I’ve been thinking about my parenting journey and the decisions I have made along the way.  I know Mother’s Day is almost here, but it feels bigger than that.  Maybe it’s the big life changes coming in the next year.  My twins are completing their junior year of high school, and both have already been accepted into college programs.  They are having discussions about their hopes and dreams for the future.  It’s the looming reality of an empty nest, and for me, that nest is particularly empty.  They are nearly 6 months away from that dreaded age of 18 when the rest of the world will see them as adults, and I will still see them as my kids.  I have spent almost 18 years questioning my parenting decisions EVERY SINGLE DAY while facing many inner battles.  Honestly, I haven’t been fair to myself.

Whatever the reason, I have been thinking about the choices I made and wanted to share them with you.  I made hundreds of mistakes as a parent, but I want to focus on the good decisions I made today.  I wanted to share them with you because many of my best choices felt wrong inside.  They didn’t feel wrong intuitively because I wasn’t noticeably in touch with the touted mother’s intuition.  If I was, it was just a quiet whisper amidst very loud, risk-averse inner parts.  Most of my doubts came from the parts who wanted to fit in and look like everyone else.  I want to share my best decisions with you today because they didn’t fit the societal mold.  I want to open your eyes to the choices I am most proud of because they aren’t encouraged by society.  I am aware that these choices won’t fit everyone’s life, but they made a huge difference for me and my children.

I chose to split from my husband.  This is a lie.  I know.  I’m not starting off well, but I didn’t choose to split from my husband.  He left me.  That said, I didn’t fight it, and I made sure my children were safe from his pedophile parents with some particularly tricky language in our divorce decree (with the help from my lawyer of course).  I knew he would walk away for good if I did this, but I knew he would probably walk away for good anyway.  I didn’t fight for the marriage.  I fought to keep my kids safe in the divorce.  That was a choice.  In my head, the inner parts were screaming.  “How can you let him leave?  How can you not even pretend to be a happy family?  The kids will never have a normal life without two parents.  You are ruining their lives.  You will have a broken home.  You will be a pariah in a sea of ‘functioning’ families.”  I heard it all, but I made an unusual choice to put my children’s safety ahead of conventional “wisdom” about what’s good for children.

I chose to walk away from the “rebound” guy and stop dating.  It wasn’t long after the marriage that I tried again.  My love seeker was very active still.  I believed in the fairy tale and would not give up despite my pattern of bad experiences.  When things started to take a turn toward abusive behavior on his part, I made my second major decision for the sake of my kids.  I realized that I had to heal to have good relationship patterns.  I started to understand that I was never going to find a good person when I could not set the boundaries I had no clue how to set.  I was repeating childhood because my behavior, beliefs and energy were bringing in the wrong men.  I made a drastic decision to shut down the relationships until I could bring in the right men.  My inner parts were loud about this one.  “I could not raise these kids on my own.  I would be stigmatized.  There would be nobody to protect me.  The kids must have a father.  The kids will suffer in a single-parent household.  They will never have a healthy relationship modeled for them.”  I heard it all.  It all felt so true.  I had heard it all so many times before, but I also knew that my children were only going to see unhealthy relationships unless I took time to heal myself, so I shut down this part of my life.  I shifted my energy to self and parenting which was the best decision I could have made.

I decided to write.  I was completely alone raising two very young children (3 years old) and I was not the mother I wanted to be.  I was angry.  I was exhausted.  My family wasn’t helping (other than to remind me of my bad choices).  I had no outlet for my physical and emotional pain, so I opened a word document and started writing my story.  Honestly, there wasn’t much to write at first.  I didn’t remember most of it.  I just kept writing whatever I knew, and new things started to show up.  Big emotions started to surface.  I let myself write anything and everything.  I wrote all the feelings, no matter what they had to say.  This came with so much resistance from my inner parts.  “This is a waste of time.  You have more important things to do.  You should focus on your work.  You need to stop naval gazing and get on with your life.  The past is in the past.  This isn’t helping.  It is actually making things worse.”  I heard it all. I even wrote it all.  I kept writing anyway.

