When I left my husband, I thought I had failed at life. I also wondered if my decision would completely mess up my kids. Now, however, I know with an absolute fact that leaving your partner doesn't make you a bad mom, or a bad person, for that matter. It certainly doesn't mean you've "failed."
However, it took me a lot of time, experience, and therapy to come to that conclusion. Also, it helped that I have had to watch people close to me stay in horrible relationships "for the kids," and others beat themselves up for not staying, even though their relationship was not good for them or their kids. For example, someone really close to me is currently going through a horrible divorce. She feels guilt and shame about her marriage failing, but also hears daily from her husband that they should stay together "for their kids." I want her, and other moms in bad relationships, to know that leaving my partner was one of the best decisions I have ever made. While it wasn't easy at first, there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, you will find a new rhythm and a new normal to your life as a single parent and, someday, you may even meet someone new.
Children can thrive in many types of families, but it's really hard to do so in an unhappy home, with parents who constantly fight (or worse). In time, I hope you realize that if you are unhappy, leaving your partner won't make you a bad mom; it could actually be what's best for your kids. You all deserve that.
You deserve happiness, with or without your partner. It's not selfish, it's just a fact.
You also need to apply your own oxygen mask before helping others. You really can't be a good mom unless you take care of your needs, first. Your kids deserve the best version of you and, well, happiness is contagious. Happy moms have happy kids.
Your kids also deserve to live in homes free from conflict. When parents fight, kids suffer. It's confusing, complex, and they may even blame themselves. They will inevitably get stressed out and may even worry about you. No kid deserves that weight on their shoulders. By leaving your partner, you will give them a happier and peaceful home (or homes). While change is hard, two homes without fighting is almost always better than one home, filled with tension.
When you stay in a problematic relationship for your kids, it may start to change how you feel about them. You may blame them for not being able to change your life. You may associate them with their other parent. You may let tension and anger get the best of you and lose your cool. None of that is good for your kids.
Contrary to what traditional marriage proponents think, kids of divorced and single parents do just fine. In fact studies show that they do just as well as kids in two parent households, and may do better than kids in unhappy two-parent homes. It seems the key to their happiness and success is a stable, loving parent. You can be that with or without your partner.
If your partner is abusive, your kids might be at risk for a whole host of negative outcomes, including; health and mental health issues, substance abuse, and being abused. The good news is that by leaving, you will protect them witnessing abuse and put them on the right track for a better future.
When I became a single mom, I was terrified that I would fail. Who knew that figuring out a new routine would be a heck of a lot easier than co-parenting in an unhappy marriage.
Life is full of change, and change is freaking hard, but when you successfully make it through, you become a way more resilient person and model really awesome skills for your kids.
For example, they'll look at you and learn how to stay calm during a late-night vomit episode, or not freak out when your car breaks down in the middle of a rainstorm.
This idea is so threatening to some that they will tell you that you have to get and stay married at all costs. Today, that philosophy is outdated and, more often than not, really bad and dangerous advice. There are a ton of different ways to make a family and rock at being a mom.
While often unpleasant, co-parenting with your ex can be way easier than being in a relationship with them. I have a parenting plan to refer back to in times of conflict and can limit communication (and opportunities for conflict) in order to facilitate what's necessary to help our kids thrive and grow. Additionally, I don't have to listen to my ex-husbands insults and complaints anymore, and I'm so much happier for it.
When you model how to compromise for your kids, they will learn how to do it, too. Sometimes that means putting aside your own ego when plans change or your ex does something to undermine your parenting, which seriously sucks. However, your kids will see you working things out or reaching decisions, despite your differences.
Compromise doesn't have to mean staying in an unhappy or harmful relationship. It can mean doing what's best for you and your kids by leaving it behind.