"Shared Parenting" is Not an Easy Transformation, But Worth It For Me and My Children
by Frances Stone, Author, Blogger and Speaker
Today I celebrate being a recovering single mother of three very clever, very curious and at times, very challenging children who have given me the motivation and determination to manage poverty, addiction and mental illness in my life. This Mother’s Day, I would like to acknowledge their father’s contribution to my recovery and the philosophy of shared parenting, for helping me become a mother I can be proud of, seeing as it hasn’t always been that way.
Over fifteen years ago, I used to literally shake with hate for the father of my child, hating him with every single fibre of my being. I hated him so much, I wrote a book about it (A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story) and make no mistake, I was justified and entitled to my anger, but unfortunately, that same anger placed a permanent chip on my shoulder and set me out into the world to prove my worth to everyone, especially myself. Of course, it worked in the exact opposite way, proving only to separate me from my friends & family and lead me down the dark, lonely and very scary path of addiction. At the end of that road, I came into recovery.
For me, recovery wasn’t a straight path for the reason that, sobriety made me face the reality of my loneliness and the realization of my deep longing for a family where I felt I belonged. It tormented me to let go of the dream of fixing my old life, to begin a new dream of starting a different one.
But when I reached the end of all my solutions and ideas and none of them worked, I finally surrendered that dream to my Higher Power and began the work of seeing and taking responsibility for my part in our relationship breakdown. Looking back, the hardest part for me was accepting that I couldn’t change him or myself, to change the outcome of our relationship. I considered having no control over the ending of our relationship as a personal failure and attack on my self-worth since I couldn’t understand how I could want something to succeed so badly, but not be able to determine its success.
In recovery, I began to read passages such as this one from p 417 of Alcoholics Anonymous “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”
Until I accepted that it was no mistake that our relationship had not become all that I hoped it would be, that it was, in fact, God’s will for me to accept this reality (a very difficult concept for my raised Catholic brain to understand), I could not allow the new and different version of us to emerge; the new & improved us that we are today.
Shared Parenting is replacing legal terms such as custody and access with a voluntary, collaborative and trusting arrangement in which both of us have the right and responsibility of being actively involved in the raising of our child(ren). I am aware that “one size does not fit all" and that this arrangement wouldn’t work for everyone, but it is an option that we have worked towards since the beginning of the end of us. I wanted it even when I hated him because I knew from my own experience that the absence of a father, could have an equally negative impact, as the presence of an imperfect one.
A part of my recovery process in lifting the shame I felt in being a single parent, has been celebrating it by paying for professional family photographs every year. Since the beginning of this tradition, I have repeatedly invited their father to join us to have a picture with just him and the kids and until this year, he has always (stubbornly) declined my invitation. He can be a very private person, so it was a pleasant surprise when this year he agreed to not only a photo of him and the kids, but to one with all of us. I was so pleased with the results of family portrait that I asked his permission to share the photo and a bit of our story with the world. He surprised me again, by saying yes.
I am grateful he did because I am proud of my family. I know how many times we both could have given up and instead chose to have faith that things would get better, if we stayed on the same side; our children’s side. I believe God brought us together with these children that needed us, to teach us how to work together for their greatest good and that in turn, helped us become our best selves.
Today our family is separate, but we are not broken. The self-worth I desired did not come from proving myself, it came from accepting myself and working with my life, instead of against it. Until I took a moment to look back, I forgot how very far we've come. That's the gift of family photos.
Happy Mother’s Day!
About Frances Stone
Spirit & Recovery Counseling: https://www.facebook.com/ms.talkrecovery
Talk Recovery: https://www.facebook.com/TalkRecoveryVancouver/
Buy her book! A Reflection of Love: A Different Kind of Love Story
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