You know what sucks? Coming across a picture of your kid on social media taken by someone else, at an event you didn’t even know your kid was attending because you don’t get to know all the things anymore.
It is bizarre and unsettling to scroll through your feed and suddenly realize that the cute kid in the thumbnail of the photo gallery is YOUR kid.
Tap. Zoom. Save image to your phone.
“Aww! She looks so cute. And happy. Was that yesterday? I wonder if she had fun. Why don’t I see any pictures of sister? Where was she?”
At least when I pick them up from Dad’s house and ask how their time away was, I can ask more pointed questions and feel like I’m still connected to their entire life. Except I’m not. And that part hurts. It’s a physical pain that is crushing.
I’ll attempt to describe it: it feels like my chest is on F I R E and a heavy weight is pushing into me. Its harder to inhale – which is problematic because those deep breaths are critical to the calming process. As the pressure deepens it feels as though two heavy plates are pressing my sides in. I often visualize a big fist squeezing my heart as the other grips my rib cage.
This is how I feel when I want to hug the shit out of them but know I can’t. It just isn’t an option. “Only two more days until you see them. Keep busy.”
“It must be nice to have a few days to yourself.”
This is an actual phrase I’ve heard from people who I THINK are well-meaning and trying to connect. Really, though. How could you possibly think that’s an acceptable thing to say?
I get it, moms. (And dads! But only mothers have made this asinine comment to me.) You’re exhausted. You wish you had more time for YOU – to do the workouts, read a magazine, go grocery shopping alone and actually want to make out with your husband for once. Uninterrupted.
But guess what. Having days – D A Y S – without my favorite humans in the world isn’t nice. I wish I was forced to “find the time” to do my things and plan date nights, etc. Instead, I realize my daughters don’t have their mom around for at least 50% of their upbringing, and during a critical time in their emotional development. I worry they aren’t getting enough hugs or attention because single parenting is HARD and what if their dad is tired and losing his patience and he doesn’t have another adult there to help?
Three years ago I weighed the pros and cons of leaving the relationship and “breaking up my family” as some of you like to say.
I repeatedly told myself, “You are a selfish woman for choosing your happiness over theirs. Who do you think you are?”
And that voice still sneaks into my mind on occasion, especially when I’m on a spontaneous date with my darling boyfriend or quietly sipping my morning coffee over a crossword puzzle.
“It must be nice.”
Sure, the quiet is nice sometimes. I can clean the house and paint my nails and do all the things I feel guilty for doing when the girls are around. But I’d rather have smudgy nails than miss the sound of the joy generators playing make-believe in the living room with toys scattered throughout. You know that funny thing that just happened? Yeah, they weren’t there to be a part of the moment.
This emptiness and sadness I feel when I’m physically separated from the two people I love most – it’s NEVER going to go away. I know that.
I appreciate that it’s hard sometimes to know what to say in a seemingly difficult situation – especially if it’s one you’ve not experienced. And if you’re a parent who’s feeling overwhelmed and desperate for a brief break, the idea of handing your kids off for a few days is a romantic notion. And hey. We all need real parents in our lives that are willing to say things like, “These little assholes are driving me nuts.”
But I’m done apologizing on your behalf for believing you “just didn’t know how to handle a conversation or situation” that has no impact on your own life. Like, not knowing which parent to invite to a party or how to tactfully ask about other elements of my life. I will no longer feel the need to explain why I made the decision I did nor will I go into my diatribe about how the girls are happy.
Really, they are.
Please don’t project your own desires or assumptions onto your single friends who are balancing the complex world of shared custody of their children.
I simultaneously feel guilty as hell and want to scream at you when you make statements about my luxurious free schedule.
Might I suggest you simply ASK how I’m doing. If you’re curious about what it’s like to have a few days alone, how I spend my time, and is dating as fun as it seems? ASK.
Have the courage and courtesy to ask.