Blogger Heather Armstrong, also known as Dooce, has announced via blog post that she and her husband Jon are temporarily separating. While the (potential) end of most any marriage is saddening, most folks don’t receive an immediate outpouring from countless strangers or have their separation covered by the New York Times. Then again, most folks don’t touch thousands of strangers’ lives through exposing her own.
Armstrong, one of the most popular “mommy bloggers” out there (I’ll happily include myself among her many fans), has long been known for her candor and willingness to tackle tough topics like her struggle with severe postpartum depression. In a heartbreaking post on Tuesday, Armstrong acknowledged that she and her husband were “taking a break,” as she explained it to their 7-year-old daughter. She writes:
“My emotions sit at the bottom of my eyes. I blink often to keep them from rising any higher. In order to get through the day I pretend I'm in a pool, and before I go under water I exhale until there is no more air in my lungs. I sink to the floor and feel the weight of the water all around me, holding me down, blocking out all the noise. Down there I can move my arms and legs and cook dinner and read stories at bedtime.
“But my body inevitably revolts and sends me shooting to the surface. I gasp desperately for air, sputtering, and sometimes the water that splashes up from my face makes its way into the words on this page.”
She reflects on the sadness of her 10-year-old self during her own parents’ split, remembering her father wondering aloud how things could go so wrong, and then asks the same question of her own marriage. But there’s hope here, too. She writes, “I'm sad and devastated, but I'm not sure I've ever been more stable than I am right now.”
Jon also addresses the separation on his blog. He writes in a post from Tuesday, “I can’t stand not waking up with my kids and making fruit smoothies where every piece of fruit gets inspected and a bite taken by Marlo. I miss making jokes with Leta at the breakfast table. Heather and I are on speaking terms. It could be a lot worse. I recognize that. It doesn’t make the pain of saying goodbye everyday any less severe.” Gulp.
As the daughter of divorced parents myself, I’ve thought a lot since becoming a mom about how hard the split must have been for my parents (my mother in particular, since she raised us); I know how hard it felt as a kid—and how angry I was at my parents. Sad, too, of course. But, at least looking back on that time, it felt like so much of that—the anger, the frustration, the devastation—just wasn’t discussed. Maybe it just wasn’t discussed with me, though (and rightfully so, I guess).
As painful as this time must be for the Armstrong family (and they are still very much a family), I appreciate both parents’ willingness to confront what’s happening in a public way. Like Armstrong has already done for innumerable women suffering from PPD, I would imagine that her openness during an incredibly sad time will help others going through similar challenges.
If you have been through a separation or divorce as a parent, what was most helpful to you?