And then they change… by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Raising kids is hard. Uncoupling while raising kids is even harder.

The reasons one wants a divorce vary from relationship to relationship, but needless to say something becomes untenable and so one or both parties decide that ending the marriage is the only option. Throw in some kids and the complexity of navigating the murky waters of divorce gracefully is an emotionally exhausting task.

I remember when Gwyneth Paltrow caught a lot of flak for saying that she was “uncoupling.” But the term “uncoupling” from the book Conscious Uncoupling, 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After by Katherine Woodward Thomas reframes the notions of divorce. In fact I never use the term divorce at all when I speak of ending my marriage. The truth is I spent fourteen years with someone and created a family; and now even though we (my wasband and I are not a couple) we are still very much a family in the process of raising our 13 year old daughter. Thank you Gwyneth.

But still some days are hard and others even harder. We have a fifty /fifty split financially and physically in the court record. We are next-door neighbors in our small town apartment building though my daughter sleeps at her father’s all the time. Having a daughter, who by definition is a daddy’s girl has been difficult for me to navigate as she pushes me away emotionally, verbally and physically. Of course intellectually, I know this is developmentally appropriate, but nonetheless the reality of living it is very painful at times. Just last month my daughter said a few things to me in a disagreement that very much knocked me down: as in I went to my apartment; cried my eyes out; and for the rest of the day could not get out of bed. So painful was the moment that I tried to call the hotline my therapist gave me for when someone is in crisis. I was thwarted in that process as I didn’t have a pen to write the number down…

I made it through the day, but was struck by Kate Spade’s death and her circumstances of being divorced with a teenage daughter of about the same age. Before judging me regarding mental illness and my views there in, consider what Marianne Williamson describes as despair—defined as: to lose all hope (not mental illness)—that comes from the intense situations from living life. Could despair make one want to end their life? Depending how much despair a person has endured, despair could impact actions taken while swimming or drowning in that feeling. When I think of Kate Spade I imagine that the more powerful one is in the world the more traumatizing a daughter’s rejection could be, because as we know: being a power babe in the world means nothing to children or even husbands. Intimate relationships have their own power dynamic and worldly status does not compute when trying to raise a family. We’ll never know as outsiders what happened for Kate Spade that day when her possible pain was so great that she took her life. But I would like to acknowledge the despair of being a mother in this society no matter how powerful one might be in the world at large.

I’m thankful that I only had one day where I so totally had the wind knocked out of me. I’ve had a few more where I cried myself to sleep. And I may have felt like this even if I hadn’t uncoupled because raising a confident teenage girl is intense. It is toddlerville relived, but in a bigger body with a clearer articulation of wants and desires. Hence the pushing away is so much more triggering.

I have no words of wisdom, no great lesson learned, really all I have is going to bed, resetting my emotional clock and starting over each day with fresh eyes, and hopefully a fresh perspective, but as with all mothering: you think you’re getting the hang of it…and then they change.



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  1. 3 Responses to “And then they change… by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan”

  2. Teenage girls can cut you to the quick! Best thought & words I remember using were “I know you feel like you hate me right now,& that’s ok. I love you always; even when I don’t like you very much!

    By Teri Dempsey on Sep 16, 2019

  3. Thank you for sharing with such raw candor, Maureen. My son is 16, and overnight it feels like there is a new person living in my home. Between my hormone fluctuations and his, I never quite know who will show up. :) It is definitely challenging when a teen pulls away, however natural in their growth process. I’ve had times as well when I want to stop the clock or even turn it back. But I do believe they come around eventually (so I’m told), if we have laid the parenting groundwork and made memories they will hopefully cherish, as we do. I’m sorry for your pain, but I applaud your living your truth, and ultimately your daughter will come to recognize and respect your strength.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on Sep 16, 2019

  4. Hi Mo! Hang in there my friend
    Jenn Dempsey
    Salida circus

    By Jennifer Dempsey on Sep 16, 2019