Comments received on an article I write for The Guardian in which I mention briefly that I am no longer with Bill, the father of my children:
“You might also consider giving the father custody or putting the children up for adoption with a home that is able to be more child oriented. Just a suggestion”.
“I wonder, for what whimsical and self-indulgent reason you chose ( these days it’s always the women who chose ), to split up with your children’s father”.
The grief is long and deep. A good part of the grief involves worrying about one another’s grief. One evening my eight year old daughter, Lauca, is worn out and sad.. and I am too. We lie down on my bed together in tears. Cormac comes in, and while only four years old he none the less performs some kind of quintessential male ritual of discomfort with emotion for us.
Cheer up, cheer up you two, cheer up, he says.
Oh for godsake, I say, cuddling him up to me, it is ok to cry.
I am amused that I have to reassure him so. This is Cormac, he has a crying jag virtually every day of his life and he is quite happy to use them for something as routine as being required to take his plate back to the kitchen or to find his shoes.
When we are all quiet again together on my bed I tell them the fun of crying is over and everyone into the shower with me so I can supervise hair-washing.
Me: Please don’t feed the kids chocolate at your house for breakfast. That’s real divorced not-even-trying dad behaviour.
Bill: Worried you can’t compete?
(We both laugh).
A friend tells me that she lies in bed awake at night frightened for my future. I know she means it kindly but I am hurt by her sense of hopelessness for me. I am alright, I say, I really am. I decide I shouldn’t tell her about the nights when the children are staying with their father and I sometimes sigh with pleasure in my empty house. And then there are the nights when I do not even stay home in my empty house.
Everything becomes adventurous and untested. I have a strange energy. One day I see a government policy announcement in the paper and I have mixed feelings about it. As I am leaving work that evening I write a quick pitch to the editor at The Guardian. On the way home I stop at the supermarket for dinner ingredients and then I go to a friend’s house to pick up my two children. As well as collecting my children from school and kindergarten she has bathed them with her own children. I am grateful to her for trimming half an hour from my evening’s tasks for me. At home I check my emails and see that the editor has accepted the pitch but that they want the piece tomorrow by start of business.
I decide I can do this. So, I cook dinner, exchange accounts with the kids about the day, read bedtime stories, cuddle them to sleep, clean up the kitchen and then, begin writing. I give myself until midnight to finish it. In the morning I proofread my piece while we are all cleaning our teeth. I email it to the editor and then hurry up hurry up hurry up us out the front door to our various places – kindergarten, school and the train station for the commute to work. The article is published by the time I reach the office.
The piece happens to mention briefly that I am no longer with Bill, the father of my children. I receive some of the most hostile comments I have seen on an article of mine.