I decided to cut off most of my immediate family.  Memories started to come back, and they were NOT GOOD.  I started to understand why my choices in men had been so bad.  It was what I knew.  I realized that my kids could not be entirely safe as long as my family was in our lives.  I didn’t have to cut off everyone in my immediate family.  I just started to set boundaries and many of them walked away from me.  That said, I did cut off my parents.  Contrary to the ridiculous notion that walking away from parents is a flippant decision, I struggled.  I held on to my mother too long.  I know that now.  I heard so much from my inner parts.  “Your kids will never know their family.  They will never have real family holidays.  They will never know what it’s like to have a big family Thanksgiving or Christmas.”  At times, it got more ominous.  “You are in trouble now.  They will get you.  They will come after you.  You will be punished.”  I wrote from it, but I stood by my decision.  Honestly, holidays were so much better.

I decided to quit my cushy corporate job and start my own life coaching business.  There was not one person in my life who thought this was a good idea, including me.  I was a single mother with no safety net (family) to fall back on.  I had a good job with good benefits.  What in the world was I thinking?  I went back to school for an MSW with two small children (4 years old) and a full-time job.  My inner parts went absolutely nuts.  “You have lost your mind.  This is impossible.  You are never going to make money at this.  You will be broke.  Your children rely on you.  You need to be responsible.  You are NOT being responsible.  You are going to die.  You are going to run out of money.  You are never going to make it.  You are ruining your kids’ lives with this decision.”  I heard it.  I wrote from it.  I wrote from it endlessly.  It was so strong, I can still easily write from it more than 13 years later. That said, there is no better decision I have ever made … EVER.

I chose to move from Virginia to Florida.  While I would never minimize the impact of a major pandemic, it may have saved my life.  The isolation which came with Covid put things in perspective for me (and many other people I know).  I started to see my surroundings in a new way.  I was able to take in just how I was being influenced by the people in my life, many of whom had known my family and were likely communicating with them.  I lived an hour from my parents, which was far too easy a drive.  I knew I had to step it up a notch and completely start over.  According to Taylor Swift’s latest album, there is one state where people go to redefine themselves.  We decided to move to Florida during a pandemic.  Again, there was not much support from people in my life.  People were angry.  They condescended to me about the choice.  My inner parts were loud and condescending too.  “What are you thinking?  You don’t know anyone there.  You have no reason to go there.  You need to keep the kids here so they can have a stable life.  You need to keep them with their friends.  You aren’t going to be able to buy a house there.  This is going to be a disaster.”  I wrote from it.  I talked to the kids, and they were excited to spend their high school years in Florida.  We found a great house and an awesome high school.  It’s been a great move for us.

I decided to put myself first.  There is a lot of parenting advice out there which would disagree with this, but there are also plenty of memes which talk about “filling your cup first”.  I had never put myself first, but I started to realize that my kids were watching me.  They were going to model themselves around how much I embraced life and took care of myself.  I started to make more choices for me.  I stopped making every decision based on whether my kids would like it.  After the Florida move, I realized I was usually wrong when I thought they wouldn’t like it.  I brought a bit of fun back to my life, and I dragged my teenage kids with me (sometimes).  My inner controller was not happy.  “Don’t take your eye off the ball.  You need to keep your focus on your work and maintaining your household and getting the kids through school.  There is no time for fun.  You can’t spend the evening doing what you want.  You certainly can’t go do things by yourself.”  I listened and I wrote from it, but I did things anyway.  I am still working on this one.  Maybe I always will.  I’ve realized that nobody else in my life (other than my children) ever really cared about me, but that doesn’t stop me from caring about me.  I can live the life I want.  The more I love myself, the more I will bring that love into my space.  It is enough to know that for now.

I’m proud of these choices.  They were the most difficult choices I have made.  These decisions have gone against the societal pressure around me and the inner pressure within me.  To make these decisions, I had to trust myself on a deep level.  I had to be committed to my authenticity.  I had to dismiss the “advice” I was getting from everyone.  These were not habits I developed in my abusive childhood.  I share this so you might consider an intuitive choice you’ve been postponing.  Try writing from your resistance so you can see it differently.  Try considering how an uncommon decision might be the catalyst for a better life.