After I’ve become a parent, I probably observe, listen, comprehend, analyze and think a lot more – about children, about parents, about families, about parenting, and about life in general. Looking back, a lot of the fodder, fuel and catalysts come from the parents I interact with. Sometimes you hear tales from parents which make you really sad or really happy or just speechless – Simply because you wonder just how much “parents” endure for their children!
So I’ve decided to initiate a new series here on Parentous. Titled “Real Parents, Real Dilemmas” I will be sharing real-life scenario(s) in which the parent(s) had / have to make a tough life choice or decision as far as their children are concerned. The primary reason for me to post it here is this – Many times when I come across such complicated real-life parenting situations, I ask myself “What would I do if I was in the parents’ shoes?”. And my own reaction and responses surprise me – Let’s just say that along with the answers, I discover / re-discover myself. And maybe these are questions you’d also like to answer for yourself, simply because if it’s happening to another parent – It’s real, and it can possibly happen with you too. Secondly, I’d also love to hear other parent’s views on what could be possible alternatives / solutions to address the dilemma at hand.
Without any further ado, let me narrate the mother’s dilemma:
Too many mothers I know hold-on to their marriages with all their might after the children are born. I know of mothers from well-educated, respectable, modern and financially well-to-do families who endure in silence domestic violence, mental / emotional harassment almost daily, different kinds of abuse, torture, unreasonable “family expectations”, varied kinds of threats, public humiliation and so much more. The most common reason and justification from many a mother is that the social construct of a “family which includes both parents” is critical in a child’s growth and development, and that they don’t want their children to come from “broken homes”. Possibly valid reasons, but at what cost (especially for the mother) is the more important question?
The latest trend which I see increasing these days in middle-class / urban India is that of “extra-marital affairs” – usually involving the “daddy” and a “younger woman” at the workplace / through some social connection.
As a case in point, let me narrate an example of a dear mummy friend who is currently having this dilemma. She and her husband were college sweethearts. As predicted, they got married and enjoyed all that life had to offer as a couple. After several years, they were blessed with children. As a mother of two, she devoted herself completely to raising and nurturing her children, her family and thankfully also her career.
Somewhere along the way, she discovered that her husband was having an extra-marital affair with his colleague at work. At first, she was deeply hurt simply because she never ever expected it from him (I mean, who really expects this from your spouse?), especially since he was already a father by then. This coupled with the fact that the choice of life partner was entirely her choice (So basically, family and friends will sympathize but there’s limited that anyone can do because it was their choice, right?), made it even difficult to come to terms with the situation. With time, she decided to forget the affair in the best interest of the children as long as daddy will willing to put his past behind him, and begin a fresh chapter in their lives as parents.
Even though nothing was explicitly mentioned, her children did sense friction between mummy and daddy, & as a result she observed significant behavioural changes in them (For e.g: More aggression in every day behaviour, surprising questions and answers for issues around relationships, more clinginess to mummy, stammering, temper tantrums, etc.). She scaled down expectations from her husband, and told him that she’d like to stay put as a family for the sake of her children. Her only condition was that he should focus his time, efforts and energy on “their family”. Seems reasonable, I guess! The only issue to this so-called practical arrangement is that daddy is unable to let-go of his affair, and wants freedom to continue his involvement with his new love interest. And he is also unable to let-go fully of his children. So he wants to be a “week-end daddy” or “I’ll play daddy when I’m in the mood for it”.
Bottom-line, the children are completely mummy’s business. He DOES NOT care / bother / help / support in any issue of raising the children – be it schooling, outings, everyday operations, etc. And he also does not contribute financially in spite of being in a senior leadership role in an IT organization, and bringing home a handsome pay-check! (Reason being he has liabilities and financial commitments). And none of these financial obligations really prevent him from attending parties / outings / social events, etc. and enjoying himself.
