The first time I dropped my kids off with their father after he moved out, I forced a smile while hugging and kissing them. It was so forced in fact that my head and neck started pounding. I walked back to my car telling myself to just concentrate on looking at the tires on the different cars in a line until I got to mine.
I wondered if there were other cars here belonging to mothers who were dropping their kids off with their ex. Were there other mothers who felt like they were experiencing a deep ache that wouldn’t leave until they saw their kids again? Were those other moms as relieved as I was to have some time alone to mourn what was and to stop pretending it didn’t hurt?. Did they feel as guilty as I did that they needed this time to collect themselves?
How my ex and I split time with our kids
When we first split, my ex would come pick up the kids. I somehow tricked myself into believing if he did that, if I could see their excited faces as they ran out to meet him after giving me a quick hug, they were not really leaving me.
Having my kids leave me on their terms was so much better than me walking them to the door and leaving them, even though I don’t think they ever saw it that way. It’s been over three years. My young tweens have turned into teenagers. They are in high school; they are working; they are taller than me; they can drive.
I thought it would be easier by now— the constant coming and going. But, watching my kids walk up to their father’s door or seeing them drive out of the parking lot because it’s their night with them, hasn’t gotten easier. If anything, it’s gotten harder. I’m so aware of what I’m missing with them – their laughter, the meals, the hikes, the beach days.
I’m so glad they have a father who is as wonderful as their father is. I’m thankful they seem happy and well adjusted. I’m happy that they understand their father and I are able to give them a better life by not being together. But missing chunks of your children’s lives never gets easier. I tell myself they are happy and I should be happy that they get to live in two separate homes and there’s a lot of love in both.
It doesn’t fell right to be apart from my teens this much
If I’m being honest though, it doesn’t feel natural for me to be away from them this much at this stage in their lives. It doesn’t feel normal to not spend every holiday with them. When they are on vacation without me, I’d give anything to be with them.
The exchange I’ve made, this new life their father and I needed to save our family, comes at a price. I miss my kids deeply when they are gone. Even when I know I need a break because being a solo parent is so intense, a part of my heart shrivels when I’m not with my children.
We could have done the selfish thing. We could have stayed together so neither of us had to feel this pain of missing a piece of our our kids’ lives and we could have exposed them to a broken version of ourselves. We could have shown them a version of a relationship we never want them to have, all so we’d get more of their time.
We did the right thing. I know it and my kids know it. And if showing them that sometimes love looks like walking away and sometimes it means sacrificing time with loved ones then well, I’m okay with that.
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