I’m Doing What’s Best, Right?

I am a newly single mom, trying to navigate through all of the “stuff” that comes with going through a divorce and establishing a workable co-parenting agreement. It can be difficult at times, and I was recently made aware by someone outside of my situation that my emotional connection to the situation is still strong. I find myself upset about things on higher levels than I should be, I have been irritable, listless, melancholic, and a myriad of other things.

I’m supposed to be happy. Yet, there are days when I just want to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out. There are so many positive things going on for me, and I swear I try my best to focus on those things. But every now and then, the darkness grips me and negativity takes over.

I’m a woman in a non-traditional role. I don’t see my son every day. I see him about 3 weekends a month.  With my new job and the responsibilities that come with that, as well as my overwhelming need for “space” and time to get myself together physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually post-divorce, I gave over primary care of my son to his father and his extended family.  I’ve grappled with this since agreeing to it because, as one can imagine, the feelings of being a “bad mom”, feelings of selfishness, questioning if I will be forgotten all come up from time to time.

Why do we, as women, feel like we have to take on the primary responsibility of raising our children? And why do we, as society, look down more upon women who take the secondary role than men? It’s like we accept, or in some cases expect, men to not be equal parents, so when they leave or take the secondary role, it doesn’t seem to phase us.  But when a woman does it, there is little sympathy or understanding.

I’m doing what’s best, in my opinion, for my son, and most importantly, for myself.  If I’m not well… I can’t be a good mother. I just need some time, alone, for me to get it all together.

And I have to forgive myself for feeling negative or selfish about it.

25 thoughts on “I’m Doing What’s Best, Right?

  1. I think that you should really dig deep on this one. If the routine is not working, run back to your baby. Or bring him back to you! If this is a temporary change till you can regroup, o.k. I remember having to send my son home to NJ for the summer when I studied for my qualifying exams, it was hard, but it was necessary!!!! If this is a more permanent arrangement . . . I just don’t think you will be satisfied with that amount of time apart, and neither will he. Remember, it is o.k. for children to be around a little bit of stress in the way of parents/family. Even if you don’t have everything together right now, he would still benefit from being around you!

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  2. also, do not be afraid to reach out to lil man as a best friend either. My son and I were dumb close when I was a single parent. And sometimes I think we both miss those days. People tell black women that they are not suppossed to make their children their man, and I think its because they mistake moments when black women befriend their children. Do not be afraid to let him help you through what you are going through.

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  3. I understand. I empathize. I share your pain. While I do see my children everyday, my husband often makes me aware that I am a secondary caregiver. In some ways I don’t think its true, but on the other hand, I often ask myself, “so what if it is?” We were at dinner with friends over the weekend, and he went on and on about how he has to arrange his life to be around the children and care for them, as if I’m never home or never around. Totally not true, totally not the reality of our situation at all, but I chose not to be defensive or protest because I thought to myself – what I am defending? If the shoe were on the other foot, and he were pursuing two degrees, with two small children, most of us would not bat an eye if I worked an 8-5 job and then “babysat” (his words) my children 3 evenings a week and most of the time on the weekends. If he were at a top school, one of few black people at the number two law school in the country, he would be studying more than I am. He probably would not be doing the things I do, like clean and wash dishes and give baths and go to playdates and go to the doctors. And he doesn’t have any physical illnesses like I do. But a man pursuing his career, while a woman waits and cares for children, is the norm. Anything that deviates from that is considered, well, deviant. But I’m not playing that game. Think I’m a bad mother if you want to. No skin off my back.

    Benee, my sister, only you know what is the “right” thing, which ironically does not even exist except in what’s right for you in your heart. There are going to be some that say you should be spending more time with G. There are others that will say taking time for yourself is exactly what the doctor ordered. Others will say as long as its temporary its cool, but this can’t stay a permanent situation. But none of these people are living your life.

