I Will Never Be The Mother I Want To Be…

I had the best childhood. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn close. My parents were together and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We got off the bus and my friends would come over to my house to eat popcorn or cookies that my mom made before we arrived. Even during the holidays when we were in college, everyone came to my house to congregate before going out. She would always have pimento cheese and other appetizers for us to eat.

My mother was ever-present. I can’t always remember everything about my childhood, but I know my mother was always there. Even if she was giving us our space when I had friends over (which was a lot), her presence was still known. She would pop in every once in a while to see if we needed anything or to ask if we needed her to take us somewhere.

Even through boarding school and college, my mom was there for me. It was before cell phones (well, unless you call a bag phone a cell phone), so she wrote me a lot of letters and we talked a lot. I would look forward to the holidays when I would go home and we would sit around the dinner table laughing and telling stories until at least midnight!

Because of this pretty idyllic childhood, I have had expectations of the kind of mother that I wanted to be. I too wanted to be the mom who was able to be home when my kids got home, with popcorn and cookies for their friends. I had full intentions of being that same “ever-present mom” that my mother was.

Divorce robbed that from me.

I have never written about this because the emotions have been so raw, but my world turned upside down when my son casually said, “Mom, can we talk about something?” He was finishing up 8th grade and had lived primarily with me for the past ten years of his life. He said he wanted to go live with his dad for high school. I was devastated and I did not handle it with the grace and calmness that I would have liked. After visiting the school, his dad and I took him to lunch to discuss the decision with him. As I held back my tears, I told him that I would support him.

Since that time, my son has thrived in this new environment. He is a sophomore and he has a high GPA and excels in basketball. I thought I had come to terms with it all until recently when my daughter expressed her desire to also go to high school where her brother is. All of the emotions, hurt, and rejection came flooding back to me. Everything I had just tucked away so that I wouldn’t have to think about it or feel it was fresh and raw and painful.

I was devastated yet again. When asked why I was so upset about it, I said I felt rejected. I felt like my children didn’t want to be with me. I couldn’t stand the thought of another woman spending more time with my children than I would. I FELT LIKE A BAD MOTHER.

There it is. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I was losing my children. Although I would still have them one night a week and every other weekend (and can still see them at practices and games), I felt like I was a bad mom because I couldn’t be the “ever-present mother” I wanted to be. I questioned why I had worked so hard to ensure my children had a good relationship with their father, only to have him take them from me. Why had I driven an hour and a half every Wednesday night for five years for the kids to have dinner with their dad? I did what any other crazy mother would do and I started searching MLS to find a house out in the country where their dad lives.

Then one night I talked to my daughter about my feelings and she said, “Mom, you will always be my mom, no matter what!” And something clicked in me… She was right.

A few days later, Joe and I walked on the beach together and talked about everything. We were deep in conversation and walked a lot longer than we anticipated, but I needed that walk. And it was appropriate that it happened on the beach because for me the beach represents our future and hopefulness. Joe and I look forward to the day when it’s just the two of us and we can move to the beach full-time.

On the beach, Joe helped me come to the realization that I WILL NEVER BE THE MOTHER I WANT TO BE. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. Things change in divorce – custody, remarriage, and new families – but the one thing that didn’t change was my expectation of what kind of mother I wanted to be.

That expectation was killing me inside.

I realized that day that although I will never be the mother that I want to be, I can be the best mother that I can be in the situation that I am in.

I must say that since I released those expectations of what a “mother” looks like, I have been so much happier, but more importantly, I have been able to be a better mother to my kids. I have started working on me and how to be the best I can to help our kids through the circumstances they face with divorced parents. My kids aren’t CHOOSING to be away from me, they just want to be fair since they have spent so much time so far in their lives away from their dad.

I’m looking forward to the day when they come home from college and we can sit around the table and laugh until midnight, but I now recognize that it may not happen as often as I would like since we will be sharing time with another set of parents. But that’s ok… I now have realistic expectations and a confidence that I will ALWAYS be their mom. No matter what.


8 thoughts on “I Will Never Be The Mother I Want To Be…

  1. I love this post. So true.Every woman who has children of divorce needs to know this. We do the best we can and it’s not personal.

  2. Wow, Valerie! This is profound and very unselfish! I am in awe of your honesty. I relate so since Walker walked out in anger about a year ago and went to live with her mother after 9 years and 6 of them here. I have to admit life is much easier , BUT it hurts that she doesn’t seem to realize all that has been done for her. She is basically on her own now. What almost 18 year old wouldn’t like that! Some weeks she works almost 40 hours and is finishing her senior year , recently being installed in student government hall of fame at state convention. All of that said, I believe Warren and Crawford will recognize you as a very unselfish mama who loves them enough to let them seek their own path ! I am so thankful for Joe! God bless you all. Love,Betsy

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Valerie, I love and admire your honesty and healthy outlook. Walking towards pain and working through that is never easy. As you know, I have a blended family also. They are all out of the house now and while I really miss us being together as a family, I truly treasure my alone time with my husband! I am so impressed with the way you are able to articulate your deep raw emotion. Thanks for writing this! Myra

  3. Ugh…this makes my heart hurt. I have 2 children and 4 stepchildren. It never occurred to me that my 2 children may choose to live with their dad someday. I (like you) have expectations of motherhood and I honestly never thought it might not go that way. Thank you for sharing….it’s a good reminder that we should let go of expectations to live a better and more peaceful life.

  4. I am so impressed with the vulnerably you shared with us. Your experience echoes my fears that one day my sons will look at me and say “Mom, as we become men, we need our dad in our life more now than ever.” You are so smart to realize that expectation is the source of all discontent. Your grateful attitude will one that will leave your children unyoked from regret, shame and guilt as they advocate for themselves, today, which is a very powerful trait for them to take with them into the future. You clearly have the long game in mind. Wishes of peace. ~ Claire

  5. This is a new blog to me and I am finding piece with your writing on being a step mom. We are in a blender together.

  6. In search of some “step-mom of teens” blogs, I found this one on a “top 10” list and this article about children leaving to live with the other parent. BOTH of my children chose to do the same — my daughter about 6 years ago at 14 and my son just this year at 17 (left on bad terms 😦 ). Both years were the hardest years of my entire life (worse than the divorce!), and you hit the nail on the head that it was about my guilt and expectations of being the kind of mom that MY mother was to me. Thank you so much for your honesty in posting this. It has taken me time to process my son leaving (who I never imagined would go) and overcome the feelings of rejection, but I’m finally coming to terms and peace with it and to focus on being the best mom I can be given the new situation, and letting go of my own ideals. I do have two step-sons who still live with us full time as their mother passed away (one is away at college now), and I have come to be extremely grateful for them and I feel as though they are my own children.

  7. Thank you for this post. As I lay here reading , tears rush down my face. My heart aches for you. I live in this fear as my 2 are 8 and 11. I often think of the possibility of this happening when they get a little older. You have such a great perspective on the situation.

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