(Names changed to protect identities)
I have been a single mother for a year now. After an acrimonious divorce, I am slowly picking up the bits and pieces of my life.Being the breadwinner and homemaker, concurrently, is indeed a daunting task – as I have come to realise. I won the custody of my daughter, Tia, following a bitter legal battle –her father being allowed occasional meetings with his daughter.
Tia has been a very good daughter. An inspiration for me to carry on with my otherwise rather bleak life. I, too, have always tried to be good, caring and available asmuchaspossible.
So are things just about fine for us? Not really. I noticed that Tia is not her usual, content self during our visit to a nearby park over the weekends.
She gets cranky, hardly shows any interest in playing with other children, and insists that we go back home after hardly having spent a few minutes in the park.
“What bothers you in the park?” I often asked my daughter, dismayed.
“I don’t know,” she would reply, often followed by sobbing that required a bit of cajoling.
“So, have you been able to figure out what brought about the sudden change in Tia at the park?” my friend Sunita, a psychologist, said after she had accompanied us to the park.
“Not really,” I said.
“Most of the children, if not all, were accompanied by both the parents – father and mother, you must have noticed,” she said to me as I kept pondering.
“But Tia has only her mother for a company. Do you realise now?” Sunita concluded.
I feel guilty for snatching childhood away from my daughter. She deserves a better upbringing, like the others. But I had lost my self-esteem in that relationship. So probably looking for a reconciliation –and going back into that relationship – would mean compromising more than what I can afford.
I have a colleague in the office who is now more than a friend to me. He understands me, respects me and we like spending time together. We became friends a couple of months after I went through divorce (in case you are wondering whether my unfaithfulness resulted in the breakup of the marriage). He knows what I am going through and often subtly hints at taking this friendship further. He is a bachelor and is interested in me, and so am I, and I do fancy my future with him. But I am sceptical – will he be the father that I am seeking for my daughter? Besides, Tia’s father, my ex-husband, still loves Tia and Tia loves him. I feel that my remarriage will spoil the relationship between father and daughter, and would induce my ex-husband to remarry, and that would result in subsequent neglect of my daughter.
So should I find a father for my daughter or would that mean giving my marriage another chance, and losing a part of myself in the process; or should I prioritise to find a shoulder to rest my head on – a man in my life?
I actually crave both – a partner for myself and a father for my daughter. But I am not sure how. Often, in those situations, is it best to tread the middlepath, accept the things as they are, and move on? I am repenting of having taken a decision in haste: acceding to my parents’ wishes and getting married to an unfeeling person too early in my life. And I cannot risk another one – and then repent in leisure.
(As told to Saurabh Paul)
Dr. Deepak Kashyap says:
Sometimes divorce and separation can be as hard to deal with as the marital problems they were aiming to solve. Just because something is hard that doesn’t mean that it is not right.
I am sure you took the step of moving away from your marriage for a good reason(s). You need to be able to remind yourself of those reasons without necessarily feeling victimised by them every time you recall them. These reasons have to kept at the top of your mind, because of the additional fact that you have a daughter.
As I can tell from your description, you seem to be struggling a lot with guilt and confusion whether the divorce was a good thing for your daughter or not. Nowhere once in your description I could detect that you actually missed your ex-husband for the values he had and the love you had for him. So it is very clear that you have moved on from him, for good reasons, and do not see yourself being happy going back to him, especially now that you have experienced how much better it could be with the friend that you mentioned.
Related reading: The first year of marriage
Let me tell you two of my opinions on your situation, given the data you have provided and the family researches that I am aware of, you did a good thing of taking your daughter out of a toxic environment of two people constantly fighting with each other, regardless of how much they individually loved her. Growing up with the factual realities of adulthood is much better than languishing in an environment that is filled with negativity.
The second thing I would say, is that you are not being “selfish” by wanting a loving partner for yourself. If you think your current friend is willing to take the responsibility of raising your daughter with you, then by all means give it a go with him and see how it goes. You don’t have to jump into marriage with him straight away.
And as far as your fear of your ex-husband going away from your daughter’s life is concerned, you have to realise that it would be a choice he would have to make and that you have no control over it. You cannot live your life in fear of what is he going to do, if you choose to do this, that or the other. His approval of the choices you make is what you need to examine, otherwise the difficulty of a divorce, which is largely psychological now, will compound. If he loves his daughter enough he will have to figure out as an adult, ways to integrate into your lives.
Deepak Kashyap is a counselling psychologist and a certified life-skills trainer with a private practice in Mumbai, India.