    What I can say is this – women, mothers, and especially black women and mothers, have been hoodwinked and bamboozled into believing that there are only certain ways to be “good” mothers, “good” women, “good” wives. You can live YOUR life trying to live up to those standards, trying to fit into those boxes, spending what little time you have on this earth being what you believe others want you to be, or you can purge from your life any body who is wasting your time with their judgments of you, and instead choose to surround yourself with those who affirm you and your choices for your life, and then live your life as best as you know how, with integrity, and honor, and self-awareness, and love. You can spend this time fretting about if you are doing the right thing, or you can live, not sure if it’s “right,” but living nevertheless, loving your son with all your heart in every decision you make for him, knowing that there is no right way to raise a child, and the only certain wrong way to raise him is without love.

    Believe me, this is easier to say than to live. But I remind myself of it every day. Even my husband does not affirm me on this. You aren’t going to get affirmation from hardly anyone except for the voice inside.

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  4. First, I hate when men say they are babysitting their kids. That irks me to NO end.

    Second, I’m sorry that you are not receiving the level of mental and emotional support that you need right now. I think you’re doing great work and will go really far, and to do it as a mother of two is nothing short of amazing. When I see sisters like you and Tanji who took on motherhood AND education, I’m always inspired. I was pregnant when I was in grad school, and then had my son (and got married), and it was a LOT to deal with. I felt supported though, which is important.

    I feel supported by him now, too. He says “Whatever you need me to do” and I’m grateful for that. I just need to not beat myself up. I mean, the sense of relief I feel when I drop him off Monday mornings makes me feel like the worst person ever!! LOL But in the end, the time spent with me versus with his dad amounts to more, so in the end, I guess it balances itself out.

    I guess the truth is that I like it like this. I miss my son, yes. I love him to death. But, this arrangement feels like it works best for what I know to be my parameters and limitations. People still can’t believe I’m a mother because I never wanted to be. The way things are set up now, I get the best of both worlds. Career woman during the week, Mommy on the weekends. I mean, I’m Mommy every day, but the work that goes into it, I save for the weekends and that works for me.

    Again, I’m just trying not to feel so guilty about it because I know that guilt is due to my own socialization.

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    1. I agree with LaToya who says there is no “right” way to parent. And let’s be real – as a full time working mother, my QT with my kids is usually on the weekends as well. After work once we pick up from school, cook, bath, our QT is probably an hour, at best 2 a night. Sometimes I am so tired, EYE fall asleep during the bed time story..standing up no less. So in the real scheme of things…has it changed that much? Sure..not physically seeing them is hard, but in terms of your relationship with him and the impacts you have on each other through time actually spent together – it is probably not that different. You are contending with all of the judgement and sys…we sisters just will never make anyone happy. When you were married, people had a problem with what your marriage was like, how you divied up things then…People are ALWAYS going to find a way to one up or belittle..it is a sad commentary on how unfulfilled people are and how so many mothers martyr their lives and claim sacrifice for family, when in reality – they are too scared, broken, or just plain TIRED of fighting against it all.
      Don’t let it get you down…

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  5. I think this a really hard issue to take apart. Although I agree that we unfairly and unrealistically ask women to be the primary caregiver a disproportionate amount of time, I’m not sure that it is all a question of socialization that could just as easily go the other way. I guess what I’m suggesting is that, perhaps, for young children especially, there really might be something they’re getting from mommy that they’re not getting anywhere else; something that they need to be secure human beings going forward. And perhaps for those reasons, it makes sense that the scales be tipped in mommy’s direction.

    I know what I’m suggesting is close to heresy; that it might be said to be unprogressive, or the product of brainwashing, or just plain uncool. But the truth is that most women I know have a special relationship with their children–a relationship that it different from the relationship between daddies and their children. I also know that even in the most egalitarian of households, where men are pulling their fair share, that when the baby wakes at night, they’re calling out for mommy. When women are nursing, the preference might be said to be strictly biological. But even after children stop nursing, it seems that they need the unique type of nurturing and care that only mommy can provide; and I think our instincts tell us that our children are missing something if they don’t get enough of it. At the end of the day, we’re mammals; and human mammals come out the most underdeveloped, and in need of more intense care, than all other mammals in the Kingdom. I think there’s something to this.

