Sex and the "Good" Mother

"Sigh." – Me

Did you ever read the book The Good Mother  by Sue Miller?

I did. Years ago. The book disturbed me on many levels.

The books protagonist, Anna Dunlap, is newly divorced, and rebuilding her life around her three-year-old daughter. She meets a man, Leo Cutter, who ignites a sexual responsiveness that is new to Anna.  Anna is the product of a circumspect New England family. She was frigid during her marriage to a man of similar temperament.

Her daughter and boyfriend, Leo, like each other. Anna sees them as a loving family until her ex-husband sues for custody, citing sexual activities that put his child at risk.

Reading this book brought back horrid personal memories for me. There were, for me, strong parallels to my life and experience of loving a man, being sexually involved and then being punished for the sexual activity. My punishment, much like Annas, was that my child was taken from me.

I am still battling this demon. Since the time my now fiance and I started dating, he has stayed over, in my bed, many times. However, he was never "allowed" by me to do so when my children were with me.

Early in our relationship, before things were very serious, it was for me a moral ground I stood on. I did not think it was appropriate for my sons to be aware that I was being sexual with a man, a man that was not their father.  I discussed this with my now fiance some time ago at length and he completely supported my position. 

Now we are engaged and while my moral ground has softened my past trauma ground has not. Fiance is still amazingly supportive.

Yet I wonder if I am being fair?

Is fair even something that should enter the equation? 

Why do I even have to worry about this stuff?

Why? Because in my experience society still frowns on mothers being sexual beings.

I am professional, respectable, good mother.

Yet deep inside me, rests the knowledge that if I have sex my child(ren) can be taken from me. This is not some fear. This is reality. My past experience is imprinted in brain. I am incredibly anxious about all of this.

Fiance and I intend to purchase a home before we are formerly married. Do I make him sleep in a spare room on the nights my sons are with us?  Go ahead, get a chuckle out of that. I do. But I still think such things!

My ex-husband filed for divorce "because he was mad at me that day".  What might he do if he is REALLY mad at me?

Again, my fiance has been so understanding of all this. In an email I wrote to him months ago regarding this topic, I stated "I already lost one child. I cannot lose two more. I would surely die this time around"

Where is the boundary? When is it appropriate for me to have my fiance, future husband, sleep in my bed?

I am sure other single mothers have battled this but have they battled it with the very real trauma of losing a child because you had sex?

I did not lose my child to adoption because I was unfit. That had never been proven. No one knew what kind of mother I would have been because no one gave me a chance. I was guilty of having sex outside of marriage and that was considered both wrong and surely the act of a feeble deranged mind. Feeble minds cannot raise children. Feeble minds must have their children taken from them. 

For today, my anxiety and stress over this matter has reached such epic proportions that I have made an appointment to discuss with my therapist. I need to find a away to pull out the trauma threads from the mixture so that I can make fair, appropriate, healthy decisions for all concerned. For as of today, I am too freaked out by the trauma of the past.

This has to stop.

4 Thoughts.

  1. I think the decision of whether he shares your bed while your children are present at home should be based more on what moral messages YOU feel are important for YOUR children to gain, but maybe more importantly, how THEY feel about the situation about the divorce and their dad.
    In part of my work, I occasionally do a seminar for divorcing parents about how to divorce and see it through their children’s eyes. We talk about making sure the kids are well out of mom/dad’s bed (security sleeping) long before another parent figure comes into the picture so that the children themselves don’t feel kicked to the curb or replaced. We also talk about the emotional toll it can take on the kids, even when you don’t realize. Things might be rolling along just fine, but then to see mom engaging in a sexual way with someone who is not dad can be difficult and trigger some emotion, even if they are old enough to “understand”. Sometimes kids are able to better deal with that within the context of marriage (because that’s the society we live in).
    I don’t see your keeping your sex life separate from you children as an indication of shame or wrongness, but respect for their feelings in the matter, and a matter of good boundaries.
    As long as you are showing proper boundaries with your children, no one will take them away from you on those grounds (even if your fear is still there telling you otherwise.).
    Feel free to tell me to butt out, though…

  2. I am so glad mama2roo posted before I did. Residual anxiety messes with my decision making too. The important thing is how will the KIDS take it? Their inner workings are hard to fathom. But it’s what is most important and deserves respect.

  3. I don’t have any wonderful insight or advice or anything other than to say that I really like this post.
    And the way it’s sitting with me right now, I think I’ll be carrying it around with me for quite a while.

  4. I can only speak to what has worked best for Suz & myself concerning this issue…
    Getting fantastic/insightful advice from her therapist, along with a reassuring opinion from the legal arena combined with good, hard, effective communications between Suz and myself has helped us to shine more light on this issue and given us the ability to formulate a ‘plan of attack’…
    I always say, ‘knowledge is power’, the more you know about a given situation, the better you can make an informed decision that’s best for all concerned.

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