Friday, September 18, 2009

Choices for Women, for Single Mothers

Divorced mothers have choices. At times they are forced upon you. They can be painfully difficult, rife with conflicting sensations, awkward and more.

Simply, do you, can you, will you remarry or at the very least shack up with another man while your children are young? (or ever). And if you do so, will that man find it in him to love your children? Can he love children not of his own flesh and blood? Will he help you, support you, encourage you in that love and care, or will he be that which draws you away from them? Will he seem to, but then, if you have a child with him, will his own take precedence, and yours of another man be pushed away? And what do you do then? Can a woman choose between her first child, her choice of a mate and the second child they've had together? Why must she? I've seen this, and the pain and awareness of the situation in the eyes of the first child. I've heard the worry and strain in the voice of the mother on the phone. But what do you do? How can you choose? You don't leave a second marriage with a second child lightly... and if, God forbid, you are dependent financially on this second husband, and thus truly feel your hands tied... How do you cope? In this particular case, the elder child is now at a boarding school. Thus, the new husband and new child have been chosen over the first. A variation of Sophie's Choice.

In my own situation I've found some level of rhythm and sanity. It is not perfection, but it has its lovely moments. I have children I care for during the week, and a man who cares for me over the weekend. Rarely do they meet. However, as they rarely meet, I keep the moments of jealousy and weirdness to a minimum. My children do not need to compete for my attention, and I don't have a man who feels excluded when I care for them. They each get my undivided attention all to themselves, during their alloted time slots.

This is not perfect. When I heard the words carefully spoken from his mouth I felt like I'd been kicked in the belly. All hopes of making a new life, truly making a new life with this man evaporated. As how could I continue to love and adore someone who didn't find my children lovable? And yet I did love him, and I didn't want to end what we had. And I still do, but differently. I've put distance between us, learned to protect myself, put up some barriers, and just stopped looking for more from him than he is able to offer. I've stopped asking, stopped suggesting. I've learned to consider only the good, and push aside what hurts, for now.

Nevertheless, my children are of my flesh, they are also me. It's the package deal. How can you take one without the other? Apparently, it's not such an unusual situation. I am not alone in living this conflict, nor this arrangement. And so for the moment, I've accepted and adapted to it.

And yet...

Perfect would be a man who loved me, (ideally adored me) but also contributed to a stable family unit with me, who could be good to my kids, fun, fatherly (though not their father), attentive, concerned with their education, and collaborate with me so as to avoid conflict. Ideally we would have joint projects, and approach life as partners in crime. We would go forth together, and my boys would fully be part of our lives.

Is this simply a dream? A fragile mirage?

My mother never re-married after my parents separated. She worked and she raised me. If she saw any men, it did not encroach on our time together. I think I would have welcomed a love in her live, but, for the duration of my time in the family house, it didn't happen.

I've received comments from readers of this blog who simply found it easier to raise their children alone, and then go dating once the youngest was on her/his way out of high school. Mixing children and new love was just too stressful and fatiguing.

I certainly have my amazing au pair Hayley to thank for even being able to start dating my vintner. If she'd not been there after my first date, and my subsequent multiple sleepless nights -- Pandora's box of emotions and torment had just been opened within my heart/head/body making sleep just impossible, and eating too -- I couldn't have coped. She got my kids up, to school, to tennis, fed, while I slowly recovered from the emotion-struck vegetable I'd become. After a week I was newly vertical, but continued to be a highly distracted individual for another few months.

It was not an easy thing to mother my boys and start a new affair. If I'd not had help, could I have done it? When you know that you have a problem with sleeping beside a new man; that fun though making love will be, and joyous as it is to fall into that new man's arms, you'll be a total mess in the morning having not closed your eyes once throughout that night... can you allow that night to happen? If the kids are home and waiting for you, counting on you to be copacetic, on the ball, a proper mother...? I'm just not so sure.

And so I look around, I consider, I wonder. I see the world in shades of gray. There is an idea of the perfect situation, but can it happen? It doesn't for many. Perhaps I'm destined to simply raise my boys, do the best I can do, and through yoga, healthy eating habits and a bit of face lotion, keep up my looks and potential attractiveness so that when at last I'm fully available, men will still be interested. But if I choose this route, will I be depriving my boys of the potential presence of an interesting and interested man?


Airelle said...

I certainly do not think I have any advice or even suggestion to offer you. And I see some of what I could have said you have allready heard. But I am writing as someone who has been in the same situation as you.
Contrary to your boys my daughter hardly had a farther as such. Your boys have the good luck of having an interesting man in their lives and you at the same occasion free time to have your own sentimental life. Cherish that opportunity, we haven't all had such luck. And of course it is my daughter specially that has been poorer for it, not me.
I chose - or maybe by lack of interesting males just lived with the situation - to concentrate on my daughter. The first time I ventoured to see a man she was allready in early teens and it went rather badly. The next time I met someone nice she was allready older and the person also more diplomatic and it went well but my daughter still chose to move far away for her studies and so I found myself a bit earlier than I expected alone and free to pursue a sentimental life of my own. This just to tell you to enjoy to the fullest the presence of your sons while they are there - the children grow up so quickly!
I used to have the dream of a big (even recomposed) family and hoped to find a man who could give me that stable family unit I longed for - but never did. And suddenly I discover that it's ok, that today I rather like my solitude and cherrish the man who understands me and gives me my own space. Maybe the dream in the end wasn't mine and that is why it didn't come true? I am not saying of course it can't happen to you, only that we don't allways know what we really want and sometimes life shows us what it is we need.
I hope anyhow that you will find answers and solutions. It's good to have dreams but it's intelligent from time to time to update them too. And give the poor man some time to think about it, too while you think about it on your own. Carpe diem seems to me the best policy, what needs to happen, will happen with time. Love, airelle

Madeleine Vedel said...

Thank you Airelle, and yes, I see that the boys are doing well, that I'm filling my life in a different way, and that traditional archetypes have tremendous pull, but are not always realizable, nor the ideal solution for many of us. I'm happy that I'm avoiding conflict, that the boys don't feel me pulled away from them, that I'm not being forced to choose. Mostly, things are very good. However, Saturdays are spent sleeping lots and lots to recover from my very intense and energetic weeks! I think I'd like help, and to share the joys and burdens... but it's completely up in the air whether or not that will happen for me.

Take care! and yes, I treasure my moments alone too. Not to worry!