Becoming a Grown-Up

Today is important. It’s my oldest son’s birthday. Twenty-seven years ago I was tired, scared and dehydrated as he finally emerged after twenty-two hours of labor.

I thought finishing high school made me a grown-up. Then I decided I became an adult when I graduated college, began my career and a year later got married.

But true mature adulthood came when I shuffled down the hall to see my beaten and bruised child with the long cone-head crying in the hospital nursery. Love and a fierce desire to protect my baby hurtled me into the real world of grown-ups. I never looked back as I eventually had three small children to care for as their father worked sixty plus hours per week.

We pretended that we had this adult thing together while I realized, deep in my heart, that my husband had not yet crossed the grown-up threshold. He had a good job, we had a mortgage, car payments, and student loans along with three children, but the real maturity didn’t come until we divorced.

I’ve been thinking about that today as another important event is taking place across town. The ex-spouse is “retiring.” I put that in quotation marks because he was encouraged to grab the golden parachute as they pushed him out of the company he spent thirty-three years a slave. Yes, that number is correct- thirty-three years with one company. No one works their whole lives at one place anymore ( unless they own it.)

This day is one I often thought about and was almost around for fifteen years ago. The company was floundering then, too, and they offered a choice- move to Texas or take a package.

I wasn’t moving again. We spent a decade moving every couple of years, and I was worn out with starting again and again. The kids were getting older and I wanted them settled in school. We talked about it. I wanted the package and a husband around again (he had been traveling the past five years.) He wanted the company. In the end they offered a position in a small town an hour away. He took it, and I knew then that his choice sealed our fate.

At the time I cautioned him that his choice would change the dynamics of our relationship. It did. I asked if this blind devotion to a company over his family was worth it. He believed that his continual playing of “the game” would reward him with the coveted position he had aspired to. It did.

In the end, he got the big promotion and we got divorced. He was mostly a stranger to his kids, and becoming a divorced Dad with a specified visitation schedule forced him to actively be involved in parenting our three kids. He became a real grown-up in his mid-forties.

And now all that sacrifice, all those holidays and family events missed because of work, days and weeks and months that he spent far from home as he traveled for work, a marriage that withered on the vine, unable to compete for the attention given to work. All fall-out from a job that is now showing him to the door with a handshake and a pat on the back. I have one burning question: thirty-three years of single-minded devotion- was it worth it?




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