What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Heather H..
My entire life I was told to get married and then have children. I assumed that’s how my future would unfold, especially since I focused more on my education and my career than men. Don’t get me wrong. I did date. A lot. I just didn’t settle down and perhaps hit the snooze button on my biological clock.
When some of my friends had children without rings on their fingers, I thought marriage, like a magic wand, would make their problems disappear. I didn’t take into account the logistics needed to get to the altar. At the time, I didn’t think I was pushing my agenda down their throats or judging their decision-making skills. I thought I was being a good friend by giving what I thought to be good advice.
Like the saying goes, you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you can judge them. So when I got pregnant by my boyfriend of nearly three yeas, I got a pair of size nine’s (flats not heels, because by the third trimester, my ankles were swollen!) I still wanted to get married. I wanted to ignore the red flags and walk down the aisle clutching a bouquet full of doubts. I didn’t want to change or put in additional work. Heck, I was already exhausted, and my iron level dropped daily. I loved the father, and that’s all that mattered, right? Wrong! We broke up during my second trimester. Well, actually, I got dumped”...over the phone. Last week, he married someone else.
After many months and many tears, I realized that what may be “ideal” isn’t always realistic. Sometimes you have to make the best out of your situation, even if that means parenting under different roofs and maybe marrying someone else. I had days when I cried, cursed and screamed. I had weeks when I went on and on about my daughter’s father, trying to figure out why he wasn’t the person I wanted him to be and vice versa. I had months feeling as though someone stabbed me in my heart. I also had family and friends who listened, but only to a certain extent. They wouldn’t RSVP to my pity party. They told me the truth even if it opposed my rant of the day. They repeated that I was an excellent mother, a beautiful woman and a child of God.
Meanwhile, I had to forgive my daughter’s father. And not that, “I forgive you, but I’ll never forget” nonsense, but true forgiveness. The thing about forgiveness is it’s selfish. Doesn’t seem like it, right? But you’re not doing the other person a favor. You’re the one who heals. You’re no longer angry, bitter, confused, depressed, exhausted, furious””you get the point. I can probably come up with an adjective for every letter of the alphabet. Do you still get upset after you forgive someone? Of course you can! But it no longer consumes you. You learn to let ago. I refuse to be one of those women who never gets over an ex.
And don’t just forgive the other person. Forgive yourself! For a long time, I felt embarrassed about not being engaged. I didn’t announce my breakup to anyone other than close friends and family members. I would even hide my ring finger at the grocery store to avoid dirty looks from the people in the frozen food section, I guess. It sounds silly now that I think about it!
I also felt guilty for moving to another state and not raising our daughter in the traditional two-parent home I experienced. (Well, that’s no longer tradition. I’m only one of 13.6 million single parents in the U.S.) Then, I compared myself to the other woman and wondered why she got a rock and I didn’t. I wanted to call her, email her or Facebook stalk her. But I didn’t. How would that change the past? It would hinder my future. I would become vindictive or envious””both words never used to describe me. I realized it didn’t matter if I am better than her, prettier than her, smarter than her or the other way around. In fact, no one is “better” than another human being. It’s about personal preference. My father once told me that love isn’t about a person’s positive characteristics. It’s about the negative ones you can tolerate. Do you love someone enough to see their flaws as beauty marks? Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you anticipated. And sometimes, it may even give you more than you ever hoped, dreamed or imagined.
Someone once asked me, “Why are you so afraid of letting go of something which will be replaced with so much more?” Please note, this question was posed years before and not in reference to this subject. Recently, I remembered that conversation. Not in the sense that another man is much more, but in the sense that you must let go of the past and trust God to free up space for something/someone else in your future.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I use my energy to focus on my baby. In the big picture, she is what matters most. I am charged with loving her, guiding her, caring for her and protecting her. That allowed me to get over not having an “ideal” life. I even wonder: who says my life isn’t ideal? I’m happy, healthy and blessed to be a mother. My friends and family didn’t judge me, and more importantly, neither did God. After all, He forgave me. It wouldn’t make sense to condemn myself. This is my truth. Although my ex and I are no longer good for each other, we are good for our daughter. My situation isn’t perfect, but the result””my little girl””is.