The thing about divorce with kids is that you start too many sentences with “the thing about divorce with kids.”
Another thing about divorce with kids is that, at the peak of the fight, when your love has somersaulted into hatred, you start thinking, “My life would be so much better if she wasn’t around anymore.” Your fevered, anguished mind takes you to dark places, where you fantasize about getting a phone call that the plane your ex-wife was on plunged into the Pacific. Or the gym says she had a massive aneurysm on the treadmill and was dead before she hit the floor.
You don’t want her to suffer, necessarily. You just want her gone.
Because then, the constant source of your unyielding stress suddenly evaporates. No more haggling over dissolution and finances, no more forced interaction with the living embodiment of your failure. And you have total autonomy over how and where you raise your kids.
You’re not proud of these thoughts, but you acknowledge them. And then, as the stress eases, the parameters of your new life coalesce, and you can think clearly about what’s best for your kids, you realize that losing a mom is a terrible thing for any kid to endure. And growing up without one is even worse.
Which brings me to No Mother’s Day.
Last Sunday was an attempt by Christy Turlington and Every Mother Counts to raise awareness of the horrid rates of mortality among women in childbirth. The strategy was for moms to decline to celebrate Mother’s Day and “disappear” for a day, in effect doing nothing in order to urge people to do something.
This was an intriguing idea. Our myriad media outlets are clogged with causes, and most people do outrageous things to grab even a few seconds of attention. Stand in front of a tank! Pose naked! Throw tea in the harbor! Doing the opposite is a bold attempt to zag when they think you’ll zig, but will it have a lasting effect? Historically, people haven’t rallied around slogans like “Remember the Nothing!”
Magda and I must have been eerily prescient about this effort, because we agreed weeks ago to switch Mother’s and Father’s Days in order to accommodate our summer travel schedules. So on Sunday the boys hung out with me, we saw Aardman’s Pirates movie (a big hit with all three of us), bought and assembled a charcoal grill, cooked dinner on it, and then spent an hour burning stuff in it. It was such an absorptive Father’s Day that I almost forgot to call my mom, who was busy erasing my name from the will when I finally got through.
I like how No Mother’s Day idea achieved it’s primary purpose of raising awareness of needless maternal deaths, because lots of famous people publicized the campaign. But I’m still skeptical. Where does it go now? Raising awareness is one thing, but inspiring people to action is another. I mean, I’m aware that my college reunion committee is raising funds for our class gift, but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually give anything.
(Of course I’ll give something. Bad example.)
I wonder how they think this experiment in anti-marketing marketing worked out. And how they think awareness and petitions and such will ultimately translate to tangible help. I also wonder how much of this help will be improved birthing conditions, and how much will be adequate birth control and education, and how much chance either has to find traction in countries where these mortality rates are the highest and/or women are systematically subjugated.
Regardless of wonderment, I’ll be watching and doing what I can to help. Because my sons have no idea how different all our lives would be if their mother wasn’t around. And every kid deserves not to find out.
Read more from Doug on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.
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