She's a star and yes, I'm her mom so would, of course, say that but anyone that meets her and/or gets to know her usually says the same thing. She's bright, charming, witty, caring and a simple sweetheart. None of that would be possible without the influence her dad had on her and the care he provided to her during her first years of life. I did not do this by myself and want that to be clear. He was a stay-at-home dad and was really good at it. We both were dedicated to being sure she had a loving and stable home and were really good at providing that for about a year and a half. But slowly his days of depression and seclusion turned into weeks and then months and before I realized it, almost a year had passed, he wasn't looking for employment and our daughter seemed to be desperately pleading to me for more social interaction and stimulus to her overall development than she was receiving. She'll be four in February and for the past year, I've gone from trying to talk to him, to trying to change him, to being angry at him, to hating him, to feeling pity for him, to being indifferent towards his existence. And I'm sure he'd say similar things about his feelings toward me. Right now, I simply long to be away from him and look forward to having my own space.
Now this is not a bash the baby daddy entry; none whatsoever. What I'm trying to do here is explain what happened from my perspective that allowed our relationship to deteriorate and develop into the current unhealthy situation. I also want to address the fact that neither one of us handled the problems that existed in our relationship prior to her birth or is handling our separation appropriately or with the best outcome for our daughter in mind most of the time. There has been yelling, screaming, intimidation, manipulation, belittling and undermining of the other and even the police being called by each of us. And with each escalating incident, her confidence has waned. She's gone from being outgoing and independent all the time to being shy and timid to the point of being rude at times and clingy and bratty at the oddest times. It's been a surprise to both of us to manage and we've failed, in another way yet again, in reacting appropriately to this unusual behavior exhibited by her.
So what do we do? The easy answer would've been for one of us to move out and I was of the thinking that since our daughter would be starting preschool a few blocks from our home that Fall, he should move out. Also, by this point, it was about three months into him spending most of his evenings or nights out of the house so I felt 100% justified in having a 'I'M not moving, YOU'RE moving' attitude. Now, because I was the sole financial provider, that was an unrealistic idea and part of me knew it but I was driven by anger at the time so ignored this reasoning. Things within the household went downhill from there.
He stopped spending the night out. At the time, I thought he was doing it to annoy me, after all he should know how much I hated him and despised being around him! But in looking back, I realize he may've been trying to atone for his bad behavior in the hopes that I would calm down and forgive him as I'd done so often in the past. He didn't realize that I'd had it. That all the talks we'd had over the past year were all to avoid this very situation. He didn't realize that now that I was a mom, my past reluctance to leave had changed and now a separation was the only way I could see our daughter thriving at the level I envisioned for her and knew she was capable of. When he both refused to move out or to find a job so he could move out, I decided to minimize my interaction with him. By now, being in our cozy apartment was past awkward and when I was there - before & after work and the weekends - all we did was bicker. I began to spend evenings hanging out until extremely late, some turning into entire nights spent out.
I justified my bad behavior by saying that I was trying to avoid arguing in front of our daughter. All I was avoiding was the hard work I would have to do to move out on my own. My daughter missed me and for a while our relationship suffered. It's really a shame when a 3 year old adapts her behavior as a defense to being hurt and once I realized this, I adjusted my behavior...for a while. I regressed back into it with the justification that I was stressed about the accumulation of bills and ended up spending most of the last half of '09 out of the house.
The irony of all of this is that as much as my daughter suffered the past six months with having to adjust to her new reality, I needed that time. For years I'd neglected myself, my wants, my desires, having my own life. During this time, I was able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and embark on my journey of reinvigoration. Without that time, I'm not sure where I'd be but I also feel, just as strongly, that I could've and should've went about it differently. I could've had it all: time for her and time for me.
Again, so what do we do to minimize her being the collateral damage of our domestic war? Well I've come out of this period facing the reality of the impact both of our absences in the house have had on her. I regret losing that time each day that I look at her and am sure he feels the same. As much as we will blame the other out loud for her current fits of anxiety and regression, I know that we both know we are both equally to blame for the current roller coaster ride of emotions we sometimes experience with her.
Now the first step in getting over an addiction - in this instance, my addiction to being angry, defensive and spiteful toward him - is admitting you have a problem. With this blog entry, I announce it to you and to the world and begin a journey toward peace with him concurrent with the one I'm currently on toward self-discovery. And like all addicts, I'll have good and bad days and possibly fall off the wagon. I'm currently looking for a sponser: one who's walked in similar shoes and come out of it okay; email me if interested (seriously!).
Not a religious, but a very spiritual person, I've reconnected with the Higher Power to help me through this. I'm surrounding myself with positive people and listening to and recognizing (finally) all the signs being presented to me. The biggest chain to be broken in my road to recovery is my fear. Fear of change, fear of being alone, fear of the future...all things that are uncontrollable but necessary parts of life. Which leads me to my other lesson: I must only worry about things that I can control. So I can't worry about him and what he's doing, saying or being. I can control my reaction to these things. I can't stop him from doing things that annoy me or are just wrong but I can control how I resolve these issues when they occur so that there is little or no impact to my daughter.
I won't lie and say I'm looking forward to this challenge because that would not be the truth. I'm dreading this because I know I will be biting my tongue and in some instances turning the other cheek or 'taking the L'. This infuriates me mostly because of my self righteous tendencies. But as she lays asleep right next to me snoring in her cute way, I'm happy that I got home in enough time to put her to bed tonight. I smile at this accomplishment because I wrote before I saw her and am writing now in an empty house. And the house is empty because I let her father know that I'd made last minute plans to see a girlfriend to brainstorm on my new business and the events I'll be organizing for it. After an initial bad reaction, he realized that I was giving him the opportunity for us to work together to resolve an issue sinnce he had plans to go out when I got home. He decided to go out for a couple of hours and then comme back so I could head out. So I have peace and quiet and time to write, I was able to see my angel's face, talk to her about her day and put her to sleep and I'll be going out to see a good friend and get started on my business, my soon to be other baby. Just like that, I have it all - time for her and time for me - and it took all but 10 seconds for me to not react, to not go back at him and let him realize that I'm not trying to stop him from doing what he wanted or needed to do but was simply trying to start living a life separate from his that is also beneficial to our daughter.
I think I can afford a few more 10 second moments. What do you think? ;-)
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