Trying to co-parent in the aftermath of divorce for me was like walking through fields of landmines, trying to avoid death. That’s what it felt like, the death of my attachment to being a mother. It was a label I clung to since I was no longer a wife after almost 15 years of marriage.
In the Italian culture, mothers are everything. As women, we are groomed to be caretakers. I came from your traditional Italian family, where the wife cooks, cleans, raises the children, and makes sure her husband has his needs met. His only job is to provide financially, and as long as he does that, he considers himself to be “successful.”
As deep-seated as it was, this belief was never enough for me, but I suppressed every ounce of it that thought otherwise. I became a master betrayer of my soul’s desire to not fall into the trap of carrying on this dynamic in my relationship. I desperately wanted to live in the truth of who I was, but I was too ingrained in the culture and too fearful of being rejected to see my way out of what I call the hamster wheel.
When I asked for the divorce, the wheels were in motion instantly to separate our custodial time with the kids to 50%/50% custody. There was no discussion about this, just action taken at the suggestion of the lawyers. Mind you, I never had any intention of taking my children away from their father. Divorce will trigger people into their fear story of needing to protect and defend what they believe is only theirs: money, the children, material possessions, relationships, etc.
Before the divorce, I considered myself a stay-at-home mom. I handled the day to day, drop-offs and pickups to school, volunteered in the classroom, cooked, cleaned, and brought them to extracurricular activities. Our children were busy, and I was your typical Italian mother. I worked in real estate, which I didn’t love, to create my schedule and be available for the kids. We had no babysitters. Their needs and the needs of my husband came well before my own.
Splitting our time with the kids was a struggle, especially when on his time, he did as he pleased with the children. He asked for 50%, but it didn’t matter who the kids were with during his time in his eyes. He enlisted the village while he was working full-time to run a family business. I was available, as I had always been, but it felt as if there was no regard for me as my children’s mother. The energy between us was that of control and spite, and the kids became pawns used to play out our deep, unhealed wounds.
That happens all too often, children being used as currency because mom and dad are unwilling to look at their shadow sides. Those ugly parts of ourselves that wreak of comparison, lack, and unworthiness. It takes two to tango in this energy. It is never one-sided. I attracted a partner who mirrored my reflection of unworthiness right back to me; I was just unwilling to see it at the time because I was too busy blaming him for making me feel this was.
When we are angry, it’s normal to want others to feel our pain. We want to punish because we believe that the source of our anger is something or someone outside of ourselves. We freely give our power to anyone and everyone else, never realizing that no one can make us feel a certain way unless we have unresolved wounds at the core. Divorce has a way of magnifying those unresolved wounds.
Co-parenting, unfortunately, is not in the cards for everyone. In an ideal world, it would be. We would realize that our children are not responsible for carrying our wounds as their own. But in reality, not everyone is willing to take ownership of what led them to such an unconscious place, because claiming ownership will lead one down dark paths that can be very painful, and not everyone is willing to take that journey.
For some, it is easier to get lost in a sea of distractions:
- Jumping into another relationship.
- Drowning themselves in their work.
- Anything and everything to keep from sitting in the pain.
They don’t realize that the way to heal the pain is to move through it.
I wish I could say that we were those parents who consciously uncoupled, but we were most definitely not. Our destiny brought us down a different path. It was not how I ever envisioned raising our children. I continually felt disrespected and disregarded as their mother, as I am sure he felt the same.
I always felt like I had to be the one who needed to let go. It felt as if every ounce of me was taken away in my divorce, and the driving force being bruised egos and shattered pride. Every decision and every exchange felt like an act of punishment. It was a never-ending battle, and it tested every fiber of my being.
When I was younger, I never understood how some parents could so freely walk away from their children when they divorced. After having gone through my own experience, it gave me a deep sense of compassion for those parents who got to the edge of their hopelessness. I understood how they might have felt, feeling so helpless and depleted.
It takes courage to keep all the pieces of yourself together when you feel so fragile and vulnerable as if in a fleeting moment you just might break. I wish I could say that the love for our children was enough, but it wasn’t. The antidote to healing was not going to come from anything outside of myself. That was a journey that had to come from within.
Because we were unable to co-parent, my saving grace was learning the art of surrender. I had to let go a little at a time, and just when I thought I couldn’t let go anymore, I let go some more. It was a tug-of-war that lasted quite some time, and my hands were tired of bleeding.
I didn’t realize how freeing surrender felt until I had no other options.
Surrender did not mean I didn’t care; it meant that I loved myself so radically that I wasn’t willing to give any more pieces of myself away. It meant that I was deserving of love and that nothing would take that away from me. It meant that I freed myself from the responsibility of how others show up in this world, including what kind of father my children’s dad wanted to be.
Eckart Tolle said, “When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. The realm of Being, which has been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace, there is great joy. And within that joy, there is love. And at the innermost core, there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named.”
Follow the path all the way to your core, and eventually, you will find your truth.
If you find it difficult trying to navigate through co-parenting, please set up a complimentary session for help HERE.