HUB TELEGRAM — Being a long distance wife was never something I’d considered. I had been a single parent for almost ten years and looked forward to remarrying and having a large family. Never once did I envision that family would be scattered across the country.
At 32, I met Mike: a tall, handsome, African-American Army officer. For three years, we courted on the west coast, as I juggled work, school and raising two boys. When we tied the knot, I was not prepared for how quickly our bond would have to stretch. Two months into our marriage, with a new baby girl, my husband had to report to a new duty station in Arkansas. I made the heartbreaking decision to leave my older sons in California to each live with their fathers.
David was 15 and Tracey was 13. They were California boys attached to their friends, classmates and the good schools I’d worked hard to make sure they could attend. For six years we’d lived in an award-winning school district and I wanted them to maintain continuity of education during a critical time in their lives. Given the ages of my sons and the availability of their other parent, uprooting them was not in their best interest.
Although I wouldn’t be their primary caregiver anymore, the boys would spend long holidays and summers with me, sort of a weekend parent, only the breaks would be more spread out. But my friends and family weren’t ready for a mother to leave her kids. It infuriated me because regardless of how much I prepared a solution for every possible challenge in our new arrangement, I always heard, “But you’re the mother. You can’t leave.” I replied, “They’re with their other parent. I’m not going to Mars.” I hated the double standard placed on mothers. I was caring, planning and providing for my children the way I always had.
As an only child growing up in the 80’s, I dreamed of having a lot of siblings. I was fascinated with families with loud dinners, and backyard cookouts. I idealized television shows like Family Ties, where the older brother always teased his sisters. I exalted the Cosbys because they represented everything I thought a family should be.
After my first two relationships failed, I lost hope that I’d marry again. The first time, I’d married too young to escape my abusive father. I left my second relationship after six difficult years. I chose what was best for my kids and always prioritized their needs despite how unpopular some of my choices seemed to others.
When I met my husband Mike and we decided to start our lives together, my children were my biggest concern.