    I don’t know at what age this stops. It’s clear that at a certain point, it’s important for children to be able to identify with their same sex parent. I also don’t know how much time is enough. But my instinct (yes, I said instinct; I reject that it’s all a matter of my socialization) is that a lot of time with mommy is important for a long time. And, so when we see this preference reflected in societal norms (in the form of, for example, custody laws that favor mothers), I hesitant to say it’s all B.S. I’m also not comfortable saying that we mothers just need to do what is best for ourselves. Sometimes what is best for them is not what is best for us; deciding when to put ourselves first (and I agree that we don’t choose ourselves enough) is a really hard determination. I’m currently struggling with the idea of outside child care for my daughter in the fall. I love my career and want to work on it. But a voice inside my head keeps saying two things: (1) what did I have a child for if I didn’t want to see her grow day by day; and (2) on my deathbed, I will not be thinking “I wish I would have written more articles.” I will almost certainly be thinking “I wish I had spent more time with my children.”

    Now, I’m not saying that we should judge women who make different decisions. I’m not saying that men shouldn’t have to step it up. I’m not saying that as a society, we don’t take it a bit too far. I am also DEFINITELY not saying that a worn out, stressed out, depressed or isolated mother is better for a child than having that child be with a father who is in a better place to care for that child. And I am not saying that you have not made the best decision for your family. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t ask whether your guilt is not guilt at all, but rather your own instinct telling you that despite the relief you feel on Monday mornings, the balance is not as it should be. And the title of your post suggests that you’re not sure what the answer to that question is. I agree with Tanji; really digging deep on this one is necessary.

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  6. Thanks for the input thus far.

    The thing about where he is now is that he is with his father, grandmother, and grandfather, occasionally his uncle, and his grandmother’s sister(s) come by. He has a lot of maternal influence on a daily basis. His grandmother is his caregiver during the day (though he is starting pre-school in a couple of weeks, pending final paperwork and other things). When we were together, his day care provider was an older woman he called Grandma. He has always had that maternal influence in his life on a daily basis. Like Dvyne said, at most, he got 2 hours of attention from me and daddy before it was bedtime. He spent 10 hours a day with someone other than his mother. But, that was a good experience because I know he was loved, cared for, and nurtured by someone who truly looked out for his best interests.

    I speak to him just about every day and reassure him that I love him and miss him. When I pick him up on Fridays, he runs to me, arms open, yelling “Mommmmmmyyyy!!!” But then 10 minutes later, he is so over me lol All he cares about is if I’m going to let him listen to Michael Jackson in the car or watch Nick Jr at home.

    He calls out for Mommy when Mommy isnt there. But you know what? He calls out for Daddy when Daddy isnt there. I’ll be right there, but he wants his daddy instead. His connection to his father has been so strong since he came out and Daddy was the first one to hold him. I also had a hard time connecting to him the first two years of his life because I had bad PPD and the issues with our marriage kind of got in the way of that.

    So in some ways, I see him being with his Dad Monday nights through Friday mornings as a great way to foster that bond between them. No one will be better prepared to show him how to be a man than his father.

    My guilt, as I realize it, is more focused on being as happy with the situation as I am, and not feeling as I would suspect another mother in my situation might feel. I wonder, if down the line, my son will resent me for this decision moreso than he might have resented his father if the tables were turned. I wonder, if my not being there 4 days a week at this age is going to have a lasting negative impact on him. So far, he is doing quite well, but who knows if there will be latent effects?

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  7. And ORJ, I *do* believe there is a unique bond between mother and child. At least for those of us who have carried our children. I can’t say that I think an adoptive mother has more of a connection than an adoptive father just because she is the mother, but this is just my opinion.

    I also think the bond between mother and son is unique as well. My baby knows his mama lol And he is a mini-me. He looks like his dad but his personality is ALL me. And I love the time we spend together. I think I enjoy and cherish it more since it is not a daily thing. And I think I like that. No, I know I like that.

