When Grandparents Say You’re ‘Using Your Child As A Pawn’

Almost five years ago, I made the decision to cut off my own mother from myself and my children, and since then, I’ve fought tirelessly to uphold parental rights within the courts against grandparents’ visitation right suits (also known as third party visitation right lawsuits). I’ve Googled, I have read article after article — and mostly, when you look this up, you come to the general consensus that parents are evil and use their kids as “pawns” against grandparents or third parties who “just want to see the kids.” There are very few (if any) dissenting opinions, so I decided to write my feelings down.

The ultimate battle cry in grandparents’ rights groups is the complaint of adult children using their children (the grandchildren) as “pawns.” It’s like the grandparents who say this believe that this is a game (as pawns generally come from a game of chess) and they’re being kept from their prize so the parents can win the “game.” Some even say that this is “child abuse” and “elder abuse.” Let’s discuss that, shall we?

From a parent’s point of view who has been accused of such things, I will tell you truthfully that protecting your children from abuse, of any kind, is not using your child as a pawn. Ever heard a grandparent say they’re “so depressed, they need to see the baby to cheer them up?” This is emotional abuse. My child is not your dose of Xanax, lady, and is not responsible for your mental health. There’s also verbal abuse, and sometimes even physical. I’ll say it again: protecting your child from an abuser (or abusive behavior) is not using your child as a pawn.

Protecting your child is literally one of the most primal instincts one can have. If your mother or mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to verbally lash you, whether in front of you or in private, then why do you think she will be kind to your children? Even if she is related to that child, she has expressed disdain and hatred for (or even “disappointment” in) one of these children’s parents, which literally makes up 50% of that child’s DNA. Again, for the ones in the back: if they hate you, or dislike you, or express discontent towards you, they are frankly saying that they dislike 50% of your child’s DNA. Protecting your child from these sorts of people is not “using them as a pawn.” It’s not a game; it’s your child’s emotions, mental health, and overall happiness.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we? You don’t think that the grandparent in question would be unkind or abusive to the child… they just hate you, the child’s parent. After all, that’s why they’re accusing you of “using your child as a pawn,” and even abuse by withholding the child from the grandparent, right?

Well, let’s look up the literal definition of “pawn” as defined by Oxford Dictionary: “A chess piece of the smallest size and value, a person used by others for their own purposes.” By calling your child a pawn, they are straight up saying your child isn’t of much value beyond a bargaining piece.

So, I’ll say what I want to say every single time I see a grandparent accusing a parent of using children as pawns. Protecting your child is not, and will never be, abusive. Abuse runs deeper than physical abuse. And the grandparents know it. How many cut-off grandparents default to saying, “We spoiled our kids rotten, so it’s our fault she’s a brat” or similar? That right there tells you that you are protecting your child from emotional and mental abuse — that they’ve bestowed not only on their grandchildren, but on you both as a child and an adult.

It is parental instinct to protect your child from harm, and that is what you are doing.

Furthermore, if there happens to be a grandparent reading this and shaking their head in disagreement, let me ask you something to make you think a bit: if you love your grandchildren, why not be respectful to their parents and work on a relationship with them first, before bringing their children into the equation? And if your mind instantly jumped to insults or excuses on how “horrible” your son or daughter or son-in-law or daughter-in-law is, I encourage you to seek therapy — because you certainly don’t need to be around your grandchild while you’re actively disliking a person (their parent) who makes up 50% of their DNA.

And the first thing you should probably discuss with your therapist? Why you are comparing your grandchild to a game piece of little value.

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There Is Something Magical About The Mother-Daughter Bond

My daughter crawled in bed with me a few months ago. She was on the cusp of turning fifteen, and that day in the car we were listening to that new song called “Supah Lonely” by Benee. Maybe you’ve heard it with your own teenage daughter. Or maybe you have no idea what song it is. Regardless, it’s a woman talking about how lonely she is.

Without thinking too hard about it, I told my daughter the song reminded me of myself. I tried to laugh after I said it. I was trying to cover up the fact I was feeling sorry for myself. I knew I was letting my daughter in on a secret I’d been trying to hide from my kids — I’m lonely.

I’m lonely because they’ve grown older and they need me less. I’m lonely because I feel like our relationships have changed. And I’m lonely because they all went through puberty at once, leaving me with the sound of music behind their closed bedroom doors instead of being downstairs with me. 

As soon as I said it, I regretted it. While I want to be real with my kids and see that their mother is not made out of iron and has swinging emotions, I don’t want them to feel guilty about growing up and their independence.

But my daughter’s reply let me know she heard me, she saw me, and she cared.

“I didn’t know that, Mom. I didn’t know you were lonely,” she said. We drove then the rest of the way home in silence and I tried not to tear up thinking back to the days when I wasn’t this lonely. 

I realized being a mother to a daughter gifts you a bond unlike any other. We argue, we disagree, we don’t like each other at times. But we love one another so deeply we know there’s nothing that can break that love. If that’s not a bond, I don’t know what is. I mean, when you feel really safe with someone, isn’t that the time to really be yourself and know you will be fully accepted and loved unconditionally?

How many people can you say you have that bond with? 

According to a study published in Journal of Neuroscience, the bond between a mother and daughter is like no other since their brains are more closely matched in the empathy department. 

So when your daughter comes to you with a problem, situation, or is experiencing something good in her life, as her mother you are able to see yourself in that same situation and relate to her in a way no one else can.

I love my two sons just as much as I love my daughter. But when she comes to me with something that is bothering her, I see myself in her so much. And when the role is reversed, I can see my daughter is able to empathize with me deeply hence her coming in bed to get some snuggle time with me after my confession. 

