They say parenting is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have. THEY say this, and we listen. We listen so hard it puts tears in our eyes and makes us second-guess having kids at all, but we do it anyway. We do it because, deep down, we want them to be wrong.
There are moments in our lives we wish we could erase—strike them from the record and start over. At least, that’s how I felt about my marriage.
A month after my daughter was born we lost everything: our home, our savings and most of our self-esteem. Things happened. Lots of things: some I would like to forget and others that have scarred me for life. There were so many things, in fact, that I lost count.
My daughter, on the other hand, didn’t know about the things. She only knew she was loved—beyond her wildest dreams—and she gave it right back, like a boss.
But something was weighing on me, heavy. And as much as I wanted to blame it on someone else, I had no one to blame but myself because it turns out, they were right. Parenting IS hard. Damn hard. You are an artist, molding a life, and every choice you make will affect who your children become. But here’s the catch: parenting is only as difficult as the choices you make.
When my parents divorced, there were no conversations, no promises of shared custody or visitation—just a quick goodbye from dad and he was gone. It took a long time for me to get over my father leaving, probably longer than it should have, but when I did, I vowed that if I ever had kids (and a troubled marriage), I would do my best to ‘work it out.’
Flash forward 10 years, 3 months, 25 days.
It was early Spring, 2016. I had just finished taking the dog for a walk when a mail truck whizzed past the house. A few minutes later, I found a cardboard case inside the mailbox, containing a coupon book for a car loan I knew nothing about.
At that moment, I realized something: that by enabling his bad behavior, I had sent all the wrong messages to her. Instead of teaching my daughter how to love, I had prepared her to withhold. Instead of showing kindness, I displayed anger. And instead of providing her with the tools needed for a lifetime of wedded bliss, I convinced her that it was normal for a husband to sleep on the couch while his wife wept alone in the bedroom. Without realizing it, I had raised my daughter to believe that staying in an abusive relationship is perfectly acceptable—as long as you have kids.
My divorce—a two-year unmerciful trial that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy—was final this past summer.
Though there are still empty pages to fill, options to weigh and edits to be made, the bulk of my pain is in the past. I no longer cry myself to sleep; instead, I close my eyes, breathe a heavy sigh of relief and smile, knowing that we are finally free.
Parenting is complicated; this much is true, but a poisonous marriage destroys lives. Perhaps the toughest job isn’t parenting at all; perhaps it’s making choices that are best for everyone—including you.
A modified version of this story was originally featured on Mamalode.