I was both pleased and shocked to have two pieces from DivorcedMoms.com make The Huffington Post last week. The first one, "8 Lessons Every Newly Single Woman Should Learn", had gotten great feedback from both its original post on Divorced Moms and later when it was picked up by Maria Shriver. And not just from people who knew me.
"Dear child of my girlfriend, Lose the attitude! Your father may be your father but guess what, he now has visitation. I will be the one taking care of your daily needs. I will feed you when your father doesn't pay his support. I will be the one who has to comfort your mother when you're being a spiteful teenager. I will make sure you get to school on time. I will be the one that makes sure your homework is finished. I will have all the responsibilities of being your father, without your love and devotion, and I will be happy to do it because I love your mother."
"Best. Comment. Ever! The article just reeked of typical teenage self-importance and egocentricity."
"Stay away from single moms I guess. Thanks, snotty girl. :)"
"Sweet Jesus what a petulant little brat."
"Child... balance #2 against #8. Your mother has a right to build a life with a companion who will be there with her as a partner until death. That is not going to be you. That would not have been you if your mother had stayed with your biological father, and it's not going to be you if she never gets married again. If your mother chooses a companion for the rest of her life, that relationship will come 'first' in her (and his) life. You are expected to leave your mother's home and build your own independent life, with or without a companion.
You, child, should take a step back and learn about healthy life companionships from your mother and her man. If they are putting their relationship first, and it's that which allows them to build a stable, safe home for any children involved, they are doing the best thing possible for the children. If what you are learning from your parents is that partners are temporary and expendable, I feel sorry for you. Your parents are messing up big time, and they are teaching you to pass it forward to your own children, who will expect to come 'first', while you treat your life partner with disdain and as something disposable."
When Divorced Moms originally ran the piece, I included a picture of a pre-teen boy. I have two sons, with whom I had talked about these issues and the idea of what they would want someone to know. What were their fears, at 13 and 9?
"Love this! I have two boys and it really hit the mark:). Well done."
When HuffPost ran it, they included a picture of a young teen girl. Otherwise there were no differences in the article, which is entirely gender-neutral. Intentionally.
Maybe it's a difference in audience, though Divorced Moms works closely with HuffPost to share appropriate pieces for their Divorce section, so there's certainly some crossover in readership.
I'd like to respond to a few things, though:
1) A grown-ass woman wrote this piece, not a teenage anything. I'm sure DM and HP would both be willing to run a cogent, well-written article by a teenager, but that's not terribly common. And that's not what happened here, hence the author link in the article.
2) It wasn't written with boys or girls in mind. I was careful not to make it about my sons, even though I did choose a picture of a boy. That's what's usually in my mind when I'm writing about parenting through divorce. The gender bias that was inferred from this piece blew my damn mind.
3) If it has a tone of self-importance, that's because the voice of the piece is a kid. Children are egocentric by their very nature. Any empathy they've developed in childhood is comparatively limited, and a lot of it is thrown out the window in adolescence. They are self-centered and moody and demanding. It's part of the process of growing into their independent adulthood. Even the best teens can be utter assholes when the time is right.
4) This is an article about dating, not marriage. Dating doesn't always mean going to dinner three times a week with the next person you'll marry. I never, ever take a shot at step-parents or those who fill the spaces of a missing parent to the best of their ability. That's a unique relationship, though, and will never replace the bond of a parent—no matter the reason for the absence. Ask my step-dad.
5) All I said was that Dad wasn't around as much as the kid would like for him to be. The kid would like Dad to be living in the house again, generally. The kid would like to be able to see both Mom and Dad all the time, on demand. That's not how divorce works. That doesn't mean Dad is a deadbeat or absentee father. I know many non-custodial fathers who maintain great relationships with their kids. And if Dad is deceased, no one will ever be able to fully fill that void.
6) The only unconditional love is that of a parent for child. Period. Mom will always love her child unconditionally, no matter how much she fucks it up. If Mom is successful at her job, she will raise the kid to be a self-sufficient, healthy, productive member of society. But that child will always be an integral part of her life, even well into adulthood. That doesn't mean there's not room for anyone else, and sometimes other relationships take priority, but Mom will love her babies no matter what. You, Mr. Dude, will have to work for that love, the same way Mom will have to work for yours. That one's not guaranteed. Ask my ex-husband.
After the feedback became a little snarky, Queen Frostine messaged me from Paris to say, "Yay! You've been trolled!"
The truth is, any readership is better than no readership. I don't mind the comments, even when they seem so blatantly misconstrued. I know from my own experience that for every person who takes the time to post a response, there are twenty others who just read it and keep going.
I'll keep talking, whether or not anyone is listening.