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If this blog were a pig, it would have unearthed its first truffle

August 23, 2010

When I first read Moxie’s post about missing our boys while they were vacationing with me, I understood how she must have felt. But it didn’t totally resonate. Neither one of us wants to intrude on the other’s Kid Time, but we also know that the mobile lines of communication are almost always open. So why profess such deprivation and not call more often?

Then Moxie addressed exactly that by writing in the comments that she doesn’t call because “I know I can’t keep myself emotionally neutral on the phone, and I don’t want to make them responsible for my feelings of sadness while they’re gone. So sometimes I don’t call at the moments I most need to (for myself) so I don’t put it on them.”

This was a total revelation to me, perhaps because standard Y-chromosome genetics have made certain instincts in my life refreshingly basic:

Man hungry? Man eat.

Man itch? Man scratch.

Man miss kids? Man call kids. And even if the house feels empty, I always feel—perhaps hubristically—that I can fake it.

I mentioned this to a random sampling of cousindom last week, and the men felt pretty much the same way I did. But each woman said, “Yep. I get that. It’s a woman thing.” A woman thing that is most likely exacerbated by there being only manfolk at the other end of the phone.

That I’m only now learning this might shed some light on the communication bottleneck that helped doom our marriage. It might also make me admit that, had I learned about her feelings about calling while we were married, I probably would have reacted with incredulity and set about trying to “fix” her.

Now, not only am I aware of it, I know it’s my job merely to sympathize, even if I can’t empathize. And I also know this blog is already paying dividends by helping me get to know her all over again, perhaps better than I ever did.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    August 23, 2010 10:26 am

    I think it may be, perhaps, more of a personality thing than a gender thing. I’m a female and a mom who travels regularly, and I call my son (who is 5) at least twice a day when I’m away and/or he’s with his father. So it’s not totally a woman thing. That said, whatever a thing it is for anyone, it’s (obviously) always a good thing to communicate concern or confusion about boundaries and expectations. Etc. It seems this blog is an exercise in exactly that.

  2. Leigh permalink
    August 23, 2010 2:13 pm

    I totally get this. And I have always called anyway. BUT! I will say one of the biggest fears I have, being the single mother of a boy, is that he is feeling responsible for my happiness. The whole “making him the man of the house” and like a partner on some level, is a real risk. So when I do call, I try not to let him know how much I miss him. Knowing that if I do communicate that I miss him terribly, I want him to feel loved but he might feel depended on instead…

  3. August 23, 2010 7:01 pm

    [nods]

  4. Melissa permalink
    August 24, 2010 12:25 am

    I’ve seen and what happens when those calls come in. I was the child getting phone calls from a sad/lonely mom, or calling her from dad’s and being guilt tripped for having a good time. I’m also the aunt who has had to drive nieces home because their mom (and/or grandma) puts her own loneliness on them. It’s important to allow children to be happy, and to show them that separation doesn’t have to equal loneliness. I admire Moxie for knowing she would be causing the boys stress by calling.

  5. Carrie permalink
    August 24, 2010 12:52 am

    When I went through my own divorce, I needed very strict rules and boundaries just to address this sort of situation. Call at a specific time, everything very black and white. That idea that the rules were there and interactions with each other could become less emotional made it so much easier. Without the ability to get angry about things it allowed a peace to grow again between us. I highly suggest structure, structure, structure until divorcing couples are able to find their new normal.

  6. August 24, 2010 7:18 am

    A call at bedtime is okay, as long as you’re going to be consistent about it — if you have to get up from a late dinner or duck out of a corporate reception or interrupt something else you were doing on your own time, do it. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Better yet: Have the kids call you on your cell as part of bedtime routine. That way, you aren’t calling when they’re staying up an extra 15 minutes to see how the movie ends.

    But I would have felt random calls during the day to be very similar to the “And make sure he doesn’t go outside barefoot if it snows” remarks upon drop-off. Are you checking in or are you checking up? If co-parenting works, then you have to trust that the kids are okay with the other parent, and that you may be interrupting something special.

    Your parents love the kids, too. How would you feel about them calling several times a day to see how the kids are doing and tell them how much they miss them?

  7. Sarah permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:19 pm

    wow, bit of a watershed moment. I could never understand why my ex got so upset when I would call the kids, he constantly tells me its disruptive and it just upsets them. I have always wanted to talk to them because I don’t want them to think I have abadoned them and I have never been able to look at it any other way but having read this I now understand that perhaps sometimes I am making those calls for the wrong reasons….and believe me that is quite an accomplishment for a stubborn scorpio like me!

  8. Alison permalink
    August 24, 2010 4:46 pm

    I know this has been asked before on Moxie’s blog but I don’t remember the answer, and I ask out of a deep interest – if it offends, I count on a generous dose of forgiveness.

    My wondering is, if there is still capacity to learn new things about each other, and new ways of relating, why was there no capacity for sustaining the marriage partnership? I read one of the media pieces in which LOD commented that you were a “good match, just not a good team” and I find myself wondering at what point does a good match decide that learning (or re-learning) to be a team is just not possible.

    And nosier still, when these moments happen (“oh, THAT’S why you don’t call…”), do you wonder the same thing, or is there really a deep peace that All is As It Should Be and that these aha moments just would not have been possible in the context of co-habitating – only in co-parenting?

    So loving this experiment of yours. Write on.

  9. askmoxie permalink*
    August 24, 2010 4:58 pm

    Alison, I don’t have any doubts that ending the marriage was the best thing. For me, in fact, these moments of greater understanding are even more confirmation that it was right to end it–understanding doesn’t mean “wanting to participate in,” if that makes any sense. Understanding just means less friction as we work together on parenting the kids, and less resentment, but it doesn’t create fondness. In fact, knowing that neither of us have any desire to be together makes everything less loaded.

    I’m not sure if I’m expressing things adequately.

    • Alison permalink
      August 24, 2010 5:09 pm

      “It doesn’t create fondness.” That’s really the gist of it, isn’t it? I am finding that the Small Child Phase erodes fondness pretty quickly. Causal? perhaps, but not necessarily I guess. Marriage for us is a lot of fondness-chasing actually, and as I read you saying it, I knew it was true that understanding each other is not at all related to fondness-building.

      Helpful answer, truly. I’ll go think on fondness-building.

  10. the milliner permalink
    August 30, 2010 10:45 am

    Wow. Well that’s a light bulb moment if I’ve ever read one. Truly wow. Understanding these kinds of differences – and recognizing them as that, just differences, not good or bad – is so key in effective co-parenting, weather you’re in a relationship together or not.

    It’s something we (together) struggle with. Especially when it’s regarding an emotional reaction to a situation rather than an intellectual one. This post is such a good reminder that it’s so important to try to get to a place of emotional neutrality on some issues, so you can at least understand the other person’s POV and sympathize, if not empathize with it.

    Just feeling like my partner sympathizes with my POV, even if he doesn’t agree with my approach or understand it entirely, or feel it, goes a long way in me feeling accepted/respected for who I am as a parent and person, as well as opening me up to be sympathetic, if not empathetic to his experiences and needs as a parent that I don’t share or agree with or totally understand.

    Good on you Moxie to have the wisdom to differentiate when something is for your good vs. the kids’ good. This is constant work I think and maybe one of the most important things parents can do for their kids.

    A truffle indeed…
    (And how can you not love a blog post equated to truffles. Really!)

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