It is with much sadness and grief that I write this letter. Your dad and I have made the decision that we will be happier people living apart rather than living together—and we believe that this will be better for the two of you. (Even now, I find it hard to say the word “divorce,” it is so painful.)
You are too young to understand the reasons for this now. I am writing you this letter for your keepsake box, so that when you are old enough to understand, you have some information about the process and the decision. By the time you are old enough to ask questions, comprehend honest answers, and understand the complexity of adult re lationships, you will have this letter. It cannot capture the difficult trade-offs that we were forced to contemplate, or the many hours spent talking, but ultimately, the poor relationship that could no longer be ignored.
Our decision to separate in no way reflects on our love for you, nor was it “caused” by you. In fact, I recall very clearly the anniversary card your dad gave me last year. He said, “Regardless of what happens with our marriage, the two beautiful children we’ve had together are the best things that have happened to us,” and he is so right! Were we not married that August night in Colorado, we would not have the two of you, who have been the joy and light of my life for these past seven years.
Your dad and I were very much in love when we got married. The day he proposed to me, he said, “I love you more than there are grains of sand on the beach.” We were so happy. Yet, somehow, that love has been buried by negative feelings and resentments that have built up over the years.
I told myself many times that I could bear my own unhappiness if my kids were happy. In fact, I would do nearly anything to spare you the pain I felt when my own parents divorced when I was in 7th grade, and I began the inevitable shuffling between houses that continues even today.
We have struggled to make this marriage work. We saw first one therapist and then another; we attended a weekend marriage workshop. We moved to a new city, in part thinking that a fresh start would help our marriage gain a new footing. For me, I tried so hard to be the partner your dad wanted me to be that I started losing the parts of me that made me who I am—and I started becoming unhappy. Despite how hard I tried to change, it seemed your dad was no happier.
Through our struggles, we found shared joy in watching you grow from wee babies to toddlers, to preschoolers, and now, to school-age children. When I was not at work, I buried myself in the many parenting activities that were the priority in my life, activities that gave me meaning and happiness. I helped in your classrooms, we went on bike rides and walks in the woods, we caught snakes and frogs, baked cookies and brownies, dyed your hair, planned birthday parties, took camping trips, and worked in the garden…I reveled in these activities.
Yet, as time went on, I saw some unhealthy things were happening. You never saw your dad and I hugging, kissing, or being affectionate. You saw a mom who worked full time and then came home to her “second shift” pretty much alone. Through our struggles, our focus remained on being the very best parents we could be—together. This focus kept us together, even as our own relationship was unraveling. But our extreme focus on you likely gave you a warped sense of your own importance. There was no counter-balance to the kid focus to provide the perspective that adult relationships are equally important in a loving family.
At some point, my personal unhappiness—completely unrelated to my happiness being your mom—was so great that I talked to your dad about a different way for us to share parenting. I thought—naively—that both of us might feel a sense of relief if one of us had the courage to say out loud what had been building in us for years. But what happened was more miscommunication, and the more we tried to resolve the conflicts, the worse they became. The blame and hard feelings became overwhelming.
It is an unsettling time: I feel scared and anxious. I cry and worry imagining being apart from you, without you there to kiss goodnight and to wake up, hearing your sing-song voices: “mama, the sun is up, come and get me!” I also have fears that you might blame me for this outcome, and that your dad may communicate in subtle but harmful ways about me to you.
Despite the pain of the decision, I have hopes: by being separate, your dad and I will be happier, and that with happy parents, your lives will be enriched. Your dad has so many wonderful qualities that he deserves to share with you and you deserve to see: his love for music, his tender side. He deserves a partner to appreciate all the goodness he has to offer. I want a partner at home, and I want you to see physical affection—as well as productive conflict—between two loving adults.
Know that I love you with all my heart. I commit to creating a healthy co-parenting future for both of you. With my enduring love and care for you both…
This essay was published in Mamalode's newest print magazine themed 'IT'S COMPLICATED'