Scary Mommy polled some of our readers to see if they agreed with the sentiment about mother-daughter bonds … and they did. 

One commenter admitted to crying for days when she found out she was having a girl. “I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do with a girl. I’m not girly and I just knew it would be a disaster. She’s almost 11, she’s my best friend. She’s so amazing! I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s so smart and wise beyond her years.”

Another mother said, “I was ecstatic when I found out I was having a girl. Her dad and I divorced when she was three. We have had an extremely close bond from day one. We definitely have a battle of wills at times because she is a very strong willed child but she is my greatest joy. My mom and I are super close and always have been and I pray that my daughter and I have the same bond throughout life.”

A mother of two boys and two girls said she was terrified when she found out she was having her first daughter, “I said ‘check again!’ I was terrified. I have two and two — wouldn’t change it for anything. Love my girls, they are my best friends. Strong, resilient, sporty and big hearts!”

One mother who has both sons and daughters explains it perfectly, saying, “It’s an indescribable bond. I’m incredibly close with my son. We share a lot of similarities, humor and just get each other. But with my 17-year-old daughter, it’s magnified. So many things she has accomplished or overcome are the same things that I dealt with at her age, but somehow amplified by all of today’s stressors.”

The bond some mothers have with us feels different than the bond we have with our sons. It doesn’t mean we love them more, or favor them over their brothers. But the study does prove there can be such a strong bond simply because we are sharing a lot of the same experiences and are connected in a different way to our daughters.

And even when we feel like we don’t know what we are going to do with them as they grow up, gain independence and sass, we know that bond won’t be broken.

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Marriage Shows You Who You Really Are

There’s nothing like marriage to show you yourself.

Like your tendency to keep little secrets. Nothing huge, but, for example, when you say you’re running to Walgreens but have every intention of popping into Target, too.

And also maybe some not-so little things, like that you feel scared of being hurt. The only thing scarier than the fears you’ve inherited is admitting them, so instead you just act defensively and keep all that private, scary stuff inside the wall you put up for protection.

The wall-building happens so subconsciously that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It feels like the normal thing to do — push truth down in order to project a certain image. It’s what we think we need to do to get what we want.

But in marriage, those walls we didn’t even realize we built, get bumped into. They get in the way, and eventually we have to make the choice: Do we want intimacy or safety? Do we want to give love freely or continue worrying about the love we get?

Early on, for the sake of my marriage, I knew I’d have to get in touch with myself. After all, how could I be honest with someone else when I’m not even honest with myself? How could I be honest with anyone when I value avoiding the conversations more?

I read somewhere about radical honesty, and that without it, you’ll never feel true intimacy. Radical honesty is simply transparency. It’s moment-to-moment openness. It could even sound like, “I don’t know how I feel right now” or “I’m afraid” or “This is something important to me.”

Marriage has shown me myself. It has required me to become more conscious of myself so I could then practice sharing myself. Although that was daunting, it has also been exhilarating.

When you’re being radically honest, things aren’t always going to go smoothly, but marriage has taught me that storms pass.

I used to avoid conflict. It made me want to run. In the early days, I would. I’d hop right into the car and leave. I just couldn’t take it. But now, when energies get tense and conversations get uncomfortable, I tell myself it’s going to pass and let it unfold with greater patience. (And I only slam doors sometimes…)

But even when tensions are hot, there’s an openness that comes with communicating authentically, and even when it’s hard, honesty is always an invitation inside. It’s an offer for intimacy, and when we’re talking about relationships, there’s no greater gift.

You are the gift you give, not only to another, but to yourself. When you start communicating what’s true in you, the parts that used to get shoved away now feel heard and recognized. You find that not only has your relationship changed, but so have you.

You realize for the first time you truly feel loved, and it’s not because you haven’t ever been seen before, but because you wouldn’t let yourself be seen.

You realize that the walls that come down don’t only let your partner in, but also let your heart open. Only now are you even available for love.

A good marriage will teach you important lessons. Not lessons for the relationship alone, but for the freedom of your heart and evolution of your soul.

What a good marriage requires of you will transform you completely.

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I Don’t Want To Be With My Ex, But It Still Hurts To See Him Dating

Moving on has been the hardest part of my divorce. Whether it’s been me dating or my ex dating, the situation has been incredibly awkward and painful.

What makes it even worse is that I don’t even want to be with my ex anymore, but seeing him dating someone else is still hurtful. I realize how unfair that is to both me and my ex, but it’s the truth.

I’ve been struggling with figuring out why it bothers me so much to see him dating, and I think I’ve settled on a few reasons.

For one, imagining someone else as a mother figure to my son literally makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. When I gave birth nine years ago, the thought never crossed my mind that he may someday have a stepmom. A mother-in-law, yes, but a stepmom — no way. Of course, I was in love with my husband at that moment, so the thought of him marrying another woman wasn’t on the radar either. Even if his potential stepmom is wonderful, I think this is a natural feeling to have as a mom. I’m mama. I don’t want anyone else to ever even come close to that role.

Secondly, it’s very difficult to break the habit of thinking of my ex as my husband. When you’re with someone for so long and you have referred to them as your spouse for over a decade, it takes some time to adjust to thinking of them as just your co-parent. It’s a weird place to be in — to be happy that he’s no longer my husband but sad at the same time. A loss is still a loss, no matter how right the decision was. Losses must be grieved properly in order to truly move on from them.

Lastly, the physical portion of it is hard. Knowing he’s touching someone else, kissing someone else, loving someone else — it feels like cheating even though it’s not. When you take those vows, you program yourself not to desire another person in that way. A piece of paper saying you’re divorced doesn’t automatically change what you’ve been programmed to do for so long. I’ve even found myself calling the person I’m dating by my ex’s name. It’s a genuine mistake, but it just goes to show that we’re creatures of habit and that sometimes, it’s incredibly hard to break those habits.

