Choices by Robin Gorman Newman
Last weekend, I ran into a father of a boy who Seth is friends with. He’s a year younger and attends a different local school, so they don’t see each other all that much, but they have fun when they do get together. The dad is a stay at home father (SAHF)…the second one I know of with that status. His wife works fulltime, and while he has investments, she is their primary bread earner. As I understand it, based on what he’s shared, this is something they agreed to when they took on the role of parenting. Their son is adopted, as is Seth, and we, in fact, met them at an adoption picnic when the boys were young, hosted by the mutual adoption attorney we shared. Coincidentally, they lived in our town, so we became friends.
Because the mom works fulltime, and sometimes long hours, I haven’t gotten to know her all that well. Whereas, the dad and I have had lunch and play dates with the kids.
I always felt they seems like two very different peas in a pod….but sometimes that can keep a relationship interesting, so I presumed it worked. I guess it did for a while….or so it seemed.
I found out this week that, in fact, they are in the throes of divorce. The dad was very surprised I didn’t already know since he felt like the town was abuzz with the news. I’m not one to buy much into gossip, though I do enjoy my share of celebrity rag magazines, but that’s about people I don’t know and likely never will. So, I explained I hadn’t heard anything.
I felt badly, and told him. He said not to feel badly…that he didn’t….though I wasn’t entirely sure. They have a young son, and I asked how he was taking it, and he said “ok.” I added that “kids are resilient,” trying to interject a dose of positivity.
I didn’t want to pry, but asked what had happened with the marriage? At first he seemed a bit mum, but then opened up, and I felt as if I was one of the few he could comfortably share with. I wasn’t looking to judge. He said that she’d been making nasty remarks about him around town, and that many he considered his friend were turning against him…believing her. That, more than anything, stunned me. “Then they’re not real friends,” I replied. He said they commented that they thought they knew him but were now realizing there was more to him…in a negative way…than meets the eye. That got me wondering, then, how do you define a friend? If someone I called a “friend” were to react that way to me, I’d expect way more than judgment, especially based on the comments of a soon to be ex spouse seemingly on the warpath. Wouldn’t they know me better than that? If not, then I’d question my ability to choose friends. I like to consider myself discerning.
He said his wife was changing the plan. She is 51, and decided that she wants a house in town (they live in an apartment) and a country home and that the lifestyle they’ve created isn’t what she has in mind. She wants him to get a job…even at Home Depot….and be a “man.”
He and I agreed that his getting a minimum wage part time job at Home Depot would not alter their lifestyle in any significant way. And, that he had gone back to school to pursue a Masters so he could one day teach, and this had been the plan when they adopted their son. One of them wanted to be home to be with their child, otherwise some of their respective salaries would go toward childcare.
What it sounded like to me was a gal having some midlife second thoughts. Time does go fast, and she decided she wanted more. She is entitled to happiness, as is the father….as is their young son.
It made me realize that life is complicated. None of us know exactly what we’ve signed on for. No one has a crystal ball.
We choose a mate….if we get married…and hope we’ve picked wisely. Though, time can change things…whether out of fear, frustration or clarity.
We choose to become parents…and especially if we adopt…we hope we’ve picked wisely. Though no child comes with an A+ report card from birth.
If we work, we choose a career path that hopefully inspires us, but that’s not always the case. Many work strictly out of necessity.
We all do the best with can with the roads we travel, but our actions do impact others. And, as parents, our children are the innocent bystanders. They look to us for love and guidance…and if we can’t guide ourselves, then navigating for them becomes all the more challenging.
I do hope that his mom and dad will ultimately find their own happiness, and I trust that their son will feel no less loved, even as he goes on to live in two separate homes. No one said parenting is an easy job….and no one ever said that life comes with a guarantee.