Did you have the parental instinct to protect the children before the A?
Before the affair, and even a decade before we had children, my life was wrapped around being a good mother. I made career, education and life choices to be as present and useful as possible for them. I don’t want to say anything specific because it is identifying and my husband and I prefer privacy, but imagine it’s on the order of me studying to become a pediatrician in order to be fully responsible for our future children’s health, becoming one of the best pediatricians around (publishing articles, giving conference presentations), leaving work to be a SAHM in order to care for them when they were little, then becoming the school nurse at their school to keep an eye on them. It was that level of career, education, and life choices (and success!) to support and protect them. My husband and I made children-centered decisions about how we spent our money, time, and attention, making the children the center of our household.
Were they considered during the A?
My level of consideration dropped dramatically and to their detriment. I justified all sorts of behavior to myself. My husband and I recently talked about it and agreed that they are OK because I was coasting on previous good parenting, I had put lots of good things in place for them (great babysitter, strong connections to local family, good teachers for extracurriculars and sports) and my husband was picking up whatever slack he could. But they were being neglected by me and I think if it had gone on much longer they would have suffered much more.
Here's what I wrote on another thread, trying to help a foggy wayward understand that although she didn’t think she was harming her son, she might nonetheless be doing so (she disagrees and that’s fine, maybe she isn’t, or maybe she will come to understand it differently later):
I have a memory of walking my daughter home from school, half-listening to her, ignoring her, reading texts from my AP. She was having a terrible year at school which was one of the (small but significant) reasons I was stressed beyond belief when the affair started. She needed my full attention. I knew, in my rational adult brain, that everything I was doing was harmful, destructive, horrible, not only to my husband and the OBS and her children, but to my own children, to my youngest child, my baby, who needed me so much. I justified it in all sorts of ways and believed those justifications, oh yes I did. My kids were grown up enough to be OK without my full attention and that what they really needed was a little independence from my over attentive mothering. They had each other and didn’t really need me any more, the sibling relationships are the ones that really matter. She was nearly 10 and I thought that the relationship with her father would start to take centrality over the mother relationship. I had done such a wonderful job managing her difficult year and getting everything in order that what she needed now was for me to back off of paying attention to her. And so on. Crazy, right? I believed it. Sort of. Part of me knew how wrong it was but I shoved that away, because I was getting something I thought I needed from the affair.
If you lost the parental instinct during the A was it recaptured after ending the A, being caught or confessing?
It returned slowly as I was able to pull myself together and my husband was able to help me. It returned as quickly as it did because of both of us working so hard on recovery. During the affair, and in the immediate aftermath, I was such a mess that I could hardly help anyone else. I was not able to take good care of myself, let alone others, and whatever energy and attention I had went to my husband’s healing. The basics were there – making meals and getting them to school on time and keeping their schedules in order – but for a while I was emotionally distracted and drained.
The children and my husband are getting the best care of their lives from me now, both out of an outsized sense of responsibility and sheer daily gratitude that I didn’t screw anything up permanently. And the quotidien joys of a good life (though my oldest daughter is able to exasperate me by leaving my bathroom a mess AGAIN, and my youngest two need to stop bickering!)
Our lives are no longer child-centered, although the children are very important. My husband and our marriage are my unquestioned priorities. The children are next. They are best served by us being as emotionally healthy ourselves, and as bonded in a strong marriage, as possible.