I have a LOT to say about this.
OP, you are getting a lot of very undeserved heat for this not because what you are considering is bad, but because it is so unthinkable to so many here because of deeply ingrained societal norms about female behavior and 'mothering'. I am shaking with anger and sadness at the prejudice and bigotry, the hate and intolerance behind some of these comments. Shaking. You are being shamed and humiliated for no other reason than people's inability to think beyond the parameters of what they've been taught. Inability or refusal...I can't decide which is worse!
See, we can never do enough as woman period, let alone as mothers. Give enough. Be enough. Be good enough. I know you all know this. We all do. We all feel it. We all suffer it. Worse, we all perpetuate it, on ourselves and on each other. It's become a sort of cathartic thing we do to make ourselves feel better about our lot. You're encountering jealousy and resentment on the part of those who may have had similar thoughts, but were discouraged away from them by themselves/others. We are never good enough parents, friends, lovers, whatever. Because we are women. Women are less, and therefore never good enough. You can see it some of these responses...the giving up of all hopes and dreams, the relinquishing of all desires not related to giving endlessly, to sacrificing endlessly for children and everyone around us. The guilt and shame associated with doing for yourself as a female. There are reasons for this...and they do not serve women, trust me. The deep-seated hatred of self as female, and identifying with the larger culture that tells us that once we have children, our lives as autonomous people end (indeed, if they ever began...women are defined in relation to others from birth)...forever. No matter how old they get, no matter where they go...our children come first. Period. No matter what we have to give up, how important it is to us, how vital it is to our well-being and sanity...once we reproduce, tough. We don't matter. What we want doesn't matter. What we need doesn't matter. Only our children (lovers, husbands, friends, whoever) matter. This cannot and does not send a healthy or fair message to children or anyone. It is not a good example or precedent to set. It continues the cycle of sacrifice, dependency, and patriarchy, really. As long as we put others before ourselves, we will never be strong or united enough to do for ourselves. Simple and scary, and very effective thus far in history!
Thismama hit the nail on the head. Few people would come down on a man for moving away from a child for work (or for anything we crap on mothers for doing...just showing up gets men kudos most of the time). Because men are men and their desires and needs and personhood are give space and respect. Not so for women. Our relationships (especially to children) come first to the exclusion of all else, always. We have no right to put ourselves first, ever, but especially in regards to children. Constant, unrelenting, martyring sacrifice always. Self-fulfillment? Never, or fragmented or extremely rarely. Some may pay lip-service to holding men to the same (impossible, inhuman) standard as women, but in reality all the hate and hurt is heaped on our heads no matter what. Never gives enough. Never good enough. Bad woman. Bad mother. Bad person.
You're catching heat for even suggesting
this because most women have bought the line wholeheartedly that they are nothing
without their lovers and children and friends. We can't survive on our own, and we certainly shouldn't want to do anything on our own, or do something for just ourselves, especially as mothers. Motherhood is supposed to be the be all and end all of our existence, the only thing we value, the only thing that matters. Abandoning that is the ultimate transgression as a woman. We never
put ourselves first, and if we do, we prepare to be torn apart by everyone around us for not toeing the line...we prepare to be called selfish, heartless, evil, horrible, mindless, careless, reckless. We prepare to lose all the respect and love of our friends and allies (or at least, those who we thought were friends and allies). We prepare for the most cruel of insults and actions. We prepare to be told we don't really love and care for our children. We prepare to be ostracized and turned into pariahs for acting like human beings instead of all-giving, all-sacrificing mental, emotional, and physical atm machines...always ready to give to and reward others, never allowed to do so for ourselves. No matter what. With a smile on our faces.
That said, I think you should take a closer look at your own particular situation and be sure your son's father can and is willing and would do well to be your son's sole caretaker for a long period of time. Talk to your son as well. Be sure he understands the situation and how it would be as much as he can. Excitement about new possibility is not wrong, but can sometimes cloud our judgment about what's right.
Believe me, I understand the need to explore. To try new things. To wander. You are not wrong for having these urges, or for considering an alternative custody arrangement due to them. You are not wrong at all. You are human. You have every right to dream, and have goals and aspirations that do *not* center around others. I will even go so far as to say you have every right to be selfish, as all humans do. Certain types of selfishness are healthy, and keep us focused on the things we want that are good for us that others, due to influence from a society that tells us we are not allowed to have the things we actually want, but only what others want for us/expect from us, would deny us out of habit, convention, and pure hatred.
Your son is a child. He is not stupid. He is not made of glass. Human beings are not fragile and eternally vulnerable to every twist of fate. We have survived as long as we have as a species due to our ability to adapt to adversity and change. He will not fall apart if you leave, your relationship will not disappear/be destroyed. There is no one right way to live, or to parent, or to be. You know your son, your ex, and yourself. You know what the right decision for all of you is. You do not need to ask permission of anyone, but only do what you know is right in your situation. Whatever that is, mami, whatever that is, it's up to you and your family. Talk it out, think it out, then do what you feel is best. Let no one deter you from that. Let no one shame you for that. Live your live as YOU see fit, not as others see it. They don't have to walk in your shoes or suffer the consequences or bask in the benefits of your decisions. You do. Therefore, it's all on you.
Love does not equal sacrifice. Sacrifice does not equal love. Love can be a component of sacrifice and vice versa. But they are not the same.
Parents do not have to live with their children to be good parents. A good parent is loving, attentive, understanding, gentle, supportive, and kind. A good parent shows their children how to be strong, how to adapt, how to make the most of life. A good parent does not stop being human, stop being an individual because they have children. They teach their children balance by being good parents and good people who have their own lives, interests, will, and desires.
I think it is important that, as women and parents of sons especially, we hold on to our agency and teach our sons that women are not functions of other's needs, that we have the right to put ourselves first and to love ourselves and do for ourselves. If we teach them that women can be, are, and should be independent thinkers with lives of their own, they will not expect women to be doormats who live for everyone else but themselves. We teach them to love themselves (and most importantly, women) as we have loved ourselves.
Support and love for you and yours in this corner, mami!