My good friend has kindly consented to sharing two journal entries from the years after his marriage breakdown.
He keeps this journal for his son to read as an adult.
As a renowned professional in his field, this piece is at one level a reflection on the impact of work/personal life balance and the price paid for fame.
At another level it demonstrates the difficult but vital role successful co-parenting plays in the aftermath of marriage breakdown. He reflects on his pain and sorrow. Infused in all of it is hope for the understanding and effort he and his former wife made to help their son navigate life after divorce.
You are 11 and I’m 67.
The time that has passed has demonstrated, more than anything that your Mom’s and my life are so fundamentally different is so many ways that we could not possibly have predicted when you were born.
But one fact has not changed – how much I love and care about you.
Your Mom decided to leave me and move ahead on her own path in the fall of 2007. She told me on Halloween night and we told you a couple of weeks later.
You were devastated.
Apparently, when this happened a year or so before to somebody you knew, your Mom had told you it would never happen to you. That’s all you could say at first, “You promised me it would never happen to me!”
I felt your pain so strongly; I still do.
Your Mom took responsibility for the decision, but I know she worries that you will blame her or lose trust in the women who come into your life.
I know also that she would like me to share the blame and at some level I must; all relationships are about two people and their interactions.
The good thing is that we have maintained a positive relationship, especially as it affects you.
Your Mom didn’t move until after Christmas that year so that it would be as normal as possible for you. We then went together to Mexico in February, again keeping life as normal as possible.
It has not been all smooth sailing of course, but we have held it together and it gets better as time goes by.
We share parenting without conflict and share special occasions, most recently Easter morning. The first year was very hard on you with several breakdowns that made clear your pain and gave me such heartache.
I could only hold you and share the pain. That may never leave you, but you seem much better lately.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote above in comparison to what I had written a few years ago. Then I strongly cautioned that we must put family and relationships first, listening and taking to heart what the women in our lives say.
Did I fail that badly? The question comes up right now because I have a girlfriend. She never had children and so can’t readily understand the fact that you come first, and my time for her is partly dependent on what is going on here at the home front.
But I nevertheless find this a very hard question to answer right now, and it is probably one you will face sooner or later.
Anyway, it all seemed so clear a few years ago, but now I’m not so sure about a lot of things to do with relationships. I think part of the problem is that our society today is so oriented to acquiring things, doing things, and succeeding in a very complex, frantic world.
Add to that the shifting understanding of the relative roles of men and women and the desire of women to have equal opportunity and pursue equally fulfilling careers, and we end up with patterns of living that run counter to our root, biological patterns.
Read a little anthropology and you will see what I’m getting at and how the world began to change about three centuries ago with the introduction of money economies and trade.
I’m digressing, but the point is that neither men nor women can really do it all, all the time.
Could I have kept a home office instead of renting one near the canal when you were two, traveled less and devoted less time to work, and still have provided the income to buy things, go places and do what we all seemed to want? I doubt it.
Today I earn more than I did at the normal peak of a career because I work hard and give work a high priority.
Don’t misunderstand me — I like the applause and prominence that I enjoy right now. But I don’t like what it seems to have meant for us as a family.
And when I look at our society and the rate of family fracturing and divorce, I have to ask if this is not also a root cause for so many; that, along with the modern idea that we are owed happiness, with happiness (whatever that is) taking precedence over responsibility.
I’m now sitting in the airport waiting for delayed flights after two long, intense days of meetings.
When I had to break off above, I was struggling with the idea of what exactly we can do to meet expectations in a relationship and still meet the expectations of those who hire and pay or depend on us for their jobs and incomes. I don’t think I know an answer.
As I said the last time, I don’t know the answer to the question of how to neatly package work and home and meet the expectations of people in both worlds.
But don’t kid yourself, you can’t have a job and also have everything else you might want.
You are used to getting pretty much everything you want or need, within reason; certainly more than I ever got because we were very, very poor.
We didn’t even have running water in our little country house when I was in Grade 7/8 and high school.
Compromise may be the answer, and we each have to decide where and how to compromise. On several occasions you have said that you do not want fame, but you do want to be rich. Those two often go together, so I’ll be interested to see how it works out.
None of the above denies the importance of our relationships and of family, but it isn’t easy in our modern world and it seems to get harder.
As I mentioned above, I was supposed to speak this morning in New York and people were paying me to come.
When the flight was cancelled at about 7:20 pm and there was no way for me to get there, I hastily emailed the only people I had addresses for to let them know, hoping they would see the emails this morning and be ready when people showed up.
The thing is that all three of the people I emailed got back to me within two hours last night. What are they doing looking at emails to do with work at that hour?
And that’s the point; it’s a call, text, email, never get out of contact world, and it takes a toll on us as humans, on our families and our relationships.
A committed writer and speaker with stories to share based on many life lessons. I found a voice and style that matches my spirit. The hope is that these articles inspire reflection and conversation.
After a rewarding teaching career that spanned 40+ years, writing became my next step. Many years spent as a guidance education trainer gave me a unique perspective on the lives of children. Divorce twenty years ago provided first- hand knowledge of that life altering experience. As a very single parent, I am devoted to my wonderful family.
Every day I knock on the sky and believe impossible things before breakfast. It is all shared with the reader.