My relationship with my ex was not a positive one for a very long time. There’s a huge feeling of relief and freedom that has come along with the divorce, but there are still these individual issues that come up periodically that make it difficult to fully move on.

I find myself wondering, when will it not feel like cheating? When will I get to the point where it doesn’t hurt to hear him refer to another woman as his girlfriend? Will I ever get there? Will I ever accept someone else as the woman in his life?

This has been an issue that has come up in my relationships since my divorce. I know the fact that it bothers me that my ex is dating is a huge barrier to me moving on and being happy in a new relationship. I’m trying so hard to let it go. It’s not only hurting me; it’s hurting the person I’m dating as well. I know I wouldn’t want to hear about my boyfriend still having unresolved feelings about their ex dating, so why should he?

I hear other divorcees say that they couldn’t care less about who their ex is with. I’ve seen countless memes joking about feeling sorry for the woman who’s now with your ex because he’s her problem now. I want so badly to feel that way. I don’t want this feeling dictating the rest of my life. I want to let it all go and get to the point where I look at my ex as my son’s father and nothing more.

I know it sounds like an oxymoron that I don’t want to be with my ex but that it still hurts to see him dating. Maybe it’s selfish. Maybe I should want to see him in a happy relationship, even if it’s not with me. I think it just takes time to stop thinking about your former spouse as “yours.”

To have and to hold, from this day forward, till death do us part — that statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. Divorce ends the legal aspect of your marriage, but the emotional aspect remains long after the papers are signed.

I don’t know how long it will take to break that emotional bond. It’s been a year, and although it’s gotten a bit easier, when I hear he’s dating someone new it still feels like my heart jumps into my throat for a few moments. When it does, I remind myself of all the reasons why we got divorced and how far I’ve come, and it helps my heart settle down again.

Without a doubt, I don’t want to be with my ex, but it still hurts to see him dating. So, for now, I’m going to let it because I’m human and divorce is hard. For now, I’m going to allow myself some grace.

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Fatherly Lessons From A Cabbage Patch Kid

When I was four, I dreamed of having my very own Cabbage Patch Kid doll. It was a fairly common dream in the minds of most little girls as the Christmas season approached, strategically stepping up the pressure on their parents a notch. It created what was known as the Cabbage Patch Craze in 1983, filled with determined parents attempting to shop and fulfill the desire of their little girls cradling a Cabbage Patch Kid doll on Christmas morning.

I had been sent a baby brother about a year before and I dreamed of cradling a little girl doll with flowing yellow yarn hair that resembled my own and a pink dress with lacy edges. I had wondered what assigned name would read on her cabbage patch birth certificate when I pulled it out of the yellow and green box with the clear window front. I thought about all the places she would go with me and all the fun we would have together. And on Christmas morning, I awoke to find a Cabbage Patch Kid waiting under my tree with mint green overalls, a white shirt, short brown hair and a boy name – Jeremiah.

In retrospect, it was probably one of the first, in a series of hints from the universe, indicating that I would be raising three boys, no daughters. It was also indicative of the kind of father I would have.

Children generally are not aware of the difficulties their parents may be experiencing, as they shouldn’t be. I didn’t know that Christmas morning my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and often worried how they would stretch money to make it through the month, let alone be able to afford to buy me a baby doll. I didn’t know that my father had woken up early one morning to wait in line, outside of a closed toy store before heading to a 12 hour shift at the shoe store he managed at the time. I didn’t know when the shoppers rushed the aisle, my dad arrived to an empty shelf and argued with another woman as she grabbed the last doll to be placed in a cart already packed with several dolls. I do know that he won that argument because I opened a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas morning in 1983.

I didn’t have a shiny new car with a big red bow on my 16th birthday, but I did have a car when I moved in with my Dad half way through my senior year of high school to prevent me from needing to change schools. I didn’t get to attend a fancy, out of state college, but I did attend a four-year in-state college and graduated debt free, thanks to my Dad. He taught me the value was in the work put into the degree, not wear it came from. I didn’t have chair covers at my wedding but it was a beautiful wedding graciously paid for by him and I had a dad whom I was proud to have stand beside me and walk me down the aisle that day.

I have a dad that taught me the importance of my independence as a woman. He made sure I was the first to graduate college in his family because he knew an education provided me options and prevented me from ever needing to stay in a bad marriage because of financial dependence. I have a dad that made sure I married a good man and would never be in a bad marriage by setting the expectations for how I should be treated by men and the type of a father to expect for my children. Who taught me to always trust my own instincts in life and to not require a confirmation from anyone else. Any request for advice was and is always answered with “What do you think? Go with your gut.” Who never boasted or bragged about me to others, yet never let me question his pride — but at the same time, taught me to be humbled by that pride. I have a dad that taught me where my stubbornness originates, even if we both always continue to refuse to admit it.

The outcome of our actions often does not reflect the heart of our efforts. My parents made many mistakes raising my brother and me, just as I have made many mistakes in raising my own children. However, it is in those same mistakes that I have learned the most valuable of life’s lessons. I gained the most insight not from what I had as a child, but what I didn’t have. It taught me the vast differences between need and want and the pride in earning will always outweigh the gratitude of being given something. Sometimes I forget this in raising my own children. We try our best to prevent any unhappiness in our children, often failing to realize the missed opportunities for learning when preventing their slightest discomfort.

