In honor of Father’s Day and Pride Weekend in Seattle this weekend, I wanted to Republish this very meaningful piece. Go forth and be kind to one another!
I Have A Little Something To Say
With the aftermath of the horrific Orlando mass shooting, Mother’s Day in May, Father’s Day just behind us and Seattle (along with many other cities) gearing up for the Gay Pride Celebrations, it brings a question to my mind. A question I have been trying to figure out for a long time back to the forefront of my mind. Why does societal pressure have so much power?
Could it be anger because another person doesn’t believe as they do? Is it embarrassment or fear, if so, of what? Is it because someone else’s sexual preference or family situation is just plain wrong, if so, according to who? These are topics of conversations I have been involved in lately.
Some people have agreed with my point of view, some not so much in the beginning, but at least keep an open mind and see all points of view, and then there are the ones who think they are right and, well, that’s it…..end of discussion.
I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and freedom of speech providing harm is not inflicted on others who disagree, mentally or physically or otherwise. I am naturally an introvert, have never enjoyed conflict and I can confidently say that I am not going to join a debate team.
If someone has a different view, I may not be persuaded to agree, but will respect their rights and expect the same in return.
I will let you know how I feel.
However, being an introvert does not mean that I don’t have lines drawn in the sand. I tend to get a little louder if a couple of things happen.
When I know for a fact what I am talking about because of personal experience, only to be told I don’t. Also, Heaven forbid, you wrong someone near and dear to my heart.
With that said, I have some very strong beliefs and opinions on the pressures and judgments that can come from society if someone succumbs to them. And, quite frankly, it’s so easy to do without even knowing you’re doing it.
I have been that person on certain issues in the past, such as “taboo” subjects you just don’t talk about, not associating with someone because they act a certain way or thinking two adults can’t be friends after divorce.
I had to do a lot of living, learning and experiencing to really open my eyes and mind.
Society’s perception of a family was a reality for my siblings and me at a very early age. Despite the fact that my parents were divorced when I was very young, each remarrying and each having children with their new spouses, “half” and “step” were not in the realm of our vocabulary.
My siblings and I have always referred to each other simply as “brothers and sisters”. If asked how many children are in my family, I would simply respond, “I have 5 brothers and a sister”.
To this day when I find myself in a conversation about family and siblings and it continues for a substantial length of time, an explanation will be needed. Just as I feel myself at this very moment fighting the urge to draw you a diagram.
My standing comment when someone gets a little confused, is that I feel like I should prepare a PowerPoint presentation or Flow Chart to explain it all.
Imagine the confusion on peers’ faces when being out with your “step” mom and introducing her as your mom, then next thing you know you run into that very same group or individual with your “real” mom and when asked, telling them “this is my mom.” This actually happened many times.
Pressures have always existed.
I remember being very young and two of my brothers and I had a little pow-wow and decided we were no longer going to call our step-mom by her first name. Ok, this is going to need a little explanation; parents were married, had a boy, then a girl (Me) then another boy, divorced, each remarried and had two children each with new spouses.
The story actually gets a little deeper, but that is not important. After our little meeting of the minds, we all walked into the kitchen and I believe we simply said, “Hi, Mom.” And in no way has this taken away any love or respect to the mom who actually gave birth.
When I was a little girl, I always thought I would grow up, get married, have a big wedding in a big church with a long isle, a wedding dress with a long train and beautiful back, have children (I always wanted 3) and remain married into our Golden Years. As it turns out, I got four out of five right.
I was married in 1989 nearing my 24th birthday; we met at work and did not have a very long “courtship” before we got engaged. The wedding plans started immediately and we had that beautiful (somewhat large) wedding in a beautiful Catholic Church. This church was chosen because it is in my home town of Bloomington, Indiana.
Growing up I was always intrigued by this church and had many friends who attended grade school there. On several occasions I imagined this particular church would be a beautiful place for a wedding and I feel very lucky I got to find out that indeed, it does.
We were married and at age 24 our first son was born. When he was a little over a year old, my husband and I put together a timeline as to when to have more children. Just a side note, when we were dating he mentioned he had always thought he wanted five children!
Anyway, we came to a mutual decision that we were going to wait until we could afford it. It wasn’t until one of his uncles said, “If you are going to wait until you can afford it, the one you have now will be an only child.” We took his advice; son number two was born approximately 22 months later and son number three, 13 months behind him.
