Saturday, February 18, 2017

Addendum: For Divorced Parents

I had one additional thought (for now, of course) after I posted my on my Plea for Divorcing and Divorced Parents and this I feel can't wait.

I know that, upon the devastation of divorce, one or both parents can be emotionally obliterated. As one friend said, divorce is like an abortion, it damages, dismembers and takes away life. So of course those experiencing divorce may be facing an emotional ground zero, where everything is laid to waste. Of course.

Again I make a plea. This plea. Please do not ever, ever, ever look to your children to meet your emotional needs. Sure, things will change. Household duties will change. Someone besides Dad will be taking out the trash now or cutting the grass. Kids might have to get after school jobs or learn to make supper because Mom is working late to make ends meet. It is expected that kids will have to show some flexibility with life's new circumstances. But please, never, ever, ever look to your children to be a substitute for what you lost, or perhaps what you never had, in your spouse. 

Seeking to have your child meet your needs is not love, it is an exploitation of a relationship for your own ends. To be blunt, it is abuse. I know it sounds harsh. But it is.

If you find yourself tempted to do so, get help.. Find friends. Find a support group. Get counseling. Something. No child, no matter what age, can bear that burden.

A Plea to Divorcing and Divorced Parents

Last week I wrote these words on Facebook:
39 years ago today my parents marriage was declared dead by the courts and buried. Even though it had died months, perhaps years earlier, that was the official end. February 10, 1978. It was one month, exactly, short of their 32nd anniversary.It is disconcerting that a marriage that old can up and die and I find myself eager to make it to the 32 year mark with my own marriage as if some family curse may hunt me down and doom me to a similar tortured fate. And yet I still have 3 years and 3 months to go before I hit that mark.I have to remind myself that a marriage that dies at 32 years probably wasn't super healthy at 29 years. That most marriages don't die out of the blue. Yet I have to be honest. Even though I am married to the one person I trust the most on the entire planet, I fear. Perhaps that is the legacy of divorce.I sometimes wonder if anybody else has a similar fear. If your parents' marriage failed, do you ever fear yours will, too?

This was a hard post for me to write. More vulnerable than even what is normal for me, Ginny the Transparent. My hands got sweaty and my heart raced as I posted it and I felt heaping blobs of shame fall upon my shoulders. But I did it anyway because I wanted other people who may share my story to not feel so alone. Because this is how we connect.

Perhaps that is the legacy of divorce.

I fear that some of you, upon reading that line, if you read it and are divorced, may have felt the evil finger of accusation and the branding iron of guilt searing your soul. That was not my intention. It was so not my intention.

My mother was the one that filed for divorce. She did not do it lightly. She did so after decades of infidelity on the part of my father. She did so with evidence. She did so in spite of the fact that it was the last thing she wanted. If nothing else, divorce was a downright embarrassment for her. This was the upper middle-class South in the 1970s. But most of all, she did so in spite of the fact that she loved him because it was obvious that he no longer loved her and had moved on.

Divorce happens. It happens a lot. We all know it. Sometimes it happens flippantly because "we fell out of love." Not so cool. Other times it happens because one party forsook their marriage vows to love, honor, cherish....whether by means of adultery, abuse, or desertion. At these times divorce is a legitimate option for the non-offending party. (This isn't meant to be a treatise on the theological aspects of divorce and remarriage.)

But back to what I said. My parents' divorce impacted me in a way I didn't even comprehend at the time. The actual time frame, from when my mother told me of their impending divorce, to the time it was final, was perhaps less than 3 months. My father moved out about 2 weeks after I was told of the divorce. (From then on out I saw him about once, maybe twice, a year, even though he lived in the same town.)

For my mother, the trauma of losing her husband of almost 32 years absolutely devastated my mother. I can remember her on the floor, sobbing, screaming, yelling, crying. I had no idea what to do. I was 14.

My mother never really recovered. Not anytime soon. She was terribly depressed. She would disappear for hours. She quit speaking to me altogether for a few months. Now I know. Now I know that sometimes trauma is so great that it totally overwhelms your ability to cope. (I know what it is like. I have been there with my own children. I have had my coping skills overwhelmed. Surviving seems too lofty a goal.)

What I am trying to say is that I, in effect, lost both my parents that day. At least for a time. There were many professionals over the years who told my mother that she needed antidepressants but she declined. I don't know, for the life of me, why she didn't seek counseling and as much support as she could. It just wasn't done back then. Not in her eyes.

