The Firing Squad

The Firing Squad

Three years ago my kids moved to another state across the country from me with their dad. He and I realized it was time to release one another to live separate lives so we could both be happy. With a great deal of respect and love for one another, we carefully constructed a new arrangement for our family. I live in Colorado, they live in Vermont. I travel to Vermont every month to spend time with them, staying in the house where they live with their dad, my ex-husband. They spend summers with me in Colorado. Aside from the obvious heartache of being apart from my children, the hardest thing about this is the constant self-doubt which is inextricably combined with judgement (both real and perceived) of others.

I wish I didn’t give a fuck what you think, but I do. I don’t give enough of a fuck to change the way I live my life to gain your approval. But I do care enough to try to convince you that it’s all good. If I could carry on without hesitation, I would spend zero time or energy worrying about how the world might view my choices. But here I am, desperately searching for the words that will make you understand that I AM a good mother.

Every time someone asks me if I have children, I feel like I am standing naked in front of a firing squad whose bullets are judgments with the power to strip away my validity as a mother. In order to preempt the bullets, I feel the urgent need to simultaneously apologize for and justify myself as I describe my family situation to anyone. I want you to know that I love my kids as fiercely and deeply as any mom out there, and that the way I am defining motherhood is good for my daughters. If I can somehow find the right words for the 30-second elevator spiel about my family, you will see that my beautiful daughters are thriving. You will know that there is a functional and love-filled partnership between their dad and me, and you will be happy for us. If I don’t paint the picture just right, you will shake your head and lament the sadness of the situation. Then I will have to re-convince myself that it doesn’t matter what you think and that I am not a failure.

I am exceedingly grateful to my ex-husband for the grace and care he puts forth to make this work. He is a full-time single parent 75% of the time, and he is spectacular. He lets his ex-wife stay in his house for a week every month, for pete’s sake! He makes it possible for me to have an active role in the daily lives of our children. He solicits my input on things like bedtimes, food choices, and talking to the kids about sex. He makes sure we Skype every day, and he makes it possible for me to attend parent-teacher conferences and doctor appointments by phone. He could easily cut me out of these things. He is doing the heavy lifting, and I am chiming in from 2,000 miles away without any of the the toil or hassle.

The scenario we are living is exhausting, difficult, and expensive. It is also healthy and beneficial to all of us. Ironically, I am a much better parent under these circumstances than I was when we were living as an intact-white-picket-fence family that could have been the poster child for the American dream. Unhappiness, fed by alcohol and denial, plagued our “perfect” life. We successfully carved out a better way of being. I am proud of us for making this work. Someday, I will stand before the firing squad and be impervious to its bullets because I will have found a way not to give a fuck.

Photo : Bulletproof / Felixnotes / CC 3.0

Clarice

I'm a mom living and working in the Boulder, CO area. My two beautiful daughters, 10 and 14, live with their dad in Vermont. We have a very good co-parenting relationship, I travel monthly to spend time with them and stay at my ex's house so he can take off for a few days and get a break. It is working, but it is the hardest thing I have ever done.

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Carrie
Guest

What a great post – thank you for submitting it! Explaining the situation to other people was one of the most difficult parts, for me. Eventually, the thing that worked for me was to stop being apologetic in my explanation… to not sound nervous or bummed about it and instead to be confident and positive and then move along in the conversation. People only know what we show them. If I show them it is a big bad deal, that’s what they will believe about it. If, instead, I show that it’s ok, they didn’t tend to put too much… Read more »

boydy2669
Member
boydy2669

Good on you Clarice. I am about to go thru the same thing. My ex and I have a good relationship, but I think the dynamic is not healthy for either of us. I want her to find someone, and I want to move on with my life. I moved with her and my kids to a new state and its not working at all. How did your kids originally feel about the move, what ages were they? I told me ex I cant do this anymore and she has agreed to be flexible so I can see my kids… Read more »

Jordan B
Member
Jordan B

I am in a similar situation but my wife and I have yet to break the news of my intentions to live in another country to our 6 year old daughter. I’d love to get some advice on how to answer inevitable questions like “why aren’t you coming to stay with us forever” or “why did you choose that other place over us”.