A little family history.
Backing up a little, as I mentioned in a prior article, about a month prior to our second sons birth, I came home from work one day and announced to Jim (my husband) that I felt the strong urge to quit working and become a stay-at-home mom. I know some of the thoughts that went through his mind at that moment.
I am sure there were many and being the wise man he is, he chose not to share them all; primarily, his thought was he needed to start climbing that “corporate ladder”.
I became that stay-at-home, PTA, Room Mom, Soccer Mom, Football Mom, etc. I know I am one of the fortunate to have been allowed the circumstances to have done so. To this day, I would not trade those days for the world! I loved being involved in their sports, home when they got home from school and (much to my youngest son’s dismay) involved at the school a couple times or so a month during the day.
I was in no way what society would label a “hovering mom”. The boys had their room to grow and mature. My husband and I always let them know what was expected of them and instilled the value of family, honesty, responsibility that both of our families instilled in us. In all actuality, they were pretty easy kids to raise.
The boys got older entering into middle and high school and it became pretty evident to me that the need for me to stay at home was not as essential as it had become in the previous fourteen years. We were now living in Seattle, WA having moved to this area in 2002.
I know it sounds like life was perfect and we were the little fairy tale family. But like any couple, we had obstacles to work through and no, we didn’t always agree on everything. He traveled a lot due to work, I went back to school because I was in the nonprofit world and decided to go into the dentistry field and the boys continued to be busier than ever.
I can only speak for myself, but I know that I felt something was growing between us. I had come to the conclusion that it was just because we were always so busy and all the pressures from “keeping up with the Jones’’” was just too much stress on us both. And, today I think this still played a good part in the distance between us.
Change happens, what are you gonna do?
It was the Holiday Season and after the boys got off to school, I was headed out to finalize Christmas shopping.
I did notice that my husband was still home, not close to leaving for work. This was rarity as he always left for the office early to avoid rush hour traffic. As I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes, he asked me to grab another cup of coffee and join him in the living room. It was then I knew, something deeper between us was wrong.
He began by telling me he felt that we should probably separate. I was not completely taken off guard with his thoughts, as I too had been wondering if a little separation was needed. His next statement, however, took me completely off guard. He said, “And eventually, get a divorce.”
It was probably a split second that felt like an eternity, my first thought was, “What does he mean, how are we jumping from separation to divorce so quickly?” I remember thinking that, yes, things had been a little tense for quite some time, but we loved each other and our family we had created together should be worth working to save. Something just wasn’t making sense in my mind. We both held family in such high regard and the man was never known to be quitter.
I can’t recall my exact words, but knowing me, I had something to say about that. I do remember, very vividly, that when I finally asked why divorce, he then let me know that he was pretty sure he was gay. Simply put, I only thought the suggestion of divorce took me back a few steps.
The thought that was first and foremost in my mind was all about how we were going to tell the boys, how could they ever cope with this information at such a formative time in their lives and what were we ever going to say to explain this all to them? And, without a doubt this was Jim’s main concern as well.
I look back on it all now and other than putting my concern on our children and their well-being, I see that I let all the societal pressures swoop in on me and became somewhat of a selfish person. My mind went to questions such as; “MY life has been completely changed without my input”, “How can I possibly tell MY family?”, “What am I going to say to MY friends?” and I knew in my head that I was the only person in the world this had ever happened to.
It’s all how we choose to look at our past.
Natural reaction or not, I see now that I had a very naïve, selfish attitude in the beginning and worried way to much what others would think. Over time, I came to the realization that I was not even taking into consideration what he might be struggling with and probably had been for a long time. I cannot speak on his behalf and furthermore that is not my story to tell.
This was the Holiday Season of 2006. We both agreed things in the home would remain “normal” through the Holidays for the boy’s sake. We would sit them down and talk after the New Year. We did just that, continuing to talk amongst ourselves when the time was appropriate and of course not going to family members either. After the New Year came and went, it was time to let the boys know we were going to separate and Dad was moving out.
We had decided not to unload everything on them at once, and continue to let things settle between us as far as building a new type of relationship. You see, no matter what was coming down the pike, our boys always have been our utmost concern in this transition. We were going to do everything we could to create a “new normal” for them.
