I challenge anyone to go out and find a mother who does not think she’s failing at something. Does not question some or all parts of her parenting. I’ve been at this parenting gig for a little over 8 years now and there are moments I’m very proud of and moments I am definitely not proud of.
A lot of this year has been spent processing the abuse that went on in my marriage. Abuse that the children witnessed and how that is now affecting our everyday lives. That’s the thing with abuse – having spoken to friends who have been party to similar treatment in their marriages, we have all said the same thing. There’s something about your marriage that you can’t quite put your finger on. Something that you know isn’t right but you don’t particularly think of it as abuse. After all, we were raised to think that if we were in an abusive situation we would leave and yet here we are married to these men so surely it can’t be abusive.
Gaslighting is a term I only learnt recently. It explains a lot. It explains why people don’t necessarily realise they’re slipping into an abusive situation and how these things creep up on us until we’re not sure how to handle it. Needless to say, most people in abusive situations are the victims of Gaslighting.
For me this makes my parenting a complicated process. While I was married and living with my husband, life was just about survival. I was often short tempered with the kids as I was continually walking on eggshells at home and I would leave them in After School Clubs as long as possible so they didn’t have to be in the difficult home environment. Weekends were a case of taking the kids on a circuit of visiting friends so we weren’t trapped in the house with their Dad. Needless to say, as much as it was all the parenting I was able for, it wasn’t who I wanted to be or how I wanted to raise my children.
It has now been a year since my marriage ended and almost a year since their Dad moved out of our house. Yes life has been stressful. There has been massive financial insecurity, tears, stress, loss of tempers, guilt etc but it’s been almost a year and not only have we survived, we are blossoming.
Recently I realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I shouted at the kids (then ironically shouted at them about 2 hours later!) I saw that we’d settled into a routine that not only encompassed us and our needs, but allowed for a new relationship, new partner and his daughter to become a part of our family too.
Life certainly isn’t picture card perfect, there is still a lot of turmoil in the background, unpicking of my ex’s behaviour, senior teams at the kids’ school getting involved, temper tantrums, children struggling for autonomy and confusion as they come up to their first Christmas belonging to two separate households. However difficult it has and continues to be, I have become the parent I wanted to be. Tolerant, calm, supportive and only leaving the house if I want to, not as a means of escaping a man who was terrorising us all.
They say having children is a gift. We all know that to be true. Being able to parent those children in the way in which you want to, a way that makes you proud of who you are. That’s the biggest gift of all.