What I am trying to say is that if you are a divorced or a divorcing parent, I plead with you to reach out for support and to get your emotional needs met in a healthy way so that you can be emotionally available for your children. They need you. They won't care (much?) if you are living in a dumpy apartment or somebody's basement or don't have the cool shoes like their friends. They will care that you are emotionally available to them.

There is no shame in doing what you need to do in order to be a healthier person for your kids. You are of great worth. To others. To them. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Switching Battlegrounds

Before all the immigrant hoopla hit the fan, we were served an endless buffet of news about the Women's March and the marches around the world. Suddenly the pro-life/pro-choice beast reared its ugly head and Facebook became a battleground over the reproductive rights of women and the lives of unborn babies. Even posts criticizing Trump for some non-abortion related behavior brought out accusations of "you want to kill babies." It got crazy. I got mad. And sick of it all.

The problem is that I do think that we all can agree on much more than we disagree on. At least we should be able to. The other problem is that both sides are so intent on protecting and defending their cause that they can't hear the concerns of the other, creating an Iron Curtain of communication and understanding.

My pro-choice friends often are so protective of the right to an abortion that they don't want to hear that so many women are forced into having abortions by family members or boyfriends. They don't want to hear that women can feel guilt and grief for years, decades. Somehow acknowledging this threatens their position. But it makes them appear heartless. A woman I know told me of taking her daughter to get an abortion in the early years after Roe vs. Wade. She said a curious thing. "I didn't have any other choice." Somehow, now that abortion was an option, the other options weren't considered viable. An ironic statement for someone who chose the pro-choice option.

My pro-life friends are so protective of the life of the unborn that they don't want to hear how very hard a decision this is. That choosing life isn't as easy as Nike's "just do it."

A woman's body is created to bond with her baby. So the process of continuing a pregnancy and birthing a baby, only to hand that baby over to someone else, goes against everything a woman was created to do. Yes, perhaps it is the best choice for all concerned. But we cannot ever minimize how very traumatic this is for the mother. Or for the baby. I grew up with a front row seat to the trauma of adoption. I saw firsthand the toll that being adopted takes on the very core of a person. Again, some children can adapt quite well, but others cannot. Adoption can be a wonderful thing but it a hard, hard thing and is not something to be thrown at a confused young woman flippantly.

The other option is to keep the baby. Until recently that just wasn't an option. A single woman raising a baby on her own was unheard of and an embarrassment to all concerned. Now it is ok. In some circles, at least. Being a single mom is the hardest job in the world. You work your butt off to provide for you child and come home to no rest whatsoever because you have a child, all the while all your friends are out having fun and not inviting you to anything because you have a child and they don't "get" you any more, and you worry how you are going to make it and you might cry yourself to sleep and hope and pray that one day some man will be able to love you with your baggage and love this child that isn't his.

Sometimes keeping the child means having a constant connection to the child's father, which can be particularly hard if that man was controlling or abusive. Keeping the child may mean that you will be forever hogtied to a man who brought you nothing but pain.

So unless pro-life people are willing to step up and acknowledge and step in and help with the long, long term needs of women who choose to not have an abortion, they are going to lose any credibility.

But here is the thing. Please notice who I have been talking about. The woman. Because all of this is happening to the woman and her body. She is dealing with the consequences. But she didn't get pregnant by herself.

That is what I don't get. Why does it all have to fall on the woman? Even birth control? The pill, the IUD, the diaphragm, the foam (yeah, that one is weird....kind of effervescent). Even most forms of birth control fall on the woman, with their own risks. Except the condom.

Why don't men wear condoms? Because they don't like them. That just seems really selfish to me. Because condoms are awesome. The prevent pregnancy. They prevent disease for both partners. And they are free at your local health department, so I am told (we don't need them any more...haven't for I have no need to go check it out). So why don't men wear condoms? From what I have heard, they don't think they feel things as intensely with that little raincoat on their member. That just really stinks. Because men want a more exhilarating experience, women have to deal with choosing between the three options listed above, all which are hard as hell. 

Where I am going with this? I don't really know except that I think the pro-life/pro-choice people have been fighting the wrong battle. We need to look at the deeper issues, such as the objectification of women (the topic for another post) and start to hold men accountable for their role in the painful decisions that run and sometimes ruin women's lives. We need to change the battleground altogether.