Fearing the non-traditional family

There are certain memories of my time with Luc that are burned in my mind.  One of the most vivid memories happened in early 2011 when I was only a few months pregnant.  Luc went into another one of his rages when I admitted that I couldn’t afford to pay his entire mortgage.  I had just finished telling him how I was starting to feel as if I was being used (since he was not working and it seemed as if he expected me to bring in all the money in the household).  His eyes burning with rage, he said, “I will never forgive you for saying that!”  It was the first time that I looked at him and felt as if I didn’t recognize him.  I was terrified.  That night, I packed up my things and left.  I drove away from the house as far as I could and stopped at a hotel.  I didn’t want to go back, but I was afraid to leave.

At the time, I was unsure why I felt so compelled to protect this man who I had come to see was abusive and whom I had started to worry was not being honest (particularly about his career).  Looking back on it, however, it is more clear to me that I was afraid of the non-traditional family.  I had grown up with a mother and a father who had been married for longer than I was alive and who would stay married until the day they died.  I was taught that through even the worst – you keep your family together.  I was afraid to admit the reality – this man was not capable of being the family man I had dreamed of and we would never be a family.  So I hung on, because that was easier than admitting that my dream hadn’t worked out.

So many women (and men too) find themselves in relationships that aren’t working.  For children, and societal expectations, we stay longer than we should.  We stay for fear of being one of the “other” types of families or for having to one day answer the question, “where is my daddy?”.

For months after I left, we didn’t hear from Luc.  He never asked how Prince was doing and never asked to see him.  Even through my relief that we had escaped this abusive situation (and it appeared as though he was going to leave us alone), I found myself looking at children (particularly boys) with their fathers.  While my son had several strong men in his life (his uncle, grandfather, great uncles, and cousins), I still went through a period of mourning for a man who never existed – the man I believed had been my son’s father.  The man I believed Luc was (before I learned the truth), would never have disappeared for months instead of asking to see his child.

 

A Village

Before Luc came into my life, I never would have jumped to the front of the line (waving my hands around like an eager elementary school girl) to sign up for single motherhood.  I was thrown into single motherhood when I chose to run from a dangerous situation.  Though this seemed like a scary decision to make at the time, I came to learn that it doesn’t just take a mother and a father to have a strong family – it takes a village of strong people.

The “it takes a village” phase seems played out; however, I learned of its truth during my time as Prince’s mother.  As I looked around, I realized that Prince had so many people who loved him.  He was happy and he knew where his home was – with his people.  When Prince hit major milestones, like crawling and walking, I wasn’t alone – I shared the moment with my parents and with all of Prince’s extended family over the iPhone (even Luc’s brother, aunts, and cousins).  Despite all of the love in my son’s life, society (in the form of family court) didn’t believe that my son’s life was complete.  Judge Algeo believed my son needed to have access to his father Luc, despite his vocal concerns about Luc’s mental health.

Even though I knew our lives would never be easy (because of Luc and the court’s unwillingness to protect us from him), I tried as hard as I could to give my son everything I could.  I was preparing myself every day to answer the hard questions like, “Why aren’t you with my father?  Why are you scared of him?  How come I have to be dropped off for a visit with him at a police station?”  Unfortunately, my son will never learn to speak.  He never even said “Dada” so I never got the chance to explain to him why it was that I left that man.

The Non-Traditional Family

Since my son came into my life, I have looked closely at many families.  I have realized that children need healthy people and that successful families come in all sizes, ages, races, socio-economic status, and gender.  I would like to share a few examples of excellent “non-traditional” families.  I hope that through these types of examples, women and men will realize that they need not be afraid of describing what is different to their children.  They need to show their children the healthiest environment they can even when that is despite the child’s other biological parent.  To these people I describe below – thank you for teaching me this important lesson.

1)  My friend Jo is a lesbian woman.  She married her wife Melissa years ago.  Jo and Melissa just had their first child, Harper, last year.  Before Jo and Melissa, I didn’t know any other lesbian couple with a child.  Ignorantly, I often wondered if a child of a lesbian couple would be disadvantaged without the presence of a father.  Over the past few months, however, I have watched Harper grow up in what appears to be one of the most loving homes I have ever seen.  The way these two women talk about their daughter is heart warming.  I have no doubt in my mind that this child will grow up to be a strong, caring, intelligent, educated, and loving woman just like her mothers.

2)  My uncle Greg was a single father when he met my aunt.  Even though me and his son Dan are not biological cousins, I consider Dan just as “cousin” as the rest of my cousins.  My uncle Greg made personal sacrifices in his life for his son, but he also understood the importance of surrounding his son with a lot of healthy people.  As a child, I distinctly remember seeing the strong bond between Greg and Dan.  Though many would not see blended families as ideal, this is a pretty darn good family.  Dan’s biological father and mother were not together, but Dan has a very strong family.

3)  In the past couple of years, I have met several single mothers.  Two of my friends are single mothers -one by choice and one by circumstance.  These two women are raising their daughters with love and exposing them to healthy people.  While its possible that these two girls will wonder about their biological fathers (for two very different reasons), I have no doubt in my mind that they will grow up to be amazing women just like their mothers.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there is anything wrong with the traditional male-female relationship parenting experience. (Note:  I know a lot of great traditional families)  What I am saying, however, is that this is not always the best situation for everyone.  There are a lot of people who stay in bad relationships (or never have children at all) because they fear the non-traditional experience.  Our society is evolving and with that should come the understanding that 1) not all people should be parents 2) children need healthy people. 

I learned a lot of hard lessons in the past three years.  While I am no longer a single mother with a child, I will always be Prince’s mother.  I am no longer afraid of being a single mother.  I wish I could have given Prince the world.  I wish that I could have given him the wonderful non-traditional life I had re-planned for him.  I will never have that chance, but the next time I see a non-traditional family (either by choice or by circumstance) I will give them the respect they deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Pat says:

    Hera, You are truly an amazing young woman. You express your thoughts so eloquently! Thank you for this post. It has helped me, validated my feelings of many years ago when I chose divorce over the traditional family. My circumstances were very different from yours, but still, you’ve expressed a Similar thought process. Thank you again. I pray that every day becomes easier for you.

  2. Christine says:

    I definitely agree that a non-traditional family is far better than a dysfunctional/abusive family. I did stay married to an abuser in part because I feared what divorce would do to the children, but they are so much better off now that he is out of the home and their interactions with him are brief. It’s always going to be hard to answer those questions though…. “Mom, why was daddy so mean to you?” And, “Why doesn’t he want me on my Birthday?” And, “Why do other daddies play with their children?” And the hardest question of all, “Aren’t you glad you married daddy, because that’s how you got me?” Yes, I always tell them, it’s a joy to be their mommy and I don’t regret marrying their daddy because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have them, but I sure paid a hefty price for marrying him and they (they children) and I have suffered much due to his callousness.

    Yes, nontraditional is better than abusive/dysfunctional.

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