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    1. That’s an interesting thought–that there is something about carrying the child. Although it’s an experience unlike any other, I do think carrying a child is a bit overrated. LOL! I definitely think the unique bond between mother and child has more to do with mother–as in, because a woman is a woman, and different from a man in very important ways–and less to do with the actual physical act of carrying a baby. I suppose everybody thinks about it a little differently…

      As for latent effects, aren’t we all asking that very same question? 🙂

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      1. What, then, about women who seem to lack that “maternal instinct”? Do children still bond with them moreso than their fathers? Are those women still unique because they are mothers? There are some women who should have NEVER been blessed with the opportunity to bear a child. There are some women who simply don’t have the hormonal or emotional make-up that would make them “mothers” rather than just women who bore children. I mean, it is hard to accept that its something across the board, mainly because that same way of thinking is used in courtrooms, where children are awarded to less-than-deserving mothers, simply because they are the mothers. I have a problem with that.

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      2. I’m not so much into a “maternal instinct” as I am into recognizing differences between men and women. My second x-chromosome makes me different in very specific ways; ways that go further than just breasts or a uterus. Men and women are wired differently, and have different emotional skill-sets. Socialization problematically amplifies the differences, even as it stifles our ability to become more whole people: women are not allowed to cultivate the traits we normally associate with men, and men are not allowed to develop their nurturing capabilities. All of this to the detriment of our society.

        That being said, I think some of this wiring affects parenting. Sure, there are some women who shouldn’t have kids. And to assume without question that every woman is fit for parenting is a mistake with costly consequences for children. But for a woman who is ready to parent a child, who wants to parent a child, and who is not suffering from psychological or emotional trauma that makes her an unfit mother, I think she has a unique role as a mother that holds special importance in a child’s early years, whether she carried the child or not.

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  8. This is a great discussion. I don’t think I have much more to add. But, I do know a few fathers who have primary custody of their children. In these cases, I don’t know the biological mothers, just of them through the fathers. I have chosen not to judge the mothers. The father’s do an awesome job. These men, along with my husband, don’t believe in typical gender roles. The belief is to provide the child(ren) with love and whatever else they need.

    Benee, I hope that you are allowing yourself to be selfish and take care of yourself so that you can give unconditionally to your son. While you may think that he is over you after the first 10 minutes, I’m sure he is not. Enjoy the time that you have with him.

    And I also agree with Tanji. My children used to spend the summers with their grandparents. But, last year they opened a Rita’s water ice. Summer is their busy time. Needless to say, the boys were here for the summer. I noticed myself feeling overwhelmed in the fall. One night, I realized that it was because my hubby and I didn’t get that time away from the boys to rejuvenate.

    I have learned not to feel guilty about taking time to get myself together. Some of us need more time than others. I hope you are able to allow your love for your son to outweigh your guilt.

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  9. “(1) what did I have a child for if I didn’t want to see her grow day by day”

    Wow, that’s a lot. I don’t know if that’s from being a new mother, but I assure you that there is no bone in my body that yearns to see my children every day, for all hours, or laments that because I don’t want that then I somehow should question why I wanted to have kids. Having children is a biological imperative, we all need to reproduce ourselves to keep the human race going. And my kids have a lot of fun in day care, with their peers, doing kid stuff. I’m a mother, but not an expert in early childhood education. Those people are, and my kids are better off letting them do their thing during those hours and me do my thing during my hours. It’s the village raising the child.

    Regarding the guilt: There’s a lot I want to say, but I think I’ll say this: guilt is a “should” lurking in the background. Somebody whispering in your ear that you “should” be feeling this way, or you “should” be doing this or doing that. Guilt is judgment, some value external to yourself.

    Sometimes that feeling is useful. If I feel guilty that I hurt someone’s feelings, I do something about it – I apologize. If you feel bad about something, then change it. If the change makes you feel better, then great. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not spending more time with my kids. So I do something about it – become super mom for like a week. And I feel worse. And that’s because I was reacting to a “should,” reacting to guilt.

    Everything we do as parents will have a latent effect. We might think we are doing the greatest job – always with our kids, doing everything the books say, just picture-effing-perfect – and they still might end up screwed up. That’s not to say don’t give a damn. But that is to say that you know you are not a selfish human being, or a selfish mother. Different situations work for different folks. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting, or mothering.

