Leaving Guilt Behind to Move Forward as a Single Mama - By Illiah Manger for MotherHustle
“Turning out her bedside lamp, I tucked in the covers around her shoulders with the knowledge that it would be her last night with a whole family.”

We spent weeks silent.

Then, we talked in short spurts after the girls were in bed and couldn’t listen to discussions about the future of us. Traveling in week-long intervals, he left for the Southwest for his job. Nothing had changed, but everything was different.

While he was away, I tested myself – could I really do this single mom thing?

Finally, he came home. We decided on his move-out date. We agreed on the way we would tell the girls.

The night before, my feet each feeling like 50-pound weights, I kept to my daily routine and slowly climbed the stairs to check on the girls.

First, C.  I opened the door to her dreamy lavender room I painted four years earlier so that she’d finally sleep in her own bed at three and a half. Turning out her bedside lamp, I tucked in the covers around her shoulders with the knowledge that it would be her last night with a whole family.

I pressed my cheek to hers, brushed her long hair, the same color as his, back from her face, knowing what the next day would mean for her. Reliving my own past has added trauma to this messy process of detangling the life we built.

Tomorrow, she would learn that her family and her life would be forever changed.

I saw what the following days held for her as I gazed at her peaceful, beautiful, angelic face – confusion, doubt, emptiness, questioning. Wondering if we loved her. Asking herself if she was to blame. Instantly, more responsibility for her three-year-old sister as they navigated the shuffle between homes together.

Defined by Merriam-Webster, guilt is the feeling of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.

Guilt, defined by me, is the regret of participating in the laziness and passivity and denial of the last five years of our marriage and the life-long trauma we’ve caused our children as a result.

The self-talk ensues: there is no perfect family. Mistakes are human. This is God’s way of course correcting and gifting us the opportunity for a healthier, happier life. Joy is less meaningful without sorrow.

Divorce done well doesn’t actually break a family apart.

Adversity teaches kids adaptability, resilience and strength. As long as we lead by example, it teaches them grace and kindness under the most horrible circumstances.

Focusing on creating the perfect family erased the love that was once between us. It added stress and caused resentment in our failure to meet the other’s expectations.

Guilt is just another name for perfection, and I am replacing this feeling of blame and inadequacy with focus on the small moments of joy, like the dinnertime dance party in our kitchen last night.

MotherHustle panelist Illiah Manger is the creative mind and chief designer behind C&V, where she collaborates with daring business owners with heart. She is known for creating clarity and focus while allowing her clients to co-pilot the design process. Illiah wholeheartedly believes in brands that are intimate and designed to tell a story. She is also the co-founder of Elevate & Cultivate, an online community for design professionals to strengthen their skills, get feedback on their work and make friendships stronger than Gotham Ultra.

Outside of C&V and Elevate & Cultivate, Illiah is a paper lover, mom of two daughters, earl grey tea drinker, cookie hunter and typography lover. Find her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

Article photo credit: Elisenda Llinares Photography


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