When I separated from my eldest daughter’s father more than eight years ago, I felt guilty about pretty much everything. All the happy birthday dinners she wouldn’t have. All the beautiful nuclear family moments that were lost forever because we were no longer all under the same roof. The Christmases that would be forever spent dividing time and ferrying back and forth. Because what I was measuring my less than ideal life against was pretty much a Meadow Lea commercial circa 1983.
Although I knew without doubt that it was the best thing for my ex and I to split – for everyone’s sake – I still mourned for the plans we had, the dreams we lost, and the life I wanted for my daughter that would never be.
Of course, what has transpired since then has been the most wonderful course of events for everyone. I have married an awesome guy and had two more kids, my ex is in a happy relationship with a wonderful woman who my daughter adores, my ex and I are great friends rather than the resentful strangers we ended up being when we lived together.
We are all happy.
When we first split, my daughter – two at the time – would cry for her dad when she was with me. And when she was with my ex, she would cry for me. That’s what kids do. It tugs at our heartstrings and makes us wonder whether we’ve done the right thing. We feel guilty that we’re putting our children through this turmoil.
Of course, guilt isn’t limited to family separation. There are myriad ways those little buggers can lay on the guilt. You didn’t let them do the sport they wanted at school. They don’t get to go overseas on holidays because you decided that reinventing your career was more important than money at this stage in your life, they don’t have all of the Ninjago action figures but their friends do. You know the drill.
Here’s what I think about guilt: the feeling comes to you to give you an opportunity to rethink a choice you’ve made. If you change your mind, guilt has served a purpose. If you don’t plan on going back to your ex/going back to your shitty high-paying job/buying all the toys…then guilt serves no practical purpose.
Wallowing in it won’t improve your life and it sure won’t make you a more fun person to be around. It’s a choice – wallow or use that energy to remind yourself of all the great reasons you made that choice to being with. I reckon the latter is more fun.
Easy to say; harder to do. But well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say?
How do you deal with guilt?