Ok, so here’s the honest to goodness truth, divorce sucks. I know, shocker. The process is horrific, painful and gut-wrenching. Sharing custody of your children can really suck, too. But it can also give you, as a parent, the break you never knew you needed. I can’t tell you the last time (before my divorce) that I had two consecutive days of silence at home. It never existed, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it all the time, or even most of the time.
It takes me less than 24 hours to not just miss my kids, but yearn to smell their skin and breathe in their sleepy, smelly breath. It can turn a sane person crazy. And by day two, I’m running to their door to embrace them and kiss their fluffy cheeks smeared with crusted peanut butter and Doritos. Let’s just say, I’m THAT mom and I don’t do well without my babies.
But holidays without the kids, that could cause death by a broken heart to any parent. The longing for your children, the deafening silence, the loneliness, it’s compounded intensely during the holidays. And it SUCKS.
Catch me on a Monday morning after having them since Friday and I’m singing a different tune. I’m overwhelmed, sleep deprived, lacking patience and edgy. A few days off doesn’t just sound good, it’s a necessity for my survival. Then as co-parents, we ask ourselves, “how do single mothers without shared custody do it?” It’s a vicious cycle of guilt, love and overwhelm that literally depends on the day.
But the holidays; I’d do anything to hear my child whining because there’s a “vegetable in my spaghetti.” I’d do anything to hear the call from the bathroom to “COME WIPE MY BUTT!” I’d do anything not to sleep all night because I’m sandwiched between two heaters who have no concept of personal space. I’d do anything.
And it sucks, because there’s absolutely nothing I can do.
But what I can do is plan for the reunion. I call the first night of reunification, “the honeymoon.” We will embrace, kiss, snuggle, tell each other how much we missed each other, and do all the things we missed doing. Then, we’ll plan for the weekend. “Let’s get a Christmas tree this weekend! Let’s go to Chuck E Cheese’s! Let’s see a movie! Let’s go to the beach!” We will talk about how we will do ALL THE THINGS together!
Then the kids will begin fighting because they are brothers and that’s what they do. My anxiety will start to heighten, and I’ll raise my voice for the first time since they came home. From there it’s all downhill, because once mom has raised her voice, it’s a free for all to piss her off. The overwhelm kicks in and empty threats start flying like Nerf darts to my ass.
I’ll lay in bed thinking about that one week I had without them. That agonizing week where I was empty and almost dead inside. That week where I was sure I might die of a broken heart. I’ll wonder why I didn’t enjoy at least one solid hour of peace. Being a mother will once again confuse my mind and play tricks on my heart.
I’ll swear to myself that next weekend, I’m going to do a spa day. I’m going to do so many things for myself without guilt. I’m going to go out with the girls for drinks, and stay up past 10pm. I’m going to go on a road trip without a plan. Next weekend I’m going to do ALL THE THINGS for myself and soak in every second of freedom. But first, I’ll give myself a pep talk and pray about getting through this weekend with the kids.
Give me strength to withstand the backtalk I am about to endure for three days straight. Give me courage to rise above the farts in a literal way so the smell does not torch my lungs. Let the love flow out of me like the darts my pre-pubescent son shoots from his eyes. And most importantly, give me patience to survive the whining, because while it will likely be the death of me one day, I’d be so happy to survive this weekend in order to make it to my spa day next weekend.
The weekend will come and I’ll dread when they remember their grand Chuck E. Cheese’s idea, but instead they’ll ask to go on a bike ride to the park. I’ll wait for them to announce all the toys they want to take to the beach, but they’ll choose to relax and binge watch a Netflix show together. And as I plan for how I’m going to rearrange my whole house to fit the nine foot tree they’ll pick out, we will spend Sunday in the backyard doing sidewalk chalk and watering plants in our pajamas.
We won’t do any of the things we said we’d do this weekend. It will be unexpected, off the cuff and fulfilling. It will contain laughter and skipping a shower. We will be taken off guard by its greatness, it will go by in a flash, and it surely won’t go according to plan.
It will be so much better, just like parenting.
And then they’ll leave. And I’ll feel empty inside.
But they’ll come back, with a vengeance.