Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am 39, a member of Mensa and a highly respected partner in a well-known law firm. I am also a mother of two and divorced for the last ten years. I assume full responsibility for the failure of my marriage, simply because the nature of my work kept me away from home far more often than is acceptable and for longer periods of time than any marriage could possibly sustain. However, I felt it was important to reach my station in the firm, and this became a priority above all else. I even gave up full custody of the children to so that I could devote myself to my profession and the furtherance thereof.
I got to visit with my children whenever time allowed, which sadly was not often and for no longer than a few hours. No overnights or having them for holidays if I was working on high profile cases, and I didn’t raise a fuss when summer visits were cut out when the kids chose to either stay with their father or go to sleepaway camps. My ex remarried a year after we got divorced to a woman with two children the same ages as mine, so their was a cohesive family unit and, over time, the length between visits with the kids widened. As you may have guessed, I never remarried nor did I entertain a social life – it’s always been work first fun last, maybe.
Nine months ago, my son decided to go to college out of state and informed me of his decision over the phone. I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d seen him or spoken to him – my life is extremely hectic – but I told him we could discuss it over lunch if he would meet me in the city. After a pause, he said there was nothing to discuss, that he had already discussed it with his father and stepmother and he was just notifying me as a formality. I was shocked and taken aback at his terse comment and simply wished him well.
When I called my ex to discuss the shabby treatment I got from my son and from his older sister on a number of occasions, he informed me that I had shown little interest in almost every phase of their growth and that they simply viewed me as someone who gave them life and paid for their creature comforts, but looked to him and his wife as their parents. I was furious and let him know that if it weren’t for my income and support, they would never have the luxuries that they did and how dare they be so ungrateful!
Well now nine months have passed without a word or any contact from my kids or my ex. I have had little time, as usual, to visit my son’s campus or attend my daughter’s graduation from her college. I did, however, send them cards with a generous monetary gift. I received not a word of thanks in return. After all the support, gifts and luxuries they enjoyed over the years, this is my payback? All I am to them is a dollar sign and it hurts to think that we have become strangers related only through blood.
My therapist agrees with me and suggests that I consider cutting them off so that they will see what they’re losing. I would like to know whether I should act on his suggestion or if there is another way to rekindle the relationship with my kids.
I must ask to which relationship you are referring? From where I’m sitting, aside from giving birth to them, I cannot find any remnant of a mother-child connection that ever existed! In your pursuit of climbing the proverbial ladder of success, you sacrificed your marriage and estranged yourself from your children. In your absence, your husband has made a life for himself and them, and your children have learned that Mommy is the lady who sends birthday and graduation cards stuffed with cold, hard cash.
All I can say, is thank goodness they had their stepmother for the love and attention that should have come from a hands-on mother; thank goodness they have love, support and hands-on warmth and guidance to help them transition into healthy, functional adults.
These are the things your lust for success cultivated and you have no one to blame but yourself. You have achieved your own selfish goals at the expense of your family.
Was it worth it? Will your business acumen and successes bring you joy? Will your large bank account and bonuses warm you as you get older? Money serves very little purpose in matters of the heart and, in your case, your heart is still a self-serving organ that provides love and comfort only for yourself. I don’t know if there is any chance of your establishing a different, warmer and more loving connection with your children, however, unless you are committed to really trying and willing to act more like their mother and less like a walking bank account, I see little hope for change.
As for the therapist who advised you to “cut them off,” my suggestion is that you find yourself another therapist, one who isn’t living in a bubble and giving advise that will only calcify the mistakes you’ve made in the past. A clinician worth his or her salt would have encouraged you to stop giving so much materially and start giving more of yourself in the form of time, love and attention. This is really what every child wants and needs, not skate boards, iPads or fancy vacations. Begin by telling them how sorry you are for denying them a mother who loves them – and be sincere about it.
If my words are sharp and possibly cutting, it is because you need a strong wake-up call. Seemingly you have been ill advised by a therapist who counts on your weekly forty-five minutes, but only pays you lip service. I do care, and this advice is free, so please save whatever is salvageable while there is still a chance.