There are approximately 940 weeks in 18 years.
That sounds like a long time. When my son was born, I could have put 940 pennies into a jar and withdrawn one for every week that went by – the shrinking amount representing how much time we had left of his childhood.
By the time I separated from my husband, I was already down to less than 800, and I had a new daughter.
I agreed to a fifty percent share of custody to avoid a multi-year court battle. With the ink on our divorce agreement still wet, I found myself reduced to less than 400 weeks of their childhood.
I don’t regret leaving my ex. I know that the 800 or so weeks I had when I left would not have been spent wisely. I know that I would have spent so much time and energy on that toxic relationship with my ex, that I would have missed out on a lot of those 800 weeks I could have been spending with my children.
And although my pennies were reduced by half – their value suddenly increased.
Now, I greedily anticipate my “allowance” day – when the children return to my care. The night before, the morning of, I think about how we’re going to spend each moment.
As I see the amount in the jar shrinking, I sometimes experience buyer’s regret. I don’t have a specific account of how I’ve blown my pennies; I know that sometimes when they’re with me, I’ve spent time on the phone. I’ve lost whole weekends to the flu and other illnesses. I haven’t listened closely when they’ve tugged at my pant leg, or I’ve had to spend time shopping or cleaning.
My heart aches when they misbehave. No parent wants to see their children acting up. But punishing them for bad behavior punishes me too. I want them to learn good values and manners, but I don’t want to suffer their punishment by losing time with them.
My son is ten now. I only have around 255 weeks left with both of my older children in the
Those pennies represent time slipping by so fast. They’re disappearing faster than I could have ever imagined.
I try to make the most out of each cent. I don’t socialize on the days when I have the kids. The house is messier when they’re at my home. I’d rather be spending time with them than washing dishes or dusting. When they’re with their father, the frenzied shopping, cleaning and socializing starts. I exhaust myself when they’re away to ensure I have time “off” with them.
In early July, I met parents who couldn’t wait until their children were back in school. Summer vacation had just started. They’d just gotten them back and they were wishing the time away. I wish I could have taken their pennies and used them for myself.
We did so much. We spent so much time together: long walks, amusement parks, reading books, a cottage getaway, late night movies, and campfires with smores. We spent every penny to its fullest.
But then the school year returns; life gets in the way. I have to work; they have to go to school. There are social events, and there’s homework, swimming, and soccer. I’m even reluctant to put them to bed…as it means less time to spend.
I have to remind myself that each penny is also theirs. They belong to my children too. Those pennies represent their childhood. While I want them both to have a raft full of memories of me; I also want them to have a well-rounded childhood. I want them to experience life. I want them to get enough sleep. I want them to do well in school. I want them to have time to spend with their friends. I want them to learn how to live in this world without me. I want that $9.40 to be well invested, so that when they leave my nest they’re ready for the world.
At the same time, I want to hoard all of that time. It’s an effort not to be miserly. It’s difficult to not try to pack so much into every moment pushing away all else. I don’t want to squander this time; it’s slipping by too fast. Some days I’m like Gollum with the Ring. My time. My precious.
But in the end, that’s not what childhood is about and that’s not what parenthood is about either. I need to spend each moment thoughtfully – so that when they’re adults and they have extra time to spend, maybe they want to spend some of it with me.
Liv is the pseudonym for a rocking 40-year-old working mother of three who remarried after a terrible divorce, had a terrible car accident and almost lost her leg, and yet continues to have a positive attitude. Her work has been featured on ScaryMommy, HuffPost, MockMom and The Mid —and she’s a contributing writer at DivorcedMoms.com. You can find her blog at livebysurprise.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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