Now here’s the mother’s dilemma | Should she hold-on to her unfaithful husband even though he crossed the line of matrimony and trust, just so that she and her children don’t have to deal with all the social stigma which comes from a “broken family”? OR Should she let-go, forget and move on independently raising her children as a single parent? (with / without a legal separation)
Both have their pros and cons, and it is no easy decision.
Of course, what I’ve written is a very high level summary of the situation at hand. There is a lot more history, emotions, thoughts, tensions, turmoil’s, experiences, and shared moments in their ~20 years of togetherness. And as with any human, they have both probably made mistakes in their journey together. But some mistakes, you cannot forget or forgive… right?
So the many questions really are:
Is it really worth it? Should a mother really “endure” everything that comes her way in life, just for the sake of her kids?
In case her husband / father of her children is involved in an extra-marital affair, at what point should she really say “Enough is Enough. The children will be better off without the father”?
Should she consider a divorce? And if yes, does it make sense for her to initiate it? And why?
Has India as a country really evolved to the extent that a single woman and children from a broken home can live a “normal” life – at school, at the workplace and in society?
Should she involve her children in her decision making process? If yes, at what age of the children?
At what age should the children be told the *REAL* truth about the parents relationship status? Or do they never need to know?
A few parting thoughts before I conclude:
The first thing | Most mothers I know give 200% of themselves to parenting and motherhood. So the priority list for many mothers reads as No. 1 – Children. No. 2 – Children. No. 3 – Children…. Nothing wrong really, but many a husband / daddy deal with this sudden change in relationship dynamics (which includes a loss of importance and attention from the spouse) differently. Getting involved with another woman who gives him time and importance appears to be a popular way today to address this! So while children may always be No. 1 priority once they enter your lives, I think it is important to give some ‘couple time” to bond as a couple , apart from all the bonding you’d do as parents. It does good for the entire family, I think!
Secondly | increasingly, important decisions regarding children are 100% the parents responsibility. Even the most well-meaning grand-parents, parents, aunts / uncles, in-laws, and all other friends and relatives will give a free advice or two, and then wash their hands of the situation – especially if it involves choices which can change your life. And rightly so. After all, as parents your children are really your responsibility, right?
Thirdly | I’ve read and heard many views and opinions on the importance of having a normal / pseudo-normal “family life” once you have children. I recall someone wise told me “Once you have children, do everything in your capacity to make your marriage work, unless there are serious issues which compel you to walk out”. And I’ve also heard of children from broken homes who say that they’d probably have turned out better if they lived with one parent who was positive and happy, than dealing with everyday negativity within the 4-walls because their parents stay put for the children’s sake.
And lastly | whatever anyone says, finally as a parent, you have to deal and live with the choices and decisions you make for your children (till a particular age), and their consequences. Only time will tell whether it is right or wrong. Till then, I think a parent should trust his / her instincts, and do what he /she believes is right. After all, when you go to bed every night, you do it alone!
Would like to hear your views on the “Mothers Dilemma” described above. What should she do?. Leave a comment to let me know.
NOTE: If you have a real-life scenario which you’d like to share as a part of the “Real Parents, Real Dilemmas” series, please do post it on the Parentous blog. After all, one of the purposes of any community is to share and learn from each other’s experiences, right?
Nischala Murthy Kaushik is mother and philosopher rolled into one (the philosophical streak emerged after she became a mother – essential for balance, she believes). She is an Engineer and Management Graduate (IIMB Alumni) by Education, IT/Innovation/Marketing Professional by Employment, Google/Blog/Twitter/Social Media Lover by Era, Writer by Passion, Dreamer by Compulsion, Student of Life by Choice, Eternal Optimist by Necessity and Chief Happiness Officer of LIFE by Realization. She blogs @ Nischala’s Space, Thoughts and Expressions AND VERVE : The Quintessence of my Life . In addition, she is also as a guest blogger in several sites of global repute; and her blogs have been featured in several Best-Of lists and on the Directory of Top Indian blogs. She tweets @nimu9 and is also listed among the 50 Indian Women to follow on Twitter.