Mother's Day is like Christmas. While commercials would lead us to believe money can buy happiness, the idealized pictures of family bliss flashing across our television screens are often not reality.
For many affair survivors, Mother’s Day is a difficult trigger to get through, rather than a day of celebration to anticipate with joy. Allow me to back up and tell my own story in the hopes that it will offer you some perspective and positive coping strategies.
It bears noting that from the very first mother’s day, where I myself was a mother, I began my general distaste for the second Sunday in May. Many of you, who have met and/or spoken personally with my husband, Brian Bercht, hold him in the highest regard, and I don’t want to change that. He is a great man. But he didn’t start out quite as mature and insightful as he is now. Never mind the big blunder of the affair, there were a number of smaller blunders early on in our marriage (and I’ve made my share of marital blunders too.) I’m happy to say, we’ve both become significantly wiser and more mature over the years.
I looked forward to my first mother’s day (4+ months pregnant with our first child), with eager anticipation of how I would be celebrated by my new baby’s father, who clearly through my eyes was thrilled that I was carrying his child, and watching my body blossom into a tent. Yes, you guessed it, while my husband called his own mother, he did not so much as say the words “Happy Mother’s Day,” to me and when the pastor at church asked all mothers to stand, and I of course stood up, my husband sitting next to me, tugged at me to sit back down, because “I was not a mother yet.” The fight was on, and my distaste for mother’s day had begun.
Fast-forward seventeen years, and the day after mother’s day became the day my heart was shattered by an emotional nuclear bomb … my husband had been having an affair. That day and everything associated with it (flowers, spring weather, cards, commercials, etc.) all became emotional triggers, which in the future had the ability to take me from happy to depressed in a nanosecond.
The first anniversary of our affair D-day was the most difficult. It got better and better after that, and for many years now, I have stopped associating Mother’s Day with my husband’s affair. Frankly, I don’t even think about his affair anymore … ever, and I hope that gives you hope.
When we feel depressed, it is generally because we are believing as true, things that are false. The honorable job I did as a mother was in no way diminished by my husband’s choice to have an affair. Neither has the self-sacrifice and dedication that you have given as a mother diminished in value.
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” – unknown
To every mother:
Stay strong, and don’t ever quit loving your children. You will not be able to shelter your children from all pain – no matter how hard you try. Life is suffering, and no person escapes this. It is better to focus on equipping your children with life skills to help them live good lives, and if your spouse is currently making bad choices, then your children need you now more than ever.
Remember that the biggest lesson we teach our children, is the one they see us live. So in the face of adversity, do the right thing. When you are wronged forgive. Practice self-control and discipline and delayed gratification. Spend time with your kids and your grandkids if you have them.
Raising children is the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it is also the most rewarding.
When I was a young mother, I remember reading the famous portion of the Bible (Proverbs 31), describing a wife of “noble character.” I decided to be the modern day version of this woman. (Sitting at a spinning wheel was out of the question) … but I was more than willing to make sure my kids were well dressed with quality bargains from a local department store.
I became discouraged when I read that “her children rise up and call her blessed,” because this was not my consistent experience from my toddlers. Luckily, an older woman in my life set my thinking straight (remember I was depressed because I was believing as true something that was false). This older woman enlightened me to the fact that this “wife of noble character” was not in her twenties, and her children (who called their mother blessed) were grown ups. Phew! There was hope. Twenty more years to go.
That’s the problem with being a mom – the reward for all your hard work can be 20+ years in coming. Furthermore, I’ve discovered that mothers never stop worrying for their children, and despite even some of the best parenting, some kids still grow up and make bad choices.
So if you are a mother, surviving infidelity, know that you are still blessed, even if it doesn’t feel like it today. You can and will get through this. Do the right thing, and be tenacious about your healing. While there is no quick pill to make your current pain go away, meditate on what you have to be thankful for, and embrace whatever good you can find, even if it’s nothing more than a bouquet of flowers you buy for yourself at the grocery store!
If you are a husband who had an affair, tell your wife you love her and ask her to guide you in how she would like to be honored on this day. Be a role model for your children by loving their mother exclusively. While you can’t change the past, there is plenty you can do about the future.
If you are a mom, who had an affair, and now you are doing everything within your power to woman up, I’m proud of you for facing your failure with courage and for becoming a better person. You have a wonderful future ahead of you.
If you are a husband, and the mother of your children has been unfaithful to you, remember she is still a woman, who needs tenderness and gentleness. Love her in spite of your pain.
One last word to any woman who fears Mothers Day.
Drop your expectations. I noticed many years ago, that our greatest marital disagreements tended to be on holidays. Slowly I realized this was because my high expectations were stressing the whole family out. I’ve had a lot more fun, since I stopped expecting things. So has my family.
If Mothers Day is an affair trigger for you …
Do something totally different than you normally do on this day. Traditionally we celebrated Mothers Day with flowers, family, and brunch in a restaurant. During my affair recovery days, we changed our routine and went hiking instead, because I love hiking and it was a distraction away from all the affair triggers.
Ask for exactly what you want. Please take the guesswork out for your family. Do not make them feel bad for their inability to read your mind. What you might think is obvious is not obvious. We mothers are not all the same, and we don’t all want the same things to help us through mother’s day after an affair.
If you don’t get what you want from your husband or children, then treat yourself instead. Sometimes we just need to love ourselves. It’s okay to go for a walk, read a good book by the lake, get a massage, go to a tourist attraction, paint a picture, book yourself a trip, or buy yourself a present.
Or maybe it’s time to spend Mother's Day planning something extraordinary. Maybe it’s time to plan something with your girlfriends. How about zip lining? What’s on your bucket list?
Some who are reading this have lost their identity in their role as wife and mother. You are more than that. You enjoyed moments of pleasure before you met your husband, and before you had your children. For some of you this means thinking a long way back.
During my own healing from affairs journey, we sought help from our church. They sent us to a marriage course, which they guaranteed would solve all of our marital problems. We lasted five sessions before I threw Brian out of the car on the way to the course, fighting over the homework assignment. (You’ll be happy to know I did stop the car.) Brian was left to walk home six miles in freezing Vancouver, BC winter rain. (Just in case anyone reading this is under the false illusion that I handled our affair recovery like a saint!)
Before this disastrous day, we attended a session, where all couples were given blue Play-Doh, and yellow Play-Doh and told to mix it together until it became green Play-Doh. This was to represent the biblical concept that the “two have become one.”
I angrily sat in that course and broke my green Play-Doh ball in half. “After all,” I thought, “it requires wedding vows to be “one” and we no longer had wedding vows. We had broken wedding vows and there is a difference.” If “yellow” represented all that was unique about me before I married Brian, my gifts, my personality, my talents, and my purpose … don’t tell me that I have ceased to exist entirely. Don’t tell me there is no more yellow – no more Anne. Don’t tell me I’ve become nothing more than a half green!!
For mothers day I want you to know that you are not a half green either. Maybe this mothers day its time to begin the journey of rediscovering who YOU are.
May unexpected good things come to you this week, and don’t be surprised if that good thing is rediscovering a forgotten part of yourself! You are amazing.
©Copyright 2013 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.