The lessons of my childhood at times were obvious, but most didn’t come into focus until I saw them through adult eyes. I may not have had everything, but I did always have a dad that tried, and that was everything — even when it was a little boy Cabbage Patch Kid named Jeremiah.

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Game Planning With Your Spouse Can Make Talk Of Layoffs Much Easier To Bear

I work on the academic side of a division one athletics program, and we were hit pretty hard because of COVID-19. Most of our revenue is from in-person activities. COVID hit during the men’s and women’s basketball playoffs, so millions were lost when they were canceled. And our national championship winning baseball team had to forfeit their season. Naturally, the university is still adding up all the lost revenue, but it is well into the millions. And even with one cost saving measure after another being put into place, it feels like my coworkers and I were watching a slow burning fuse, waiting for the inevitable layoffs to be announced.

But the really difficult part of all of this was talking to my wife about it. Mel teaches at our children’s school, but between my university job and writing, I make the majority of our income and our health insurance is through my employer. Talk of layoffs and budget cuts were circling at my work. Some departments had already let people go. I was freaking out — I still am — but I refused to tell Mel about it. I was afraid to, honestly, because I didn’t want to look like a failure.

Please keep in mind that this is not me saying that if you lost your job because of COVID you have failed at anything; this is a bonkers, once-in-a-lifetime situation. What I am trying to say is that regardless of the situation, pandemic or otherwise, I couldn’t help but feel like if I lost my job and couldn’t provide for my wife and three children, that I would hold myself personally responsible. Unfortunately, I think that is a pretty natural feeling.

I don’t know where these feelings came from, but they were very real, and rather than discuss what was happening at work, and my fears and anxieties about the very real possibility of losing my job, I just bottled it all up. And I have to assume that there are so many men and women out there struggling with the same exact feelings as I am. Going to work each day, wondering if it will be your last, and feeling this deep shame that comes with the very real uncertainty that the company you work for may be forced to downsize.

This article is not some plan to rejuvenate your place of employment, or some list of ways to help you stand out among your coworkers so you become irreplaceable. What I do want to stress is the importance of speaking with your spouse if you are facing the threat of losing your job. And I strongly recommend doing it now. Because here’s what happened with Mel and me.

She has asked me numerous times how things were going at work. She’d read the local news articles about how hard the university I work for had been hit financially because of COVID-19, and how the athletics department was probably hit the hardest. And each time she asked, I brushed it off. I told her we were fine, when in fact I didn’t know, and inside I was terrified and embarrassed, and I didn’t know how I could find the words to let her know that yes — I could lose my job. And yes, things were getting scary.

But I finally opened up to her. It was evening, our kids were in bed. I told her how scared I was, and that I didn’t know what we would do if I lost my job. I mentioned how most universities were on hiring freezes, and that I’d probably have to seek a new line of work if I did find myself unemployed.

Naturally, Mel was nervous too. But then, we sat down and looked at the numbers. We looked at what savings we had and how long it could last. We discussed if the university would give us a severance, and we started looking at other job opportunities in our area that I might be qualified for. We looked at insurance through her work, and we discussed what it would look like if we needed to move, and if we could sell our house. We looked at unemployment, how to apply, and how much we would get and if it would meet our needs for a time. Mel looked into finding a better paying job, with better benefits, in case she needed to become the primary earner. 

We didn’t finish this conversation in one night. It took us three evenings, actually, of coming up with a contingency plan in the event that I lost my job. It was a grim conversation that asked me to put my pride at the door, and admit to my wife the very real possibility that I might become unemployed at any time. But it also helped me recognize that this wasn’t about me, but a situation that was out of my control. 

Mel didn’t think less of me. She didn’t laugh at me, and although I think the conversation made her nervous, we both felt better after making a game plan in the event that I lost my job. It gave both of us a lot of comfort during a very unsettling time. So my suggestion is, if you are being faced with eventual layoffs, like so many are right now, sit down with your spouse and look at all the variables. Look at all the options. Obviously, it is not a fun conversation. But it is important.

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I’m Sending A Message To My Abuser

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, suicide.

“Do you think it will make things worse?”

That’s the number one question I’ve been asked the last two days after filing for an order of protection against an ex-boyfriend. Let me be absolutely clear; I’m in no way upset with my friends who asked me this question. I’m upset because it is absolutely normal to ask this question. Women and men who file restraining orders, orders of protection, or other similar documents, are often asked this from concerned family and friends.

The question is quite reasonable considering the climate of doubt surrounding the victim: credibility, accusations of hysteria, accusations of overreacting, or if they’re merely trying to just spite the other party. It happens. People who are scorned will make false accusations or hype up certain events. However, these people are the exception and not the rule.

The majority of abuse victims work on the painstaking tasks of filling out pages and pages of legal documents, gathering evidence, filing those papers, willingly sharing private details of their dark and personal moments with complete strangers, following up with court clerks, and the list goes on and on. You don’t just blink and then serve someone with papers. It takes a lot of time and effort initially and throughout the process.

I went through this process once before, when I was 18. It was mortifying and embarrassing on every imaginable level. My ex-boyfriend was stalking me, harassing me, and wound up breaking into my home (my mother’s home), calling me from the house phone and threatening to kill my little sister and my mom if I didn’t come home immediately. He then cut the phone line. Thankfully, he left the home and sat in his car across the driveway from mine, and my family members were okay. I had to wake my mother up at 5:00 a.m. and try to explain what happened. She was upset with me for being out past curfew with my new boyfriend and thought I was making some of it up. The cop taking the report barely believed me, if at all. If my boyfriend at the time had not seen/heard/witnessed everything with me that night, I would have been completely alone. Of course, my mother and the cop believed he was just covering for me.

