When I was pregnant with my first child, I couldn’t wait to start transforming the spare bedroom into a baby wonderland. Paint chips and Pottery Barn Kids catalogs littered my home for nine long months. I created gender-neutral curtains by sewing together a patchwork of pastel fabrics- yellow, green, blue and pink. My husband and I received brand new baby furniture painted bright, sparkling white. And, I found a great deal on bedding with a teddy bear mobile to match.
Likewise, I embraced pregnancy from a wellness perspective: reading every book I could get my hands on, eating well, sleeping well, and exercising. I took my pre-natal vitamins and iron tablets faithfully and looked forward to each doctor’s appointment and childbirth class.
Aside from the nausea, extreme exhaustion, and anxiety that I would somehow fail at parenting, it was a very, very happy time.
Those first years of my son’s and daughter’s lives were blissful. My marriage was not in great shape, but motherhood was everything I wanted and more. This is not to say I didn’t struggle with it; crying babies, leaky bodies (mine and theirs), endless laundry, and hormonal surges (mine) were sometimes difficult to deal with. But, overall, I felt truly content.
Which is why this next thing I’m going to say is so shameful: as a single mom, sometimes I can’t wait until the kids go to their dad’s. Sometimes, I hope that they’ll even ask to stay there for an extra night. And, lest you want to let me off the hook for this admission, remember that my situation is not the same as it was for single moms back in the day. This is not a “go to dad’s every other weekend” kind of deal. My custody agreement- like a lot of them these days- is real 50/50 joint custody, so I don’t have single-mom fatigue to use as an excuse.
Although, the truth is I am much more tired than I was when they were younger. I’m older; I work full-time outside the home now; and I spend a lot of time playing catch up with them because of the way our schedules work (a couple days with one parent, a couple with the other, then alternating weekends). Also, I’ve spent the last couple of years being sadder than before; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: divorce blows. It’s the death of a dream, after all.
So, tired and sad does not always make for great parenting. And, I guess those are the times that I am the most likely to let them stay an extra day at their father’s house. I used the word “shameful” to describe this confession but, maybe what I really feel the most is grief. I grieve the years when I couldn’t imagine spending one night away from them; when I looked in on them as they slept; and when my being there was central to their very existence.
Wow! As I write this, I’m having an epiphany. Some of this grief might be on the horizon anyway, even if we were under the same roof every night. The truth is they don’t need me in the same way they once did. Toothless grins have given way to eye rolling in some instances and maybe both their father AND I would be glad to give them over to someone for a night every once and a while.
But, then I think of a friend of mine who has been fighting a custody battle for a while now. At one point, she hadn’t seen her child in months and she’s as devoted a mother as any I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine the pain she must have been in, so how could I possibly feel relieved to be without my own every now and then?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s not single parenting that has its moments of shame and grief- maybe it’s just parenting in general.
Anyway, it’s early Friday as I write this and I’m missing my kids which I’m pretty sure means that everything is the way it’s supposed to be, after all. It’s a beautiful day and my little girl is going to meet one of the stars of her favorite show tomorrow at the mall. All is well for now, it seems.
I hope I haven’t been a bummer. I’m not sad as much as musing, so thanks for indulging me.
Have a happy weekend, readers! Give your kids a hug from the Mommyhood!