    Most of the time, anyone who I feel judging me, my husband included, I totally disregard. Because you know who I know thinks I’m a damn good mother, who runs to me when I come in the house, who wants to lay in my bed with me, who wants me to read them books? You know who I can see the happiness and health on their faces? Who I know have a roof over their head, and food in their belly, and clothes on their backs, and go to good schools and have toys and books, and friends because of what I do for them? Two little people named Ahmir and Amina. And that is all that matters.

    And I know that G has all those things too, because of what you’ve done and because of who you are to him. And I know that he knows that you love him. And that is all that matters. Truly.

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    1. I don’t want to spend every hour with my baby. But I don’t want her to spend most of her day with other people, especially in these early years. I don’t want others to see her first milestones; I don’t want to hear from a daycare provider that she took her first step. If I don’t get to see these things–to be a witness to these developmental leaps–then, I want somebody close to her to see those things; like her father, or grandmother. It’s not just about her having fun; it’s also about me. I have to make decisions that will give my life meaning long-term; like I said, the number of publications I have will not give me solace as I take my last breath on earth. So, as I think about the fall, I have to think very hard about how many hours she will be in daycare or with a caregiver other than me or her father (as little as possible; 5 hours tops if I can manage it), and how best to orchestrate that so that I also have the time I need to further my career. I am blessed to have a choice about this, and I intend to exercise it.

      Yes, reproducing is a biological imperative, but the need to further the species was definitely not one of my considerations when having a child. So, I can’t tell myself, “hey, I’m missing out on her life, but at least I ensured the future of mankind!” LOL!

      As for the village raising the child, there is time enough for that; she’ll be in school soon enough. It’s not so much that I reject the village; it’s that I want to feature prominently in the village! Even in those traditional societies that we think use(d) the village approach, mothers still kept their young children very close.

      It seems to me that your description of how your children feel about you, despite the fact that you are not there as much as other mothers may be, perfectly illustrates my thoughts about mothers.

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      1. ” what did I have a child for if I didn’t want to see her grow day by day”

        This struck me as well. Its the arguments stay at home mothers SAHM use to demonize work out of home mothers WOHM. Im on some parenting boards and these arguments are so circular. To question someone’s reason for having children because he/she chooses to work or has to work and leave the child(ren) with a care provider is unfair. Do we put the same thing on fathers? Should, then, mothers AND fathers stop working altogether for the first few years of their children’s lives because they chose to have them? Unfortunately, the world only works that way for those with the means/resources to do that.

        The rest of us have to work and if everyone put off having children until they could afford to take the first 3-5 years off from work, well, the world would be far less populated.

        I’m glad my parents had me, despite the need to put my into childcare. And as successful as I am, I can’t say they made the wrong choices in both having me and working to provide for me.

        You can see your child grow day by day without being around him/her all hours of the day. I do agree that maybe its the new mommy smell coming out lol

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      2. I don’t think it’s fair (or rhetorically useful) to dismiss my perspective as the product of being a “new mommy.” I know plenty of women, working and non-working, new and veteran, who feel the same way. It’s so disheartening to not be taken seriously just because I don’t see the world the same as you do. Sounds a lot like the judgment that we’re supposed to be all about avoiding.

        I have to assume you’re not responding to my post, because I certainly never said that men or women should put off working to have children. I also explicitly noted that I don’t want to spend every hour with my baby. I’m actually shaking my head, because I’m so confused at the response. I also never demonized working mothers, or tried to. I am a working mother. And I’m happy I’m blessed to have options that other women don’t have. Why does asking myself questions about my role as a parent mean I’m demonizing women who don’t ask the same question?

        The tone of the responses leaves me with the suspicion that you (both) feel like you’ve been judged. Do you feel like I’ve judged you? If so, why?

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  10. When you say something like “what did I have a child for if I didn’t want to see her grow day by day”, while speaking of yourself, it does seem like a judgment on people who dont get to or maybe want to (for whatever reason) engage in the day to day, or who maybe decide to continue with strong focus on their careers in those early years.

