Every time people learn of my divorced status as the mother of two children with Down syndrome, they immediately assume my marital failure is due to the unexpected arrival of two children who happen to have a much higher level of need than a regular child. “It’s just natural that under such pressure, parents divorce,” I have been told countless times. However, I don’t think that’s my case. Furthermore, I don’t think that is or should be the rule.
The news of having a child with disability is most definitely a stressful situation for any couple. While the ground shakes under your feet, concerns arise while couples readjust their lives to an unexpected situation. Many questions come up, such as: “Are we capable of fulfilling his needs? Is our health insurance good enough? Does this mean someone needs to stay home full time?” and it goes on like that, the list is endless. However, it’s completely true as well, that despite the tough times, couples that recognize the miracle of life strengthen their relationship and are able to find a mid-point from where they work and fight together for the well-being of their children. That’s ideal, but it doesn’t always happen.
About all this I have to admit I find myself in a very calm and stable stage in which I can openly and honestly say that my children’s disability was not the reason for my divorce. I don’t feel guilty and I don’t feel the need to blame the other parent either. I think that, as happens with other couples, we fell in love with the idea of love, even though we were always aware of our incompatibilities. Obviously, the extra challenges triggered the beginning of the end, but they were never the main reason for the break up.
Another fact, though, is that when as parents you are blessed with children with special needs, life changes drastically and couples change as well. Sadly, the romantic life moves to a second place. Now, people can say whatever they want to, but in real life, it’s impossible to prioritize the needs of the couple when a child is going through so much. To me, during those times, all the love should be focused on the weakest member of the family with the total commitment to work on the relationship and give each other everything and more in selfless ways. Those intentions make love stronger and make us understand there are going to be better times for us as a couple to focus on ourselves as individuals. I have been there and all I can say is that never before in life had I needed so much support, love, and acceptance.
And even though the following concept may sound sexist or stereotypical based on our cultural roots, the mother is the primary caregiver and is the one who deals with the extra pressure. In the majority of these times, the mother is the one going above and beyond to eventually become the therapist, the advocate, the doctor, and much more for the benefit of her child. And at some point, the mother forgets her role as a woman, and even a romantic partner. Now, this is certainly not her fault. Everything is different when her counterpart is there to help.
But women quite often don’t like to receive help, and mothers feel no one can do their job better than they can
I agree and I’m one of those mothers myself. However, I would not blame or fault myself for that, because I think a good partner passes over the excuses and doesn’t wait to be asked to help. A good partner doesn’t wait to be invited because he or she knows his or her value and wants to be part and take responsibility.
In conclusion, I don’t know if I ever will be a romantic partner again. Because I can certainly say that my life is not easy, I am not sure if I have or will ever have the time and energy to start all over again. My children are my priority, and I’m still debating with myself if I have the commitment or even the right to share my love and attention with someone else. However, something that I know for sure is that if I ever give myself the chance or the chance finds me, I have learned that maintaining the life of a couple is a job built for two and we should always expect as much in return as we give. We were not born nor should we become saints due to our personal circumstances. We are simply human beings who deserve love, respect, and support.