Monday, April 18, 2011

When Divorce is Appropriate

Five years ago I realised that if I wanted to be the best mother I could be for my kids I would need a divorce. I knew that if I wanted to be fully engaged with my kids, if I wanted to be able to focus on their needs, if I wanted to be available in every way to help them succeed I would need to cut out any and all things that divided my attention and tainted my responses. So I did it, I divorced and I think it has made all the difference.

My divorce had nothing to do with Mr. Awesome, he's still hanging around ;-) What I needed to cut out of my thinking and responses was my pride ... so I divorced it. I had to set aside my expectations, I had to separate my emotions from the successes and struggles of my kids.  I had to learn that my job was not, is not, to become emotionally invested in 'the moment' with my kids but to help them navigate through the circumstances, situations and emotions that they will have to traverse as they grow.

I cannot claim their successes any more than I can take responsibility for their struggles. It is my job to help them move toward success, to help them process and learn from their struggles, so if I am emotionally wrapped up in the moment with them how can I see clearly, how can I lead them through the situation and help them to learn?  How can I be supportive when I am exhausting my emotional bank?

This doesn't mean that I am robo-mommy. I laugh and celebrate with the kids when they have rocked their day just as much as I feel heart broken and sad for them when they have had a tough time. The key is 'for them'. I do not make their triumphs and failures mine because it's not about me, its about them and I cannot rob them of the experience of learning from life because they are distracted by my emotions or worse, I allow my emotions to taint the lesson of the moment.

For example, let's look at the classic public tantrum. I'm standing in the middle of a crowded store, trying to finish up my shopping so I can get my exhausted toddler home for his nap. He starts throwing a fit because he wants a treat or toy he saw on the shelf. I say no and continue to walk down the aisle but the further we get from the object of desire the louder his tantrum gets. I pause and explain to him that he is not getting the treat because we have treats at home. He continues to fit, people are starting to stare and I am feeling my embarrassment grow.

My pride and embarrassment would dictate that I should either give in and give him the treat (thus teaching him that if he screams loud enough and long enough, he'll get what he wants) or I get mad and storm out of the store and discipline him (thus teaching him that if he embarrasses mommy he'll get in trouble). The third option is to step over the body, ignore the screaming and finish my shopping as quickly as possible. The third option teaches him that he is not the boss of me and his tantrums don`t embarrass me. When we get home there will be a discussion and a consequence for the behaviour because that is an inappropriate way to act in public, but I will be calm and rational in the discipline.

Without the haze of my emotions when dealing with a situation like this I can be way more rational, calm and look at the big picture. It`s not about me. It`s about teaching them how to self govern and learn from each situation.

Since divorcing my emotional attachment, my right to feel a certain way in connection to my kids, I feel as though I am a better, calmer, more creative parent. What do you need to divorce today to help you be the parent you want to be ... what habits, thoughts or emotions do you need to separate from


Mommyx4 said...

glad to know that I'm not the only one to choose option 3 when faced with the middle of the store tantrum. thanks.

Anonymous said...

You need to have an awesome box for "Reaction"! So well put!