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I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren on the weekend – this is her story!
I attend a prestigious private girls school, and my brothers attend the all boys’ school. We live in an impressive private, gated estate, in a mansion, complete with housekeepers, dog groomers, an ironing lady, gardeners, window cleaner and as many hired help as you could imagine. Life really couldn’t get much better. My parents entertain wealthy business people, are extremely influential and as I am told repeatedly, successful.
My father is always busy though, either at the races, lunches, on boating excursions or on our horse stud. My mother is always trying to make sure everything is perfect, too perfect. She is either sewing designer clothes for us, cooking or making sure our every need was catered for. We were like a normal family and my parents had a normal marriage.
That was until cracks started to appear. It was like an earthquake, first there was nothing and then everything changed forever. As my parents prepared to go out got a social event, the specialist called with my medical report, although I didn’t know it at the time, this was about to change all of our lives. It wasn’t the cause; it was the catalyst to a whole other world of endless problems. The next morning, I saw my father with his bad walking out the door. My mother was unusually calm. I was chasing my father repeating, “Why are you leaving?” He mumbled something that just didn’t make sense. In my confusion, I turned to my older brother, who hugged me and reassured me that everything was okay.
I didn’t understand what had happened, I didn’t understand why; I did see all the happiness that followed though. My mother started dancing with us, playing and it was surreal, it was fun, we were so happy at the time and the obsession with everything being perfect was no longer. I had no idea how life was about to change again. With no money to provide for us, leaving my school and all my childhood friends behind, devastated me. The promises of still staying in touch with my dad were never a reality. Life had changed in more ways than anyone could imagine.
My father continued to visit for a time, thinking that my mother would be forced to return to the marriage. The sight of my father pulling up in the driveway was like Christmas, time and time again. My mother became more and more withdrawn; I went from having two parents living together and a stable life to feeling that nothing would ever be the same. I felt so insecure. I looked on bewildered as my mother frantically tried to earn money. I felt so guilty whenever I needed anything.
At one time I overheard my mother saying she accidentally left a birthday present at home. Knowing we couldn’t afford one, I was so deeply distressed, I started making up stories as to why I couldn’t accept birthday invitations from that day on, further distancing myself from my old school friends to avoid embarrassment and the stress my mother would have to go to-to try and provide for my needs.
My father still seemed to have plenty of money so this taught my brothers and I to become manipulative and arrange visits when we needed things. It’s just what we had to do to survive. Knowing how desperately my mother needed money I felt ashamed to say I took to searching his car for coins to help my mother manage financially. At this time every dollar was important.
Even the smallest of things changed, like every meal. Instead of a cooked breakfast and freshly packed gourmet lunches that used to be prepared for us, along with our uniforms all laid out perfectly, mornings consisted of fending for ourselves, and wasting time searching for socks, shoes and uniform pieces, along with leaving out mother to sleep considering she would work all through the night. Previously we all enjoyed family dinners around the table prepared so precisely that restaurants would be envious, and changed to us preparing toasted sandwiches, boiled eggs or omelets and being left at home whilst she worked. It rapidly reached the point where I started cleaning up when I knew guests or friends were coming, and taking the responsibility of organizing the boys for school. Our mother was now working seven days and nights and constantly stressed about debt collectors and bills. She was totally unavailable and if she was awake she was on the phone arranging appointments. This required me to step up even more, giving up what little leisure time I had left, to help keep the house running in some kind of less than perfect order. It bothered me so much. I felt as if my childhood was being missed and I was required to mature to an age I was not, just to keep on surviving and pushing through to tomorrow.
Visits to my fathers turned into more of an inquisition than family fun. The stress on us children was massive, even the smallest comment could be involved in an impending court battle. He kept diaries and asked questions constantly. Even innocent comments were diarized. At this point I found it impossible to feel at home and have fun anywhere. Where was my childhood? Christmas and Birthdays brought out the magnitude of our family tragedy as I wanted to spend time with both parents, like it used to be, with laughter, excitement and fun. These special days that are meant for children to enjoy had become days that posed greater problems for me than any other.
Both parents insisted that they wanted the best for us children, and despite every effort, life as a child ended on that one fateful day. The day my parents separated was the day my childhood ended, and my adult life began, far too early.
The fallout of divorce spreads far and deep.
To share your comments or personal story – send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With Love and Gratitude
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