Thank you to the powerful woman I spoke with a few weeks ago. (You know who you are if you are reading this.)
What started as an introduction and potential business deal, turned into a most poignant and timely conversation and I felt it was very important to share. But, I first needed permission. Again, thank you.
The answer to my question, “What got you into this business?” took a turn as she told me about her true purpose. Like many people eager to make a difference in the world, her business creates the income to fuel her passion.
As a divorced parent, I, of course, took great intrigue to what came next. “I want to help children of divorce and end parental alienation.”
I know the challenges that come with finding balance for children going back and forth from home to home. My divorce happened when my children were very young and though, for the most part, they only know their mom and dad as being divorced and friendly, they still find themselves with those situations where they have to readjust to new schedules. When they were very young, they were mostly with me and as they got older things shifted to more of a 50/50 share and rightly so. I’m so happy that they get to experience both their father and myself.
I grew up in one household with my mom and dad, so I don’t know the feeling of going from one home for a period of time and then switching to another. I can imagine that at times, you may not have had enough time with one parent, or it’s just one of those times where you really need one more than the other. While it makes them stronger in many ways, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it can be hard to feel like a bouncing ball.
As I heard this powerful woman’s story and even more so, her awareness of her own upbringing, I realized that not so many divorced families have it so good in terms of having balance and a healthy co-parenting relationship. And even more so, I realized just how smart children are and how much they carry with them. What we do and say matters! Our kids do know what’s up, even if they can’t process it in a mature manner.
With the agreement to keep this anonymous for the time being, this wonderful woman gave me permission to share her story here:
She is a woman in her late thirties and she is one powerful and successful businesswoman. For most of her upbringing, she suffered (and she used this word) as a child of divorce. Her father wasn’t by any means a saint she said, but he was dedicated and loving. Her mother carried with her resentment from many failed relationships and an abusive childhood. She noted that she felt her mother used this as an excuse and most times as an insignia of admiration that she felt she was entitled.
Her mother wanted to divorce her father not long after she was born. They had another daughter, about two years older. Her father paid his child support and he took extra financial care of her mother when she needed it. But, it wasn’t long after the divorce that her father found someone he wanted to spend his life with. Her father became less available to her mother, but still very much available to she and her sister. While she noticed it as a young girl and even throughout her childhood, she didn’t process it the same as she does now as an adult.
“My mother required us to participate in the assignment of hurting my father emotionally. Sadly, we obliged.” She said that the overwhelming guilt and pressure to keep her mother feeling happy was too much to bear. The easiest and fastest way to keep a smile on her mother’s face, eliminate their feeling of guilt and to stay connected to their mother was to bond over the dislike of their father. “But, I didn’t hate my father. I loved him and I missed him. But, I had to play along.”
She said her father wasn’t as strong as her mother. In fact, as powerful as he seemed to others, he cowered in the face of her mother. When her father asked for more time with them, she made excuses as to why he could not have it and he accepted it. The sisters didn’t find this out until much later.
She reflected on why it felt like suffering. “My mother had happy days and then she had days where she slept for most of the day and was very depressed. It was so hard to see her this way. As children, my sister and I just wanted to see her happy. She was so fun when she was happy. We needed her to be okay. If it meant ganging up on our dad, well, we did it. But, we always battled with what we truly felt and what we pretended. Soon, we were so confused, we didn’t know what was true.”
While she never stopped loving her father, she admitted to acting indifferent to him as a teen and not accepting of his attempts to have more time with her and her sister. “It pains me now to think of the heartbreak I caused him.” She said she didn’t even have a valid reason for being upset with him or turning against him.
“My father never knew of the things my mother said about him and it wasn’t until I became an adult that he came to learn and understand what my sister and I went through. His heart was broken again, but even more so was my own heart for succumbing to my mother’s manipulations.” She said she had figured all these years, the negative statements about her father were mostly true and if they weren’t, she assumed he would have done something about it. But, he didn’t know.
“The time spent with our father became so little. At the time, we assumed he didn’t want to have time with us, regardless of what he said. Our mother told us as much and we believed her.” She said her mother took every action she could to diminish the love they had for him and any potential for a meaningful relationship. “But, we didn’t see it this way until we matured.”
In our conversation, she admitted to some bad choices she and her sister made as teens and young adults. One of which was a dangerous relationship her sister involved herself in that nearly got her killed. While she didn’t blame her parent’s for both of their actions, she did give credit to the situation influencing the choices they made.
“My mother alienated us from our father who loved us very much. She was accepting of her own flaws, but not of his. She used emotional manipulation to keep us emotionally and sometimes even physically alienated from our father. For that reason, my sister and I suffered so that she could have control. We didn’t understand it, but we felt it. Looking back, we see that we were being brainwashed and that affected how we led our lives and overall sense of security and happiness.”
She said that she and her sister have a very close relationship with their father today and have a strained relationship with their mother. “As bonded as we were with our mother, maturation served us well and we were able to see the truth. We love our mother and we always will, but we grieve over what could have been. It is my purpose to do all that I can to put an end to this abuse. No child should have to endure this.”
This story hit me hard. For me, becoming a parent filled me with so much empathy and compassion for my children. My feeling hurt is nothing compared to their feeling hurt. But, some don’t see it that way. Some can’t help but put their feelings and their ego first before their children. They need to feel as if they are winning as the better parent or more ‘loved’ parent. As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our children emotionally and physically. If another parent is abusive then action must be taken to keep them away. But, if it’s simply an issue of not getting along, a broken heart, wanting to be more loved or a disagreement in parenting style – why on earth alienate a child from what is their right? It’s a gift to have a parent/child relationship. Why take that away?
I believe this woman will make an incredible difference in the awareness that she is soon to bring. But, I really wish it wasn’t a common problem in the first place. My heart breaks for children currently struggling with this. I think of these sisters and what their life could have been. I can’t imagine ever missing out on my mom or dad and I can’t imagine my children having to miss out either.