
I want my sons to be happy and healthy. I want them to live in nurturing and loving environments. I want what's best for them. This wasn't an easy decision to make, but once I let go of all the tangles and freed myself from the web, I've had an enormous amount of peace about it. I know deep down in my heart of hearts, as scary as this is, and as nervous as my ex and I are about taking this step, it's the right thing to do. It's the healthiest thing.
And that...is the only expectation I'm striving to live by from here on out.
- Single parenthood a stigma difficult to shake (oscarnahunja.wordpress.com)