‘It hurts my feelings that he calls his father’s girlfriend “Mommy.” I won’t allow it.’
This was a line from a friend. I could feel her pain. Her son gave someone else HER title. Did this child not know what we go through to earn being called “Mommy?” Who fed you around the clock? Who went sleep deprived for months (ok, years) to feed, change, soothe fevers, slay the boogie man, and clean up midnight vomit? Who worries about catastrophic situations when we have four minutes of silence from the other room? Clearly, it was not, or is not… her.
As I listened, I so badly wanted to offer my support. I wanted to let her know that she was valid, that I agreed. She should be reassured that her son only had one real mommy, and there was no one else worthy. But my heart kept thinking about her son. How beautiful that he was loved so deeply by a stranger, that he wanted to call her “Mommy.” My friend had loved her son with all she had, and he came to know that what we do is so deep, and so safe, that when he felt that from someone else, he knew that heartfelt place as “Mommy.” And how amazing that a woman who did not birth her son has created a relationship so trusting and dear.
As I thought about her son, I could feel the words rising, and I tried to stop them. As she lingered in heartbreak, they escaped…“It’s not about you anymore.”
“It’s not about you anymore. The day you left, it stopped being about you. It’s not about how you feel, it is all about what your son needs.”
It was harsh, I know, but the needs of our children come before our feelings. We don’t parent so that we can be liked. We shouldn’t parent so that we can feel good. We parent in ways that give our children what they need, when they need it. When your emotions take over, ask yourself…”What does my child NEED?“
Does your children need to know that the other parent hasn’t paid child support in months? No, but you can explain that you live on a budget. With age-appropriate honesty, you can share that you don’t have extra money to go out for dinner, but you do have $5 to go play at the park and buy an ice cream cone. Not only are you teaching your child a valuable skill about budgeting and prioritizing, but you are not burdening your child with irrelevant hurtful information about a non-paying parent. Surely, you may have an opinion about your ex, but your child doesn’t need to hear your opinion. If you still aren’t convinced, what would you want the other parent to say if the situation were reversed?
It’s not always easy to ask this question. I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with it many times. When I find myself overwhelmed by the ugliness of why I left their father, I breathe deeply and ask, “What do my children NEED?” Do they need to know that there were issues with alcoholism and domestic abuse? No. It’s far more important for them to know that two healthy homes are better than one toxic home. (I’ll add that we’ve had many conversations over the last few years, so our discussions have evolved from that simple statement.) They know more than I wish they did, but what they don’t know is how I truly feel about their father. It’s not about me anymore, and I’m grateful for that.
When the responsibilities of being a divorced parent weigh you down, remember that your only job now is to be a parent. I understand that job includes a flow chart that wouldn’t fit on the side of house, yet, in the least, it removes us from the equation. You are no longer a wife (or husband) and that, in itself, can be a relief. You are tasked with providing your children with what they need. The uncomfortable twist is that you have to determine what that is.
- Telling Your Children About Divorce
- 10 Ways to Help Your Child Deal With Divorce Separation Anxiety
- 8 Signs of Post Stress Divorce In Children
- Handle Your Divorce With Care: Your Children Are Watching You!