Te-Erika Patterson’s boys are doing great in their father’s care, and are prospering in ways that she would not even know how to initiate.
What can I say? Life can change in the blink of an eye. You can either mourn the past or create a way to progress and that’s what I did.
He went his way forging ahead in his career as an attorney and I was left behind, still trudging through undergrad with two kids and a part time job.
I managed to finish college with two kids in tow, move back to Miami to live with my parents while I sought out suitable employment. I hopped from job to job, working at a newspaper and then as a customer service rep and then for a private school as a secretary. I managed to pay my bills by myself and we were happy for a while.
Then I got this itch, this hankering to be more than a secretary. I knew my writing skills could pay my bills but I didn’t know how to start.
I freelanced for a while and then I was offered a job at a Public Relations firm. I took the risk of leaving my secretary position for what I thought would be the gateway to my dream career as a writer.
Two months later, I was fired, and my boss said, “I feel like I’m holding you back.”
For 3 months, I survived without any help from their Dad. A good friend of mine invited me to move to Atlanta and stay with her to look for better employment. When I decided to give it a try, my son’s father asked to keep the kids while I looked for a job. I hesitated at first, but decided that he deserves a chance to care for them. I left them in his care in 2006 and they have lived with him ever since.
That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
I felt like my worth was tied to being able to support us financially and I just couldn’t cut it. Their Dad moved up the ranks in his firm and was extremely stable in his career. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have that same stability. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t find a job and keep it and why the mere thought of doing that made me sick to my stomach.
I’m an entrepreneur, I know that now, but then I felt like a failure because I couldn’t manage to fit into the corporate culture and I honestly never wanted to.
My sons have been with their Dad for 5 years now and I’m still making headway in my career. While they are with him, I have moved from state to state working as a newspaper reporter, a magazine content manager and an Internet marketing manager. I even went to graduate school to learn how to be a counselor. My writing portfolio is long and strong and I have developed a following for my creative work.
After feeling like my dreams could never come true because I had children, I’m on my way to becoming the woman I always thought I would be.
My sons, now 10 and 12, completely support my career. When I began my women’s empowerment blog My Savvy Sisters, and forged ahead with my groundbreaking women’s empowerment outreach, The Rebuild Your Life Project, they made signs to show their support. When it came time for me to move to Los Angeles for the next phase of my career my 10-year-old said to me, “Go ahead Mommy. Change the world.”
My boys are doing great in their father’s care. They are prospering in ways that I would not even know how to initiate. He may not have been the best boyfriend and we may have hated each other’s guts for a while, but I could not have chosen a better father for my children and I don’t regret allowing them to live with him.
Sure, I get backlash from a number of readers, Moms who are struggling with their children and resent their exes for making them do it alone. They say I should have never had children if I couldn’t care for them. They say I’m not a real mother if I’m not with my sons everyday. They call me selfish and wicked and write to me telling me that my sons don’t deserve me.
I understand where they are coming from. In this society there are strict gender roles that are deemed normal and I do not fit in. I have never fit in, anywhere, and I decided to NOT fit in and carve out my own place in this world.
My boys are getting the best care from the parent who is able to do it the best, for now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, this isn’t the end of our story. He had his chance during the first part of their lives to make mistakes, get fired from jobs and figure out his formula for success and now it’s my turn.
There is more than one way to be a good Mom, I know that now. What’s best for our sons is what is best for me. I pay the price of child support, lonely nights aching for the warmth of their touch and experiencing their childhood through Skype and lengthy phone conversations.
Also, if I hadn’t trusted that their father could care for them, I would have never been able to love him again as a person. I love him for the type of father he is. He is the type of man who grills burgers and plans vacations and sends them to summer camp. I sometimes ask my boys, “Can you ask your Daddy if he’ll be my Daddy, too?”
I had no idea the man I loved and hated for all of those years would be my key to having EVERYTHING I have always wanted — beautiful sons who are a gift to this earth and the opportunity to grasp all of my dreams. Every one of us will reap the benefits.
Originally appeared at xoJane
More from our partners at xoJane.com:
*Editor’s note = The title of this post has been modified to be more specific about Ms. Patterson’s legal childcare situation. Thank you to Jonathan for pointing out for us the distinction between the definition of “custody” versus simply a living arrangement.