A piece of me will always be missing while my children are away, but I have found ways to make positive use of the time!
Monday morning I drove my two kids to meet their dad at our switch-off spot in a bank parking lot, watched them tumble into his car with their school bags and coats in tow, and drive off in the other direction with him. I’m somewhat of an old pro at this by now, having done this for eight years. Sometimes I still get choked up and even shed a few tears as we say our good-byes. For the most part, I have come to a place of peace about the fact that they must leave for a week, and I continue my drive to work.
Back in the early days of our separation and divorce, the exchanges more closely resembled a scene from Titanic. Our arms would be stretched out toward one another with tears streaming down and “I love you” and “I’ll miss you” being choked out through sobs. An observer going through the ATM at the bank where we meet would have probably thought they were witnessing the final farewells between loved ones who would never see one another again.
Once I got home, by myself, I felt as alone as alone could be. I swear Celine Dion was singing “All By Myself” directly to me and as a result of my pitiful situation!
As if it wasn’t bad enough that I felt lonely (compounded by the fact that I was used to being married and living with other people for years), I was shredded with guilt and longing because I had never spent so much as a night away from my children, and I felt, down to my soul, that my place was with them!
Everything about my decision to leave their father was tested and agonized over during these moments of solitude.
I knew our divorce would allow he and I to live apart from one another, I just never imagined what it would feel like to ever spend time away from my children!
My first days and nights alone were spent wandering the house like a lost puppy. The silence was deafening, and I was disoriented without “mom duties” to complete. I wasn’t used to watching what I wanted on TV. My typical routine was running around after them doing laundry, helping them with homework, and preparing their meals. “Me time” was almost non-existent, but I treasured the role of being their mommy!
Something began to happen with each transfer to dad’s. They, and I became less and less apprehensive about making the shift. It was a sad routine; but, it was at least becoming a routine. I started to recognize that there was so much I could accomplish in the time they were away! Whenever they were at home, I struggled to juggle housework, work, and mothering all while giving them the attention they deserved. When they were gone, I realized that I could move mountains of work with no distractions!
My time alone became a valuable time for me to draw up new priorities for my time and my life. I learned to start taking better care of myself (something which was sorely neglected for a long time!) and to structure my schedule so that I could be 100% mom when my children were with me. I will never say that I am happy to see my kids go; but, I have found a valuable purpose for what was once a heartbreaking void!
When my kids are away:
I schedule all personal and business appointments. First of all, their absence makes it easier for me to complete tasks like a dental cleaning or haircut; and, why would I plan meetings, appointments, and other such errands when it will interfere with our time together?
I complete the bulk of my household duties. When the kids are away, this mom makes a massive trip to the grocery store and prepares much of the food we will eat during their week home. I change their beds, catch up on cleaning around the house, and clear the clutter so everything seems fresh and looks like home when they come back. Yes, they pitch in with a bunch of chores while at home; but, this is the perfect chance for me to dig deep with cleaning and organization.
I recharge my batteries. I usually don’t jump into heavy chores the first day or two when the kids are away- oh no! I catch my breath, binge-watch a favorite show with a glass of wine, sleep in, and cook only if I want to! My theory is that if I allow myself to rejuvenate after a busy week of kids, then I will have the patience and energy to hit it again in a few days!
I enjoy adult fun. Fun with my kids usually consists of going to movies, restaurants, and other activities that are at their level and for their interests. When they’re with dad, it’s my opportunity to hang out with my friends, and go out on the town as a woman, not a mommy! Non-kid time is perfect for when it’s right to start dating again and other things that just don’t fit in with children.
When my kids are home:
We complete their appointments.
We attend their activities.
We socialize with their friends.
We go to the places they want to go.
We hang out as a family.
I’m able to focus on them, their needs, and giving them the attention they need because a week away from them provided me with enough time to take care of my personal needs. That is not to say that they are allowed to have no consideration for what I like or wish to do; but, it does result in our precious time together being more meaningful and interactive because I’m not wasting away what could be our time at the grocery store, doctor’s office, or on a date!
An adjustment to my routines and the way I divide me time from mom time has allowed me to become more efficient and focused as a mom. I would still have them with me 100% of the time in a heartbeat. My point is that if we must be handed an unsavory situation, such as a divorce or less time with our children, then we need to find a silver lining and make the situation work for us in a positive way!
After years of co-parenting, it now feels natural to have a cycle of up and down time when I have activities and routines strictly dedicated to parenting time, and a spell of time for everything else. A piece of me will always be missing when they’re away, but I take solace in knowing that I can take time to be the best me and organize myself and my home to be the best mom I possibly can for them.
What might you do during the time your children are away to better focus your energy on them when they return and to nourish your body and spirit?
I just dropped off my child and we won’t see her again for 9.5 days due to Spring Break. I made sure her video calling was working on her phone. It was a super sad moment for us. Her brother is sad she’s gone to her mom’s for so long… her mom already has 65 out of every 100 days.
I wish I could tell my past self to scorch the earth and fight until the bitter end for parenting time when we divorced four years ago. My attorney said it was a losing battle, but the hell with it, I should have just burned all our money up to fight. Who cares if we all ended up in studio apartments?
The only comfort is that now, 4 years later, my beat up house I fixed up has gained lots of equity from the market uptick and I can spend it all on post decree modification litigation.
This is what I spend my days on when I am alone. Reading cases, learning case law, learning family law and reviewing cases my judge has heard in the past. I also advocate for IL legislation HB 4113 for Equal Shared Parenting.
I refuse to allow my sweet daughter to have to miss me more than she needs to. In fact, I am motioning for my ex wife to become the every other weekend parent. I won’t stop until my daughter has maximum time with both parents. If that bankrupts us both, so be it. If she had just allowed our daughter equal time with her and I she wouldn’t have already dropped $15,000 in attorney fees and counting.
I refuse to sit back and do nothing . What kind of dad would I be if I didn’t fight for my daughter and give her a voice through a GAL at some point?