Although, Jim came once or twice weekly for dinner and to visit with us, I continued to bury all information from everyone in fear of actually uttering those words, “We were divorcing and Jim was gay.”
He had found himself a support group for fathers; I continued to say nothing to anyone. He had a flight planned for several months in advance anyway to fly to Florida to visit his family, so he was going to talk them at that time.
Eventually, it was time for someone to shake me up a bit….I needed it. He put forth the effort to find me a support and let me know it was time to reach out to someone in my family.
Realizing: No, I am not the only one!
I researched the support group for spouses a little, but maybe not enough. I remember pulling up to church where the meeting was held and I sat in the car for several minutes. I just couldn’t get myself to believe there really were enough women to need a support group for this situation. Much to my surprise, when I walked in, the room was full; everyone was warm, welcoming and nonjudgmental. And, it was a mixture of both men and women. Finally, I was going to tell my story and say it out loud.
The only other task at hand was to let my family know. Again, Jim was for support and suggested I write both parents a letter, but to call my oldest brother first and let him know the letters were going out. The letters were written and I remember going a little early to pick boys up from football practice and making that phone call.
After a deep emotional conversation with my brother, it was decided he would receive a copy of each parent’s letter prior to my mailing them, as we both knew there was a chance he would be their first point of contact. My letters were both quite lengthy but in a nut shell, I let them know what we were going through, how we planned to handle it and when they were ready to please call. My parents are all very beautiful, wonderful people as are my siblings, but I am a daughter and a sister, naturally they would have concern. As I got my story out to more and more people I made it very clear that I will talk about it, but only about how we can all make this a positive. As it stands today, I am still family to his family as much as he is to mine.
Life does move on, shouldn’t we?
Jim has found a partner who is a wonderful man who is kind to me and most importantly, wonderful to our boys. Now, the first time we met, he, Jim and I met for lunch and I am sure his partner would agree it was a little awkward at best in the beginning. After the first time Jim introduced him to the boys, he start accompanying Jim over for dinner or to watch football on Sunday. Again, it just became normal.
As far as the divorce goes, we gave the meaning to the words “taking our time” a new meaning. We filed for divorce in March of 2010, agreed that we would be amicable and handle it all ourselves. I didn’t even go to the courthouse to have things finalized and in mid-July, I received a text that simply said, “Congratulations, you are legally now a free woman, the divorce is final.” Although, not everyone sees the humor, it to this day remains an inside joke.
I built up my confidence and started getting my feet wet in that whole dating scene thing. That scene has never really been one I enjoy immensely, nor have I ever been very good at it. Subsequently, I met my soul-mate as well. We met for a cocktail one day on a weekend and have been together since that first date in 2010. He not only has support me and my desires over the last five and a half years, but also has been wonderful to the boys.
On the issue of a “new normal” a few years ago, I went to my boyfriend posed the idea of Jim and his partner coming over for Thanksgiving. Keep in mind my boyfriend and Jim’s partner had never met. I would be lying if I wasn’t asked, “You want what?” Being the man that he is, he agreed and we have done so every year since.
My personal thoughts on Dad’s.
My post from a year ago, Father’s, puts my feelings in such simple words, it read:
“So I can’t let Father’s Day go by without recognizing those men out there who might not be biological fathers, but have come in to a child’s life no matter how old that child is. Not that you are there to replace a father but to add to their life. I feel so Blessed that my boys have those men in their lives. Special thanks go out for two men in particular.
You are amazing!”
So, you see, I can speak on societal pressures and what they can do to you or a relationship if you let it happen. It’s not always easy to stand up and not let others destroy what is important to you. My boyfriend made a statement to me on our first date when we both knew we wanted to be together. He said to me, “Keep in mind, there are people out there in this world who are going to constantly try to ‘get into our kitchen’. But as long as we are honest with each other, don’t hurt anyone else and it works for us, we’ll be fine.”
If nothing else, I have had the privilege to tell my story once again. The major change now is, I am proud to tell it over and over. Where I used to not want to tell people my ex-husband is gay, I now can’t wait to throw it out there and watch for a reaction.
Seattle’s Gay Pride starts this Friday, June 23rd , if we weren’t already committed to something we would be down celebrating the festivities with all. I pray that all are safe, enjoy the festivals and be kind to one another.