Tuesday, June 14, 2011

At peace.

It has taken a lot of tears, a lot of screaming, a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of hate to get to the point we are at today. 'We' being Stella's Father and I. To be purely honest, it was a roller coaster of unknowns.

A breakup can be heartbreaking, but a breakup with the parent of your firstborn child (which creates an indescribable bond in itself) is heart-wrenchingly horrendous. The dynamics in the relationship change tremendously...There is wedge in the middle. A crying, breast-hogging, tiring but wonderful wedge. It is no longer just Mr and Ms, it's Mr, Ms and Junior. I felt like I was torn in all directions: trying to form a path between my baby and I, trying to maintain the path and its ever growing weeds between my partner and I, trying to encourage the formation of a path between my baby and her father and then trying to walk all these paths at once! (excuse the garden analogy)

People often comment on how 'well' I deal with shared care (Stella is with her Dad 3 nights a fortnight, which equates to 29% in the world of child support) and the breakup and moving on process. Truth is, the process of being at peace with separated parenting was quite a journey. I wasn't always calm and collected and it wasn't always smooth sailing. It took a lot of time, plenty of tears and hard work. Confrontations were nerve wracking and filled with arguments, disagreements and resentment.

I want to give a little insight as to how we have come to get to this stage of 'peace' and perhaps help those who may go through a similar situation. These are some things I would tell myself if I could go back...

Reaching out and using every resource available is very important. Surround yourself with family and friends, talk with everyone about everything and write everything down. It may sound silly, but writing down the dates of conversations, confrontations and a brief summary of what was said is really helpful to look back on when reflecting.

Time is such a valuable thing. Sometimes regardless of all the support and wisdom you may have, the healing and grieving process will only be resolved with time. Memories fade, forgiveness grows. The only thing I can say that may provide relief is that it does get better, you will stop hurting. You will move on. You haven't failed as a parent and you're baby wont be disadvantaged and happiness and development wont be compromised.

Having said that, Your baby WILL be disadvantaged and unsettled if you let the grieving process continue in an unhealthy manner. Sometimes we need to yell, sometimes we need to cry, sometimes we need to scream 'why?', sometimes we need to accuse, hate, feel guilt, feel regret, feel anger. In fact, anger is one of the healthiest parts of grieving in a relationship breakup. However, there comes a time when it is no longer a healthy way to react and deal. For both you and your baby. Talking with a professional if you are struggling to move on is not admitting defeat, it is not being weak. It's being a good parent by taking proactive steps to heal yourself and heal your family.

During breakups, whether it be when your children are very young or not so, it is easy to become so overwhelmed with your own emotions that you forget about the most important thing. At the end of the day, no matter how much you are hurting, nothing is more important than the happiness and well being of your child. For me, this was the shock awakening that I needed. I went to see a counsellor about my grieving and reluctance to let Stella go with her father, and one sentence she said really resonated. "It isn't about you, it isn't about your relationship, it's about Stella". It made me realise that I was getting so caught up in my own emotions and hurt that it was effecting our family negatively. Another thing I realised with an epiphany-like light bulb is that we will always be a family. A separated family, but a family none the less. There is no escaping that. When Stella is 8, when Stella is 18, when Stella is 28. We will always be tied. Why continue harbouring so much hatred and hurt when it is so time consuming and emotionally draining?

One thing I can't tell you, is how to forgive. I don't know how, or when or even if I have forgiven. But realise, that you must try.

This feeling, of peace, is wonderful. It is wonderful to be civil, to feel no more resentment, to be able to communicate properly. I cringe to admit it, but I love seeing Stella get so excited when her Dad comes to pick her up, I love seeing the way they interact and the smiles he gives her. No matter what happened between us, I know he loves his daughter. As do I. We are a family, a separated, yet well functioning family.

Separated families are no less peaceful, happy and well rounded than traditional families. Don't ever let guilt make you think otherwise. Use your situation to create positives. Family is family, Love and understanding is far more important than status. (Oh what a cliched post!)

I hope this gives a little insight into how my journey to being a happy, content single parent was shaped. I hope if you ever experience the same thing that perhaps something written here will give you relief or provide empathy. Thanks for reading!
...Plenty of love...

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