While I have never been one of those women naturally instilled with soaring levels of confidence, the amount I had worked hard to build was ripped to shreds by years of verbal abuse. I was treated terribly by the one who was supposed to be my partner. My husband would completely ignore me for days until he blew up at me for very little reason. Pacing the house angrily, he blamed me for his problems at work, cussed at me and threatened further infidelity if I didn’t have sex with him. And then as if it were completely normal, he would go back to the silent treatment until the next time.
This cycle played itself repeatedly in our home. My husband’s anger and negativity was always present. It’s a hard thing to walk on eggshells all the time, and try to navigate another person’s moods. I think I did it for so long that I began to own his moods. It was as if I was responsible somehow for his anger because I didn’t see it coming or find a way to smooth his mood over.
I lived like this for years until one day, when my daughter was about 18 months old and I was pregnant with my son, it dawned on me that my daughter is learning from me. She is watching me and using me as an example of how she should be when she grows up. Did I want her to learn that it is okay for her to be treated badly by another person? Did I want her to be in a relationship that mirrored the one I was in with her dad? Absolutely not. But by accepting that kind of treatment day after day, I feared that was exactly what I was teaching her.
Because my confidence was shattered, I did not have the strength to leave my marriage for myself all those years, but I found I had the assurance to do it for her. The strength of a mother can be shocking. We can do amazing things we never thought possible when we need to do them for our kids. I had the conviction to end an abusive relationship for the sake of my daughter. I had the strength to give birth to my son by myself. In the delivery room the nurse brought a mirror to the end of the bed because I felt that someone who loved him needed to witness his entry into the world, and I was the only one there to do it. It was beautiful.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I heard all the usual advice and anecdotes from well-meaning people including, “parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have.” My kids are now two and four, and so far, I have found that to be true. However, no one ever told me that becoming a parent would enable me to find a strength I didn’t know I had or that it would give me the power to better my life for the sake of my kids. They are watching and learning from the way I treat other people, the way I let other people treat me, the way I manage finances, and the way I take care of myself.
The knowledge that my kids are learning from me by watching me, that my example plays a part in shaping the kind of people they will become one day is a very powerful and motivating knowledge. It has given me the strength to make some difficult choices. Parenthood is hard, and it is even harder when you do it alone, but I am slowly rebuilding the confidence I lost and finding ways to better myself. And by doing that, I am creating a better life for my family.
Rachel is a single, work-from-home mom to a preschool girl and a toddler boy. She is trying to rebuild her life after living in an abusive marriage, and hopes to inspire other women to be an example of strength for their children.
Domestic abuse is not just physical. It is defined as the repeated, cruel treatment of a person, and includes all forms of emotional, verbal, and religious mistreatment, even neglect. If you or someone you know needs help in keeping themselves or their family safe from any kind of abuse, please call 800-799-SAFE or visit the National Coalition of Domestic Violence.