Flash forward to age 34. I have a mortgage, a three-year-old daughter, a car, a job, and overall pretty normal adult responsibilities. My husband passed away last year, unexpectedly. A friend of his from high school befriended me over the summer and feelings developed between us. He seemed wonderful initially, but the ol’ bait-and-switch happened in January of this year.

After he downed an entire bottle of wine at dinner one night, he got extremely agitated that I was playing a game on my daughter’s tablet that I wanted to show her for a few minutes. He told me that his ex-wife used to be on her phone constantly playing games, and it triggered him. I had heard that story so many times in the beginning of our relationship that I always made it a point not to be on my phone too much in front of him. I never thought my daughter’s tablet would be triggering while I showed her my favorite game for a few minutes.

Driving home, I told my daughter to thank him for the dinner. She thanked him and then asked what I was doing. Before I could even respond, “Driving home,” he said, “Mommy is having a meltdown and acting crazy.”

We walked into my home and I kept my mouth shut, acted like everything was normal so as not to upset my daughter, and got her ready for bed. After she was in bed, I let all of my feelings out. I told him that disrespecting me to my daughter is not okay, now or ever, and it was a dealbreaker. I also didn’t appreciate him comparing me to his ex when I was rarely on my phone around him. I wanted to take a dig at him, so I said, “Maybe this is why she served you divorce papers without you knowing because of your shitty temper!” He started crying and saying that I was being mean and shouldn’t go there.

He said he would give me some time to cool off and went upstairs. He came down an hour later and I was still upset. I didn’t take any more digs at him, but I did tell him I could no longer see a path forward for us as a couple. After telling me that I was “acting like a bitch,” I told him he needed to leave. I knew he was incapable of driving, so I told him to get an Uber/Lyft or I would get him one. He refused and said if I was “forcing” him out of the house, that he was driving. I told him that yes, I wanted him to leave, but I did not want him to drive.

He gathered his things, all the while crying and begging me not to end things. I replied, “You crossed the line.”

He went ballistic. He grabbed the scrapbook I had spent a month working on and ripped it to shreds. I yelled, “Stop, that’s mine! What are you doing!? Get out of here!”

He opened the front door and yelled, “You FUCKING CUNT! No wonder your husband killed himself!”

The tirade continued as he walked out. “You bitch, whore, slut! Good luck with the next guy, hope he doesn’t off himself too! BITCH! FUCK YOU!”

I shut the door, locked it, walked five steps into the living room and started sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t know how long I was on the floor that night. If my video doorbell hadn’t captured all of it, I wouldn’t be able to prove he had said any of those things either. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t make a report. I did what a lot of people do once things calm down: listened to the apologies, enjoyed the weekly flowers delivered to my home, and questioned if maybe, just maybe, he was just drunk and angry that one time.

We tried being friends. I refused to get into a relationship with him, but he was definitely trying to woo me again. He said he was respecting my boundaries and my decisions and was going to give me all the space and time I needed. Sounds nice, right?

This past weekend, he had surgery. It was an outpatient surgery, but one that definitely takes two or three days of resting and meds afterwards. He had helped me through a dental surgery the previous year, and I felt like I should help. His parents either live far away or don’t have a close relationship with him.

I offered to help, under the condition that he stayed at my house for the sake of convenience. He agreed.

I picked him up from the hospital, got him into bed, gave him his medications at the right intervals, switched out ice packs, removed and reapplied gauze, and all the rest. One of my friends rode with me to the hospital to pick him up so they could drive his truck to my house and park it in the driveway.

The next morning, my friend (who also used to be my roommate while my ex and I were together), came by with his two kids to play with my daughter and say hi for a few hours. This upset my ex because they were “too loud” and “I didn’t tell him they were coming over.” I have a basement, a main level, and an upstairs. My ex was upstairs in a private bedroom while the kids were playing on the main level. The day went okay otherwise.

That evening, I told him that some friends of mine were coming over before one of them moves out of state. He got upset, grabbed his meds, and went upstairs and slammed the door. While some of my friends were over, I went upstairs several times to check on his meds, give him water and food, and see how he was doing. I could tell from his abrupt responses and rude tone that he was upset with me for having friends over, but I kept telling myself that it was my home and I didn’t need his permission. When I handed him a glass of water, he yanked it out of my hand so hard that water spilled all over the bed.

After my friends left, I did one last check and told him I was going to bed in the basement and to call or text me if he needed anything. I could tell by his demeanor that his hope was that I would sleep in bed next to him, which I in no way, shape, or form wanted to do. I told him sweet dreams and goodnight.

The next morning, we got into a fight. He accused me of spending too much time with my friends and not telling him enough of what was going on. I reminded him that it was my house, my friends, and that I had taken care of him regularly. I argued that what he was wanting me to do was lay in bed with him all day and night, but I have a kid to take care of and a house to clean. Furthermore, I wanted absolutely no part of sleeping next to him, cuddling, or anything else.

He got a phone call and stepped outside onto my front porch. He took a watering globe in my hanging flower pot, saw it was empty, and slammed it back in really hard. He was showing me that he was irritated that it was out of water, even though it had rained for the past two days (I’m not great at keeping plants alive and he’s a master at gardening). I walked outside and said, “If you’re going to act like a child, then go.”

He abruptly ended the call and followed me inside. “Of course you would tell me go while I’m on pain medication! You made me drive when I drank a bottle of wine!” Once again, I told him that he shouldn’t drive and I would call him a Lyft, and once again he refused and got his things. Déjà vu.

After smarting off to me some more and me telling him, “Leave,” signaling that I didn’t want my daughter to see or hear his nasty remarks, he slammed the front door. He walked over to my hanging potted flowers and smashed them onto my front sidewalk as hard as he could. It split the pot open and the dirt spilled out. The pink and purple flowers looked terrified face down on the concrete. The watering globe shattered everywhere.

