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[Ask Mats]: Bringing Up Baby

Jan 8, 2010

Dear M,

I'm in a terrible dilemma: I'm divorcing my husband and I don't know what to do with my kid. In a word, the marriage is not repairable, and for some family reasons nobody from my side can help me with this situation. My family all advise me to give up my kid and move on.

I have to work but when I work, no one can take care of the baby and I can't simply trust an ayi. Plus, to support me and my kid all by myself is gonna be tough. My baby's father comes from a rich family but they are not so highly educated. They have made it clear that if I am to raise the kid they will set difficulties in providing me any money, but at the same time they don't really want the kid, they just want a quick divorce and to get full custody so they won't be involved with me financially.

You might be curious why I say "they" instead of "him" and the answer is obvious — yes, my husband is a spoiled brat, a coward, a guy who never deserved to be a father. I do know it'll be easier for me to get back on my feet and move on alone, but my heart aches for my kid and I'm full of hatred and grudges and guilt every day, which is deadly to a woman.

I don't know what to decide anymore. It seems no matter which way I choose I will live with regret. Shall I "trade" my freedom for terrible guilt and endlessly missing my kid (he and I are from different cities so it will be almost impossible to see my child easily) or shall I keep my baby and live with this heavy burden?

I need advice from a wiser lady than me. I hope I can get some epiphany from you. Thank you.

Oh my dear,

What a horrible time you're going through. It must be so painful and difficult to bear. I feel for you. But can you imagine the pain your child will go through seeing the anger and hate between the two people he loves most? The two people who are the role models of how a man and woman should be with one another? If the relationship is irrecoverable then at all costs you must make sure your child knows that it's not because of him or her. You must make sure he never witnesses or hears any hate or anger from either of you about the other. I can't stress this enough.

Now, I'm a bit pissed off with your family. Who the fuck are they to tell you to give up your child? A child? Your child? Do you or they have any idea of the implications of being abandoned as a child? Can you imagine how this kid will grow up knowing that the one person who is suppose to love them unconditionally, didn't? Feelings of no self-worth, shame, that love doesn't exist, that he's not lovable — these are only the tip of the iceberg. Where would he learn to express his feelings? How will he trust to build bonds with other adults? How will he love? How will he ever feel safe?

The love of a mother is undeniably important to every child. As is the love of fathers, but for the first three years, the love, safety and security of a mother is of utmost importance in teaching your child that the world is safe and that he or she is perfect no matter what they do. So, please, don't rob your child of this.

Your child deserves the best from both parents. So can you and your husband put all your pain and ego aside and work together to have both of you in your child's life? This is the first and most difficult thing you should work on.

Now, I understand that life is not always nice and that it tends to throw obstacles our way. So we just have to deal with them as they come. Yes, being a single mother is one of the toughest things in this world and I throw my hat off to all the single mothers out there. And yes, this will mean you will have to find someone to take care of your child while you work. You're right, an ayi could never be an adequate substitute for you but if you try your hardest maybe you can find one who has the same values as you. As long as your child has one sole carer who can love and care for him as much as they can, this will be fine, considering the situation. This is one of the sacrifices you'll have to make. And I think this is better than giving him up to your husband's family, if they don't really want him.

Now I don't know how the laws in China work based on financial support for divorced parents. But if you are going to be the main carer for this child then you should be receiving support from your husband.

Raising this child on your own will be difficult and you will have to make many sacrifices, such as your freedom. But, from the moment you gave birth, this is the decision you made.

Now all this advice is based on your email. I haven't got your husband's story. He could be wanting this child in his life just as much and it could be you making it difficult. I'm sad to say this, but I've heard this story many times. A mother, using her child as a weapon to inflict pain on the father. I hope this is not the case.