Any sound advice on how to do this?

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

I want to learn not to give a fuck about this too. But I constantly worry about judgments from other people and more importantly my children. I live in constant fear that they will grow to hate me. My ex and I are separated in part because I transitioned to become my real female self, in part due to vastly different sexual and emotional needs and we just had become different people. Together we always fought and it was always over little nothings. After transition I’ve increasingly had more PTSD from the way that society treats trans people as disposable,… Read more »

Mario
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Mario

Clarice thanks for sharing your story. I’m in a similar situation as your are. I travel to Kansas to see my daughter, stay with my ex in laws when I’m there. It’s been hard and but I’m making the effort to make this work. I FaceTime with my daughter a couple days a week. I’m involved in her life even though I’m in California. A first it was hard sharing my story to friends and coworkers but once I owned it it felt better. I know in my heart I made the right decision by letting my daughter go. Don’t… Read more »

D
Member
D

Thank you Clarice for sharing this. It is encouraging and empowering.

Murphy
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Murphy

Just what I needed to read. I wish I didn’t care what others thought and I am trying not to. I recently moved to Florida and my girls are in Illinois with my husband. We are currently separated and heading for divorce. I am miserable here and made the move to better the entire family. It is the most difficult decision I have ever made, and I doubt my choices every day. But what is better for the girls? A miserable mom in Illinois or a happy and healthy mom in Florida? I think moms are judged much more harshly… Read more »

Ayalarch
Guest
Ayalarch

I too will be heading down that road here soon, if I can muster the courage to move beyond all doubts and fears. I cannot stand doing this on my own. I finally have family who are willing to be supportive, and I need to go and do what is best for me, which is to up the anty on my education and be able to keep a job so that I can provide for the kids and not lose my mind. It’s a catch 22 in the culture we exist in. To break free will cost you, to innovate,… Read more »

Kim
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Kim

These posts have been a god send for me, in the sense that, now I know I am not alone. I am living in Iowa, my kids are in Texas. My current husband will not move back to Texas, and that isthe only home my kids have ever known. I have been away from them for a year, and it has been the hardest thing i have ever done. I don’t sleep, I cannot find a job, I want to be with them, but do not want another failed marriage. I am so confused. How does one live with their… Read more »

Tara
Member
Tara

I can’t thank you enough for writing this. This post was the first of its kind that I came across. I was starting to feel like I was the only mother on the planet that had a family dynamic set up over distance this way. Some of what you wrote were words I have said exactly the past few months. You give me hope, and a new realization that there are other moms out there that do understand this, and speak this language of doing things better this way. This is the most amazing thing I could have come across… Read more »

Bexbex
Guest
Bexbex

Thank you. I can’t say much more than that. From this arizona mother of two little ones who live in Sweden. Just thank you.

Beth H.
Guest
Beth H.

Wow. Thank you for this. I truly felt alone, but now I know that I’m not. What I wouldn’t give to sit down with a cup of coffee and talk with you, and other women that are in the same boat.

Saskia
Guest
Saskia

This is such a beautiful thread. Thank you all for writing and sharing your stories. I am a mom who is just about to leave my 6 year old son in Canada with his dad. Work has called me to southeast Asia and I know it would not be fair to my son or his dad to have him come with me. I am fortunate in that his dad is happy to care for him full time and offers me digital visitation and consults me about all decisions regarding our son. We have spent a ton of time together as… Read more »

Keilah
Member
Keilah

I feel you and have a similar situation with my ex-husband. He lives in Upstate NY and I live in North Florida. My 11yo son made the decision to stay with him to stay in school and with his friends up there and we refused to separate my 8yo daughter who has a disability from her brother. I moved to FL almost two years ago. I tried for 7 years to rough it in Upstate NY and originally being from FL it got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. There were no good jobs, I had… Read more »

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