While doing dishes with me one evening last week, my SO asked about friends of ours who are going through a divorce. I related what non-confidential information I had, and he turned back to the sink, shaking his head, and said, “Boy, she sure didn’t make things any easier for herself, did she?”
I froze in disbelief and my eyebrows shot up so far that they disappeared into my hairline. The water was running and he had his back to me, so he wasn’t aware of my immediate, unfiltered reaction. I bit my tongue and counted to ten in my head, very, very slowly. Finally I spoke, carefully and evenly: “She didn’t leave him to make things easier for herself, you know. She left because she wasn’t able to live in that situation any longer.” He seemed to consider this for a moment, then nodded agreeably.
That comment has lingered in my mind ever since. In each of the four couples we know who are recently divorced or divorcing, the woman has been at home for six years or more, caring for children who are now in elementary school. In three of the four couples, the woman is the one who initiated the divorce. No woman chooses to leave the only source of financial support she and her children have in order to make her life easier. In truth, the suddenly single woman with young children who has been out of the workforce for several years faces a daunting, uphill ordeal to secure even the most basic living requirements; the fact that she finds this path the lesser of two evils speaks volumes about how difficult she found her marriage to be.
The persistence in our society of this perspective on stay-at-home mothers boggles the mind, and its casual articulation by my own partner is a bit disconcerting. Parenting ain’t for sissies, under any circumstances. Single parenting by agonized choice requires a level of courage and purpose that makes serving in the Marines look like a walk in the park.