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Facing the terrifying decision to get divorced when you have kids

If one more person tells me that divorce is the easy answer to an impossible marriage, I might just punch them in the gut.

That’s what they’re doing to me after all, by thinking they have any idea what I’ve gone through and the paralyzing decisions I’ve faced about doing what’s best for my family.

Divorce is never the easy way out, particularly with a young child. Single motherhood is a long slog marathon through difficulties married parents can hardly imagine. What do single moms do if they’re laid off from work? What do they do if they have to work late and no one is available for backup child care? How do they find contentment and relief, when one day blurs into the next and there’s no one to talk with about bedtime, discipline and even the utter silliness of childhood? They make it, because they have to. I’ve made it, because when I stood at the crossroads, the ache of constant marital betrayal far outweighed the ache of single motherhood.

That’s the decision. Which horrible choice aches less? Which choice has less collateral damage for all involved? Which choice is more like a battle, and less like a full-fledged war?

I made the choice to get scrappy and battle — like 12 million other single moms — because I was tired of living in a war zone. I was tired of seeing my baby girl’s lips quiver with uncertainty when she saw mommy crying. I was tired of living out the worst kind of example — that it’s acceptable to stay in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship.

I will never claim that my divorce was good for my child. It wasn’t. She spent three months crying at bedtime for her daddy, and still feels slightly confused by our arrangements. As she grows older, I’m certain she’ll grapple with the reality of her parents’ failures. That said, I’m at peace with my decision because I know it was better than the alternative, which was for my daughter to grow up with an unhealthy example and the inability to verbalize that there was something painfully and insidiously amiss in my sad and lonely marriage.

Moms, if you’re considering divorce, it really will be easier to stay. However, you’ll know it’s time to leave when the starkness and battle of single motherhood pales in comparison to the war of an unhealthy and unchangeable marriage.

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