I locked the door. I didn’t cry. I didn’t call the police. I swept up the dirt and the globe pieces, but not before my little one defied my orders of “Stay back” and rushed over, cutting her foot on a piece of the globe.

I filed for a protective order online, citing the destruction of my personal property as intending to intimidate and scare me. I blocked his phone number, his e-mail, and all social media. His calls were being blocked, but my phone was notifying me each time he called. I ignored all of it.

Soon I received messages from my mother that he had contacted her. Then I received a message from a mutual friend. Then I received another message from a mutual friend. He was trying to relay “important” information through them, none of it urgent, none of which needed to be given to me. I asked all of them to tell him to stop contacting them trying to give me messages and to not get involved in any way.

I let my close friends know what was going on, and that’s when, almost without skipping a beat, “Do you think it’s only going to get worse?” appeared. Hell, I asked myself that question.

So let me get this straightened out:

1) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors amongst our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could choose not to file an order for protection and pray that he stops the harassment.

OR

1) I could file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors among our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could file an order for protection and pray that he stops and that the order is enough to stop him and his harassment.

There’s really not much of a difference in the outcomes for orders of protection, from what I’ve seen in the news. The main difference is that I am sending a message to him that he is on notice. I am sending the message that I have legal recourse if he contacts me or shows up at my door. I am telling him that I’m not afraid, or that I am afraid but determined.

I am telling him there won’t be any more déjà vu scenes in my home ever again. I’m telling him that my daughter comes first. I’m telling him the abuse is no longer his secret or my secret. Whether or not he wants to make things worse is his decision and that is not my responsibility. How he reacts to the order is his responsibility. We should not have to live in fear. We should not have to live in a society where we have to weigh whether spotlighting the abuse is worth the risk.

Let’s start saying, “Whether everything gets worse or better, you made the hard but right choice.” Let’s keep the blame with the abusers and their reactions.

 

Update: On June 15th, the author was granted the protective order for 10 years. 

The post I’m Sending A Message To My Abuser appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Parents Had An Affair With Each Other Decades After They Were Divorced

I was standing in line at the grocery store with my three kids one late Friday afternoon when I saw my mom’s number pop up on my cell phone. She rarely calls us, usually preferring to text, so I answered it thinking it might be some kind of an emergency. 

Her voice on the other end did sound panicked. “I just drove by your father’s house and he wasn’t there. He was supposed to call me tonight but he didn’t. Do you know where he is?” she asked me.

Are you fucking kidding me?

“I don’t have time to do this right now, Mom,” I said impatiently. “I’m about to check out and I’ve got the kids. I told you I don’t want to be involved with this, so stop.”

That wasn’t the first time I’d told my own mother, married and running around with my married father, to leave me out of this shithole.

My parents married when they were very young. They had a few kids right away. In fact, my mom was still a teenager when she had me. They were married almost 20 years and always seemed like they were in love when I was younger. 

Looking back now, I see a clearer picture: My father was controlling and did what he wanted. My mother was meek and never stood up for herself. He didn’t want her to get her driver’s license. He didn’t want her to work outside the home. He didn’t want her to hang out with friends. He didn’t want her to have a life outside of being a mother and a wife. 

That all changed when she got a job behind his back. She started wearing nice clothes and going to work every day. I think that’s when her self-confidence was built — she was in her 30s and was starting to get attention from men who treated her better than her husband did. 

She left him the summer before I entered ninth grade. We rarely saw him anymore, and when we did, he spent a lot of time badmouthing my mother. He blamed her for their divorce, but I sided with her. My father was so strict and didn’t seem to understand my need as a teenager to see my friends and my boyfriend.

After returning from college, my relationship with my father started to mend a bit. He was on his second marriage, but it was also headed for divorce. My mom, by this point, was on her third. I’m still not sure what happened to rekindle things, but somehow their hate and discontent for each other turned into a sordid affair. They were both married, sneaking around having an affair with each other, and trying to include us. 

To say my siblings and I were caught in the middle is an understatement. Our parents were open about their affair with us, and weren’t being very careful. They somehow expected us to keep it from their significant others at the time, and wouldn’t listen to me when I told them neither one of them had changed, and this was the worst idea of the century. 

It wasn’t just their children who were burdened with this knowledge: our own kids, their grandkids, were also well aware of what was going on. At their young ages there was no way I could try to keep them from saying anything to whomever they wanted, nor did I think that I should have to manipulate them to keep such a secret. So, I didn’t.

One of my sisters got so invested in their affair, she made it her job to try and get them back together. She was very helpful but I felt like my other siblings and I could see the forest through the trees.

Recently I saw a meme that read, “Getting back together with your ex is like trying to reheat McDonald’s french fries.” While I know this isn’t the case for everyone — some people get back together and the second time is better than the first — my parents were definitely trying to heat up those fries. 

Their affair was intense but short-lived. When it was over, their anger for each other came back tenfold, and their children and grandchildren have taken the brunt. Not to mention that my sister, who was so hopeful they’d get back together, was crushed and felt she was propelled back to that little girl who got her heart ripped out because her parents didn’t love each other anymore. I’m sure it was just as traumatic the second time around.

My father refuses to be around my mother now. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a grandchild’s birthday or a milestone like a graduation. Their kids and grandkids are the ones who are suffering because they can’t seem to get over the fact they took an already tense situation and made it worse. I just hope they don’t decide one day that three times really is a charm and give it another go — I won’t have the strength to deal with it.

There are seven marriages between the two of them, and looking at their situation was a reason I stayed in my marriage so long.

