For the Sake of the Kids…Really? – by Elizabeth Allen
How many unhappily married couples with children have you heard recite the overcooked excuse “We’re staying together for the sake of the kids”? How many of you are saying that even now in your current lives? Let’s take that one step further – do you really believe that staying in a toxic, loveless, dysfunctional relationship is actually healthier for your child than to forge ahead barefooted over burning coals (from which your soles will heal) toward something or someone who will be infinitely better? And what if forging ahead means being a single parent?
“I can’t do it – I need his help with the kids. It’s just not worth the hassle.”
“My parents fought all the time, in fact I’m sure they hated each other. But I turned out all right. I believe it’s more important for my child to have a mother and a father together than for me to be happy.”
“My kids adore their father. They’d hate me if I left him and I couldn’t bear that. At this point in my life, what difference would it make? Besides, who’d want me now?”
“My kids deserve a mother and a father. Moreover, what gives me the right to be selfish? Their needs are more important.”
“We’ve been together too long. Why rock the boat now?”
“I can’t be alone. I’d rather be in a bad marriage than none at all. At least it’s familiar. After all is said and done, I know what to expect anyway.”
And so on and so on…
My parents stayed together for our sake – the magic number being twelve. They stuck it out until I, the youngest, turned 12 and then went their separate ways. So was it better that two people who battled daily with the ferociousness of Siamese fighting fish lived in the same house and kept up appearances? Gee, let’s see. I don’t recall feeling the love from them as much as anger, grief and desperation. I picked up some vicious verbal strategies when it comes to arguing which would have served me well had I become a lawyer. I observed how two people who have no respect for each other act and I learned how the two most important adults in my young life pretended to be something they weren’t. And I learned to see through the pretense.
Kids know. I don’t care if they’re six or sixteen, boy or girl, functional or autistic – they know when their parents are faking it and when their mother is unhappy. They want their parents to be happy, even if it means living apart. Is it really selfish to extricate yourself from a harmful relationship? I say no. It’s selfish to stay.
Why are we willing to sacrifice our very lives – step in front of a charging bear if need be – to protect our children? But when it comes to breaking up the family which may, in greater likelihood actually fix it, we stall. It’s that hesitation, that lapse in gumption that could mean the difference between evolving into a well-adjusted person who witnessed their mother make tough courageous choices and persevere or evolving into a clone who ends up in and settles for the familiar no matter how bad it is.
For the sake of the kids? Really?
Go ahead and rock the boat. Tip the freaking thing over if need be. Your kids will swim and be stronger for it.