What I Plan to Tell My Daughter About My First Marriage

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“Be brave to step up and try something new. Be brave to step out when it isn’t for you.”

The first time I read these lines in Marianne Richmond’s Be Brave Little One to my infant daughter as she lay in her crib with her big blue eyes staring up at the pages before her, I was struck instantly. We see children’s books and hear kids’ songs emphasizing the importance of trying again and of never ever, ever giving up. Yet, seldom do we give little ones permission to walk away or to trust the gut feeling that something just isn’t working. Maybe you’ve done enough, or maybe you’ve even done too much.

Throughout my pregnancy, I fretted over what I would tell my child about my first marriage. Would I even tell her? After all, it was a long time ago. We had no kids and no ties to bind us. But, secrets don’t make friends and I’ve always kind of believed in telling your story and telling it straight.

I really don’t want to have a relationship built on omissions with my kid.

After all, I’ve always planned to tell her the truth. I’ll tell her that periods are a colossal (and literal) pain and that they really don’t get any better over the 30+ years you’ll experience them. She’ll know which tampons are the best and I’ll explain how to use them (never, ever, ever cardboard—and why do they even still make those torture devices anyway?). I’ll tell her that often the first guy you sleep with won’t be the last and that not every sexual encounter will be based on love (though they should ALWAYS be based upon enthusiastic consent).

I’ll tell her that life is hard for women because too much is expected from us yet not enough is afforded to us, even when we perform the unthinkable. (Even when we really do kind of do it all.) I’ll tell her that life isn’t fair, but that the absence of fairness is no reason not to relentlessly pursue justice.

I’ll tell her that anyone who backs into a parking space is a jerk who’s just out to prove that they’re a good driver. (That is, after all, a personal truth.)

For months, though, I wondered what I would tell her about my first marriage.

It’s a tale as old as time. I got married young. About three years into it, I changed in big ways. What I once wanted was no longer what I wanted. I tried to go back to feeling the way I used to, but I couldn’t. After trying some more, I still couldn’t. I went to therapy and lied to a therapist every session underplaying how unhappy I really was. I wasted a bunch of money on said therapy, got subsequently asked to not return until I could start being honest, stopped going, and then decided it just wasn’t working. It could not work. I left.

That’s a watered-down version, but that’s the gist of it.

That marriage wasn’t for me. I knew it in my bones, so I left. From there, I carved out the kind of life that suited me and continues to suit me. I found my voice and a career. I learned how to be very candid about the messiest parts of myself.

Along the way, I found the right person for me and now we have our baby girl.

My life is fulfilling even when the baby is fussy and I’m nursing the fourth cold in a row this season because she keeps bringing me all her super-germs from daycare. (She’s real cute, but real germy. The fact that she has drooled her sweet baby slobber directly into my mouth and might just permanently cause damages to my sinuses is certainly not helping.) It’s good even when it’s mundane, even when the most exciting thing we’re going to do is watch an episode of Parenthood curled under our fuzziest blanket, my legs draped over his.

In between sips of wine and Monica Potter’s impossibly good momming as Kristina Braverman, I am distinctly aware that this is a level of comfort that I have never experienced with anyone else. I feel seen and heard by my partner every day (and the fact that he gives the best hugs and makes the most incredible venison tenderloin you’ve ever put in your mouth doesn’t suck either). God blessed the broken road and all that. But, really, had I not been who I was before and had those experiences, I could not be where I am today.

So, I’ll tell her the truth. 

Marianne Richmond is onto something. Though I’m sure she didn’t mean be brave and step out of your marriage, it’s not wrong to leave when you simply cannot stay. So, I will tell my daughter that I was married to someone else a long time ago and that it didn’t work out. I’ll tell her that sometimes we get it wrong on the first try. Also, people change so much over the course of their lives! Sometimes they change together, and sometimes they do not. We all make mistakes and choose wrong sometimes. We change.

She’ll hear that that’s okay, because those mistakes, choices, and changes lead us to the next thing. And, that next thing might just be where everything is exactly as it should be.  

 

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My name is Jamie, and I'm a writer, editor, fitness instructor, and self-proclaimed hype woman. I've been in B'ham almost 10 years, but I grew up in Eufaula, Alabama (yep, the town with the pretty houses on the way to the beach). I received my M.A. in English/creative writing with a focus on creative nonfiction from UAB in 2015, and I have an undergraduate degree in creative writing with a focus on poetry from UAB as well. I am the content marketing manager at Alabama Media Group, overseeing all sponsored content, blog, infographic, and white paper content. My husband and I have been married just over a year, and we've been together for 6 years. We live in Homewood, and in June 2021, we added a new member to the party: our baby girl, Edie. When I'm not working, I'm spending a large chunk of the day figuring out this tiny human. But during whatever free time I have, you'll catch me doing HIIT and barre classes, reading (memoirs and feminist lit are my favorite), and experimenting in the kitchen.

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