This is a question that haunted me as I packed my three sulky kids off to school. It had been a rough morning; my three kids all under the age of ten, were showing signs of being rebellious. They were doing the exact opposite of what I was asking them to do. In fact, they seemed to be trying their best to make things as difficult as possible for me. At one point, I lost my temper and yelled at them. To which my son Herbert, aged 7 years turned to me and said with a face full of scorn, “We hate you. Dad hates you too and that is the reason he left”. Having said that with sufficient scorn, he turned back to his sisters and walked away to the bus stand with his lunch pack. Sarah, my eldest daughter aged 9 and Jessica aged 5 also looked at me with anger and walked away.
“Do my children hate me? Am I the villain in this family? Did I actually drive Dave (my husband) away?” These were the questions that continued to haunt me as I went about preparing to go to my office. That day, I found myself making a lot of mistakes in my work, so much so that my boss David pulled me aside and asked me what was wrong. He was aware of the situation in my life and since the work I did at my office was of high standards, he was willing to let me have some time to sort things out. In fact, he suggested that I take some paid leave to settle things at home.
I walked out determined to find out if:
If my children hated me
If they did, was it my fault
If they didn’t, then why were they so hostile?
And the way we can function as a normal family
I had taken two weeks off and wanted to make the most of this time. At this point, I will give you some background about me. I am Michelle, I am 35 years old and I work in an architecture firm as one of the main architects. I got married right out of college to my high school sweetheart Dave. He is a civil engineer and it was he who after 13 years of marriage, decided that he wanted to enjoy the single life. He left me with the ruins of our marriage and the children reeling under the shock of events. I have to admit that I did not behave with much dignity when I heard what Dave had to say. I knew I was also guilty of being bad tempered in the days that followed. I found it difficult to answer the difficult questions that the kids were asking me and had taken to snapping at them.
I felt even more guilty and wretched once I admitted this to myself. I sat in a cafe with a nice cup of hot coffee, determined to sort things out. The one thing I knew was that I loved my children and could not let things continue the way they were. I had a good 7 hours to think things through before I had to go and pick my kids from day care where they would go after school. I knew that things had to be resolved before they became worse. I sat there and made a list of things that could have contributed to the death of my marriage. I also resolved to be brutal when it came to assessing me.
I made a list of the things that I felt contributed to the death of my marriage:
I lost interest in any romance with Dave; there just was no time with work, the kids and the house
Dave never helped with kids on a daily basis making me angry with him. I was transferring this to my kids
I was to blame for some part of the marriage breaking but Dave was responsible too
We had never sat the kids down and talked to them about the breakup of the marriage
I had shown my animosity for Dave openly and this had affected the kids
I knew that if this matter needs to be resolved, I had to be patient and that Dave and I would have to present a united front. Just because we had stopped being husband and wife does not automatically relieve us from being parents. With this in mind, I called Dave. He answered the call warily, but on hearing my normal and almost warm tone, he was soon agreeing to meet me for lunch.
As soon as he was seated, I showed him my list and also outlined what I wanted to do. At first, Dave was a little angry about what I had written but when I spoke to him about our lives, he agreed. After all, he was a reasonable man. He accepted that he had gotten bored with the marriage once our last child was born and it had started to show in his attitude with everything. While he had agreed to pay child support after our separation, he had not contributed much else, but lately he admitted that he had started to miss the kids. Therefore, my suggestion that we spend more time as a family came as a welcome surprise to him.
That evening, he came along with me when I went to pick up the kids. The look of joy on their faces was heartening to both of us. We all went out to dinner and after dinner; we both spoke to the kids. We said that though mom and dad did not want to be together, we would always love them. I said I was sorry that I was snapping at them all the time, but also hoped that they would be more willing to listen to me. The kids started crying and hugged me. My youngest daughter Jessica started wailing that Dad had left home because she was a bad girl. Dave hugged her and told her that he loved her and he did not leave because of her. That evening I knew my children did not hate me but they would have, if I had not started the process of getting our family together. Sure, nothing had been solved but we had taken a step in the right direction. I was glad that instead of sitting and thinking that I want to die really…is there any reason to live? I had started to pull things together.