But then I realized something important: I am not my mother. I am not my father. I am me. I get to set the rules and boundaries for my own life — and just because I got a divorce, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go down the same road as they did. Just because they live their life one way doesn’t mean we can’t break the cycle and teach our kids there’s a better way. 

Also, I only like McDonald’s fries when they are fresh, so there’s that.

The post My Parents Had An Affair With Each Other Decades After They Were Divorced appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Becoming Sisters: The Bonds Of A Missed Experience of Motherhood

Trigger warning: child loss

It had been over an hour and a half since my brother had texted me to tell me that his wife, Amy, was headed in for an emergency c-section. I tried not to worry. I tried not to text Ben again. Maybe the baby had to go to the NICU. A million different scenarios ran through my head. None of which included the baby dying. Babies didn’t die during childbirth in 2020.

****
It was impossible not to love Amy. She was like a Disney character: she wore her emotions on the outside and her primary emotion was love. When Amy and Ben got engaged, I was jealous. The “Alanas,” as my mom liked to refer to Amy’s girl gang, made it clear that no one was supposed to wear white to Amy’s bachelorette because it was Amy’s weekend. But I showed up in Las Vegas dressed head to toe in a white jumpsuit. The Alanas all gave me judgy stares. But Amy just embraced me, screaming in her drunken exuberance, “My sister is here! Everyone, my sister is here!” Never having contemplated the possibility of referring to each other as sisters before (or being a hugger myself), I didn’t really understand how I, as the future sister-in-law, had been elevated to such a high status, but I adored Amy, so I went with it.

When Amy announced her pregnancy, I was already pregnant with my second. Amy had only let it slip once that it irked her that I was going to have two children before she had her first. Upon noticing that I wasn’t drinking at a family event, she said, “You’re not fucking pregnant again, are you?”

However, this is where our stories diverge. At 33 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Amy continued to have a normal and healthy pregnancy while I gave birth to a healthy baby girl followed by a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation.

Throughout Amy’s pregnancy, there had been a distance between us. Her unfiltered joy chafed against my depression. After all, I had been deprived of many of the greatest joys of motherhood: nursing your baby peacefully to sleep on your lap; strolling away the days of maternity leave with a sleeping newborn; and the opportunity to get completely lost inside this beautiful being. My memories of the early months of my daughter’s life stood in sharp contrast: watching videos from the chemo room of my nanny bottle feeding my daughter; the fanny pack that hid the drains from my surgery so I could walk discreetly with my daughter; and, most significantly, the feeling that I was always missing out.

****

As Josh and I sat shell shocked on the plane on the way to the hospital to see Amy and Ben, I muttered, “I should have been there more for her throughout her pregnancy.”

“You were fighting cancer,” he said.

We rode the 12 floors up to a miscellaneous floor in the hospital (since Amy had to be moved off the labor and delivery floor), as I continued replaying the events of the previous day.

I kept checking my phone into the wee hours of the night, waiting for that first picture of a little newborn to pop up: eyelids shiny and closed, face a little smushed, all swaddled up in one of those ubiquitous flannel blankets with the stripes. If we were lucky, we might even get to find out a name.

Finally, the screen lit up with a text from Ben. The first thing I noticed was that there was no picture attached. It read, “Amy is healthy. But the baby has no brain function. She wasn’t breathing, but they got her to breathe.”

Hours passed and I lay there wide awake. I texted my brother again, “Any updates?”

“The doctors are still working on the baby. I didn’t even get to see her.” My heart sunk. I felt like I was going to throw up.

“Hang in there. This is shitty. I love you,” I replied, careful not to say it would be okay when I didn’t know if it would be.

“I’m pretty scared,” he said. My little brother had never admitted to being scared before.

****

The scene when we entered Amy’s room was otherworldly. Amy was proudly holding her baby, staring into her daughter’s beautiful face, and for a second I almost forgot that the baby wasn’t alive. Amy was as pale as a sheet, her long hair matted and dishevelled, her protruding belly the only part of her tiny shape visible beneath her large open hospital gown.

“Hey Jen, hi Josh. Thanks, guys, for coming. Means so much. Do you want to see her?”

It was obvious by the slow, monotone candor of her speech that she was on a cocktail of painkillers to numb all different kinds of pain.

Curious, I tentatively approached the baby. When I saw her face, I nearly gasped. She looked just like my daughter, Lyla, except that her hat was covering the abrasions on her head, and her eyelids were a ghastly bruised color due to the brain hemorrhaging.

As Amy placed the baby back in the bassinet, she began to weep. It was the weeping of a person who had been crying for so long that she did not even notice anymore. A nurse came in to roll away the bassinet and Amy kissed the baby longingly on the forehead. “Goodbye forever,” she murmured, as the nurse once again covered the baby’s face with a blanket.

****

The next day, an oddball gang of fairy godmothers assembled at Amy’s and Ben’s house to disassemble any landmines that would trigger Amy.

“Did you check the living room?!” one of us would scream, as we swarmed towards it. “There is a baby swing in the living room!”

But there was no avoiding the landmines in the nursery. Amy had meticulously folded all of Lyla’s hand-me-down outfits, organizing them into drawers lined with ivory paper marked 0-3, 3-6 and 6-12. The piece de resistance was a custom halogen sign with the name “Sloane” emblazoned on it in neon pink letters. We had to snap the sign in half in order to remove it from the wall.

****

One day, out of the blue, Amy texted me, “Hey Jen! I’ve been so wrapped up in my own stuff that I haven’t really checked in. I’m sorry. How are you feeling about the end of treatment? It must be so nice to finally be able to focus on the kids.”