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    1. I’m not sure how that’s any different from the conversations we’ve been having all along. When you stated that you would never choose to put your child in the hands of a white caregiver because of the psychological harm it could cause, I didn’t take that as a judgment of me; I took it as an articulation of your perspective. I disagreed with your perspective and told you why, but I didn’t assume you were judging me, nor did I dismiss your perspective as the product of limited experience…I guess your feeling judged is a reflection of how charged this topic can be for working and non-working mothers alike.

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  11. ORJ: I apologize for the “new mommy” comment; it’s hard to have more abstract discussions when we know about each other’s lives in a more intimate way. And when I was a new mommy, I admit that I had some of the same feelings, so perhaps there was a bit of projection going on.

    But I also think the feeling of being judged came from your first post where you weren’t just talking about your experience, but were making more of a global statement about mothers needing to be around their young children. For mothers who don’t feel that way, it feels like a judgment because it wasn’t grounded in your experience, but about how the world “should” work. Again, I think “shoulds” are all about judgments. Mothers should be close to their young children because its instinctual. Mothers should be spending more time than fathers because they have a unique type of nurturing. Mothers should spend a lot of time with young children because its really important for the child. All of those “shoulds” I think are judgments, that if you are a mother, and you aren’t doing them, you are somehow deviant.

    All other comments that stem from that global approach also feel like judgments, especially when viewed from the POV that what works for you and your kids as it relates to time works for you.

    And the comment that both ORJ made and Tanji implied that if Benee feels guilt then maybe she had something to feel guilty about, that struck me as particularly judgmental, and something I vehemently disagreed with. That being said, I agree that discussions about motherhood, and the “right” way to do it will inevitably be fraught with judgment; everyone wants to do it right, everyone hopes they are doing it right, everyone thinks they are doing it right, everyone feels the need to defend their right way.

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    1. Thanks for the clarification, Toya. I can see how the statements I make seem value-laden, and I agree it’s hard (even impossible, maybe)to not consider personal knowledge we have about each other when engaging in these conversations, and even harder to not express our personal values when we provide our opinions. At the same time, I chose my words very carefully in my original comment. I used words like “perhaps,” and “maybe” and “hesitant.” I posed questions, and threw out ideas for consideration, all before I provided my personal perspective. I also concluded that Benee would have to answer these questions for herself. This issue is such a sensitive one, that all of that got lost in the immediate responses.

      When I was talking about unique emotional skill-sets, or mothers being more needed than fathers, etc., I was responding to the suggestion that all of this is socialized. Benee noted that her guilt was all the byproduct of socialization. I was trying to interrogate that conclusion, and ask whether some of our socialization is grounded in what we believe to be truths about the general differences between mothers and fathers. That’s why I mentioned child-custody laws; I wanted to challenge the thought that the laws could just as easily prefer fathers, all to the same result for our children. Do we think there’s a difference? And if we do, what are the conditions under which we find it problematic when our society enshrines those differences? I was hoping to hear people’s thoughts about that…

      As far as guilt, I was not trying to suggest that Benee had anything to be guilty about; my apologies to you, Benee, if that’s what you got from my comments. What I was trying to do is suggest that maybe any discomfort she was having with her arrangement might be an indication that the balance was not one that she was truly happy about. Now, we can debate about where the source of that discomfort comes from, and if she decides it’s all externally imposed by society she should reject it if she wants to. But I don’t agree that all “shoulds” come from externally imposed societal norms. Sometimes, “shoulds” come from a place inside that helps us determine what our personal truths are. If I were to say that I should get more personal time, away from my daughter, I don’t think (although I could be wrong), Toya, that you would have been as quick to tell me it was an externally imposed norm; my guess is that you might have told me that I should listen to that inner voice, because it was trying to help me find balance. Similarly, I was suggesting that Benee ask herself the same question, just to make sure that she had made a decision that was truly right for her. I’m not concluding that Benee hadn’t already asked herself these questions; to the contrary, I assume that she’s thoughtful about all her decisions regarding her children. I believed, however, that we were having the conversation; that these issues were up for discussion, and consideration. I feel like that’s the point of our posts; but, again, I could be wrong.

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      1. They are definitely up for discussion, and everyone’s voice should be heard. And we should push each other into having honest conversations.