I had long ago resigned myself to the fact that I would never have a sister, but at that moment, I realized that I did. I guess that’s the thing about sisters. The relationship may be fraught at times, but no one is ever there for you like your sister.

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My Mother Broke Quarantine And Now We’re Not Speaking

My husband, my children and I have not left the house, other than to purchase essential items like groceries, pet food, and medicine, since March 12th. We’ve kept this incredibly strict quarantine in part because my husband had a bout of pertussis when my oldest son was three months old; I had been vaccinated in the hospital and passed the immunity to the baby through my breastmilk, and we were safe. His lung were scarred so badly he began to have the asthma attacks he kicked when he was eight. His colds turn to bronchitis. I am recovering from atypical anorexia and likely have a compromised immune system. We simply cannot contract COVID-19. But my mother broke quarantine anyway.

I suspected she wasn’t taking the disease seriously from the beginning. I offered, several times, for her to move in with us when it became apparent this was going to be a long haul. She refused, and said we’d be back to school in two weeks. When my husband offered time and again to mow the lawn, she said the neighbor boy had done it — and when I asked how she’d paid him, she said she’d put the money in the mailbox. I was sketched out, but didn’t mention it. The masks we gave her looked unworn. She’d say she only went to the grocery store, but then mention things she’d bought at the dollar store. But I wanted so badly to trust her. No one wants to think their mother’s lying.

We kept seeing her anyway.

Then We Discovered She Broke Quarantine

It started with a simple phone call. I don’t remember why my husband wanted to talk to her. But she was out looking at a house — with her best friend. Her excuse? She didn’t want to ask me to go, because she knew I would be anxious seeing a realtor (seeing one person wouldn’t have scared me; I just would’ve worn a mask and stood six feet away). But she swore they had driven separately.

Then her story changed. She and her friend had driven together.

In the same phone call, her story changed again: they were having a drink now, on a park bench. They’d purchased the drink at a local restaurant. They were outside. But it was okay because her bestie never went anywhere. She never saw anyone. She kept quarantine.

Except when we checked her bestie’s Facebook, the BFF had checked them into the restaurant as “having brunch.”

Except when we scrolled down through six hundred Baby Boomer kitten memes, we discovered her BFF broke quarantine frequently, flagrantly, and obviously: she had multiple photographs of herself with other Boomers. They were hugging. They were not wearing masks.

We were devastated.

She Put Us All At Risk

My mom is over sixty. She shouldn’t be out of the house, let alone out of the house with her bestie who socializes in groups. The older you are, the higher your chance of hospitalization. While the risk goes up severely at sixty-five, according to the CDC, she’ll be sixty-four this year. She also has a high body mass index, which the CDC says increases her chance of hospitalization as well.

My husband’s moderate asthma puts him at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as well, the CDC also says.

We have three children. What would happen if my husband and I contracted COVID-19 at the same time because she broke quarantine? Who would take care of them? It’s not just a “severe flu,” says a Scary Mommy contributor who has spent 65 days and counting battling the virus. We couldn’t adequately care for them… and she’s our backup caretaker. My husband’s parents live out of state and are in an even higher risk category than my mother. You can’t hire a babysitter to come over and take care of your kids because you’ve got COVID-19.

In other words, if we contracted COVID-19 because my mother broke quarantine, we’d be righteously screwed.

Now We Can’t Trust Her

Based on her attitude before we figured out she was out with her bestie, I highly suspect this isn’t the first time my mom broke quarantine. When I complained that my doctor refused to do telehealth with me, though they would do it with high-risk patients, and they weren’t taking what I would consider proper precautions to prevent transmission, she rolled her eyes. When I forced her to set down a pot of soup she’d made for us and back away so I could pick it up (this was before we had all been isolated for two weeks), her attitude was “humor the madwoman.”

And she lied to us.

Her story kept changing, because she knew we’d be angry. If she had come clean immediately and told the truth, we’d feel differently about it. But because she lied, I feel like we can’t trust her in the future. It’s been more than two weeks since she and her best friend went looking at that house. We haven’t spoken. I don’t trust that she hasn’t gone out.

Her bestie’s also partially blocked me from seeing certain posts on Facebook. She’s a Boomer. She thinks I can’t tell.

She’s Made No Effort to Contact Us Since She Broke Quarantine

My mother lives twenty minutes away. She has three grandsons. When my husband called to confront her, he made a point to say that he hoped, in the two weeks after she broke quarantine, that she’d make an effort to Zoom with and talk to her grandsons.

Nada.

She’s willing to cut off the kids out of spite. I’m not sure what to make of that.

She also never apologized for putting us at risk. She never said she wouldn’t do it again. She expected my husband to apologize to her for calling her out. (My husband did the calling because, well, I wouldn’t have been forceful enough, probably would have caved, and she’d have yelled at me, which would have made me cry and given me a panic attack when I hung up the phone).

We don’t know what to do. I don’t trust her. My husband says he has no ego in the game and doesn’t care if he has to make the first move and somehow, in her eyes, lose face or something. “She just won’t contact us until Doomsday, will she?” he asked.

“Nope,” I replied.

“Because I called her out when she broke quarantine during a global pandemic.”

“Yes.”

We don’t really care about ourselves at this point. (Well, I’m deeply hurt, but I live with it). But the kids? Seriously? No one does that to my kids. No one puts my kids’ health at risk that cavalierly. No one then drops them out of sheer spite, just to somehow punish my husband and me. I want to believe her. I want to reconcile with her. I want to trust her.

But she broke quarantine and lied about it. She put us all at risk. That realtor wouldn’t have scared me. But that 14 day wait to see if we had COVID-19 sure as hell did.

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