        My point about “shoulds” is this: not all shoulds are external, and you can figure out which ones are by experimentation. If you feel you should be taking more time for yourself, then take more time. If it feels good, then that was probably a should that makes sense for you, that works for you. But if you are feeling pressured by a should that says spend more time with your kids, and you do that, and it doesn’t feel good to you, then maybe that was an external should, and was informed by socialization. I think guilt is informed by those latter shoulds, those shoulds that when you try to incorporate them into your life, they don’t work for you, and you end up feeling bad about it. Not because it was something that you wanted to do, but because it was something you thought you should feel good about doing, and you didn’t.

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      2. ” What I was trying to do is suggest that maybe any discomfort she was having with her arrangement might be an indication that the balance was not one that she was truly happy about.”

        I clarified, more than once I believe, that my issue of guilt is that I feel “guilty” for NOT feeling bad about the arrangement. I feel like I “should” feel some kind of way about it that I don’t. I feel guilty not for not being around my son, but moreso for enjoying the arrangement as it is. THAT is where I think the socialization comes in. Part of me believes I should feel some kind of maternal tug or that I should feel some kind of draw. But I don’t. I’ve grappled with it and I’m coming to realize that *for me* this arrangement works wonderfully. Do I worry about how it might affect him in the long run? Yes. But I had to ask myself why. Its mainly because I feel like I’m supposed to be concerned with that, because of all of the discourse about children needing their mothers in early years, etc etc etc. That’s probably the only reason I’m questioning it. At the end of the day, his father is a great father (not without flaws, but great nonetheless) and oftentimes I say he is a better father than I am a mother.

        So the “guilt” might even be the wrong word. The suggestion that maybe something instinctual or something maternal or something inherently off-balance is causing me to question this arrangement is a valid one. I guess that I’m sensitive to that probing because I know the answer, and the answer is “No”, and I don’t want to be judged by that. However, its almost inevitable to judge a woman in my position. After all, as ORJ kinda asked, and many others do, why’d I bother having him if I didnt want to be around him every day.

        We all do things different. I apologize for the new mother comment as well. I have found in my interaction with, literally, hundreds of mothers in online forums that the most value-laden or judgmental comments come from new, first-time mothers, trying to make the best calls, do the best job, etc. Then, as the kids get older, have fallen head-first off the bed, sliced their hands with scissors you left laying around, knocked teeth out swinging from the bookshelf, shitted in their hands and tried to eat it, their stances change a bit lol We realize we cant do everything and be everywhere, and while its important we have primary influence over our children, they will pick up things on their own, from other people, and we will miss a lot of what goes on with them. It happens.

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  12. And the institutionalization of the gender roles in parenting: some things are being loosened, like FMLA for all caregivers, not just for women. And hopefully the same will happen for custody laws. I don’t think primary custody should be given to the mother just because she is the mother; in most cases I would hope that custody would be shared as the default. But I don’t know enough about family law to say much more about it.

    There are differences in parenting between parents. I am kinder and gentler with my kids than my husband is. But I’m not so quick to put that on gender than to the fact that I’ve been around kids my whole life and he hasn’t. If it came down to custody and we couldn’t share, of course I would fight for them, but I suspect he would too. Times are a-changin…

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  13. You are doing right. And doing what is spiritually right by you, is one of the best things you can do for your child’s long term development. Seriously.

    I wish my mama had learned that one. But it’s okay, she learned it slower is all.

    I know you’re deep in the struggle, but just know – it sounds like you’re moving forward just fine, you’re just in the middle of it.

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  14. first of all, I’m really sorry I missed the dialogue. second, i’m sorry if you felt like I was judging you. I just really felt like I noticed over time, a hesitation on your part. I also think that there is a lot of pressure on moms to be “perfect,”ideal,” “hyper-functioning” in the face of their kids and then when we are less than perfect we feel like we are doing our kids a diservice being around them. I hope you do not feel this way, I’m just stating a trend. If that trend has at all impacted your custody arrangement, I just wanted you to know that kids are tough, and no family is perfect, and it’s o.k. for our kids to see us/live with us while we are imperfect.

    that being said, i also fully support any decision you make, and think you have EVERY RIGHT to do what is best for you.

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