I’ve expanded my vocabulary. Nesting (keeping the kids in the home while the parents rotate), mixed-orientation marriage (straight/gay spouses), divorce, custody.
When the reality of separation and ultimately divorce set in, Matt and I had to determine how to “split time with our boys”. A little part of me (the selfish part) secretly hoped that Matt would only want our boys every other weekend. I couldn’t imagine not being with our boys daily. Not seeing their smiles, feeling their hugs, hearing their laughter. The loving part of me knew that our boys needed to be with Matt as much as with me and that Matt also needed to be with our boys.
Matt wanted equal time with our boys. I knew/know in my heart this is the right thing, but that meant missing half of our boys’ lives. The little moments, the quiet moments, the ones that are seemingly so insignificant yet most meaningful. It killed me. Three-plus years later, I still struggle with this.
We settled on splitting our time week on/week “off” with transitions occurring Sunday nights. This was not my idea of being a mom. This was not how I had planned on raising our three boys, this was not how my family was supposed to look. But. It was.
To this day, time away from our boys remains the most challenging aspects of being divorced. I still cry when I hug our boys goodbye and watch them drive away, away from me. As much as Matt and I continue to prioritize family time, doing things together as a family with our boys, it’s not the same as being a 100% mom. I envy the time that Matt is with the boys. I struggle with accepting the time that Matt and his partner spend with our boys – hiking, laughing, BBQs on Matt’s rooftop deck, camping trips, trips to the beach, having fun and creating memories without me. I have FOMO – for my OWN FAMILY. I’ve learned to accept this.
To minimize the disruption to our children’s lives, initially Matt and I decided to keep the boys in our home and find an apartment that we rotated through every week. I later learned that there is a term for this. It’s nesting. Nifty.
Remember the joy of searching together for your first apartment, first home? Looking for furnishings and touches that made your new place special and “you”? Well – this wasn’t that. First and foremost, we were looking for cheap – cheap rent, cheap furnishings. Who wants to invest anything beyond what is absolutely necessary for a place filled with despair? As an aside, I bought myself a (pink!) toolkit and learned to be (somewhat) handy. Having never lived alone, I learned how to just figure out what needed figuring out, building what needed to be built. I refused to be helpless or ask for help (note: I do not recommend refusing help).
We found a small one-bedroom apartment close to our home. I hated that apartment with every fiber of my being. I invited no-one. I was completely lost within those walls, filled with grief. For, when I was in the apartment, I was away from our children. I didn’t know who that woman was who pulled into the parking garage with the irritating too-tight spaces, rode the elevator to the fourth floor, and shlepped her sh*t down the dreary hallway to Apt 444.
Every Sunday morning, I gathered my clothes, picture frames, candles, books, little things that made me feel “me” (sort of. not really. not at all.). It took multiple trips to load and unload the car. I’d clear out of one space, leaving no trace of me, and transition into the other space, that held no trace of me.
Wheeling my suitcase down the sad apartment hallway. Listening to and smelling the lives of strangers.
Then, wheeling my suitcase back into my “home” that no longer felt like home. Now simply a space, filled with stuff. Aside from our boys, stuff I no longer cared about. And how many times did I end up at place or the other without necessities? Running shoes, bra, computer cords?
Nesting provided invaluable perspective. I would do it over again in a heartbeat, to give our children one space to call home. Matt and I continued rotating for six months, until we sold our family home.
Transition to Separate Spaces
After we each moved into our own homes, I found some relief in being able create a space for myself and our boys. Yet my relief meant that the burden of rotating now fell to our children. I learned first-hand that it is challenging to feel at home when you don’t have one space to call your own.
Matt and I tried to create a special space for our children, a place they could call home. I duplicated as much as possible to minimize the weekly shlep. Now it’s the boys that begin the weekly process of packing up their bags, multiple trips to load up their cars, and begin the shuffle back and forth every Sunday. Loading up their bags, making multiple trips to their car. Forgetting necessities – homework, computer, sports equipment. Never feeling settled in one place. And being home with one parent, means not being with the other. Never feeling whole.
Tears as I watch my boys pull out of the driveway to head to Matt’s. I cry because I’m not providing them with the life I envisioned, I cry for the time apart from them, the memories and experiences that they are having without me, for the failure I feel. The future I envisioned. I cry for the loss of my family as I knew it.
One of the countless times that I cried to my amazing therapist, I lamented the fact that I was only a 50% mom. She challenged me to re-evaluate the relationships that I’ve created with our boys. She helped me see that I am closer than ever to our boys. Our bond is deeper, strengthened by our shared struggles. We’ve witnessed and supported each other through our lowest moments; we celebrate like never before. The time we have together is precious, maximized. We talk about the hard stuff, the things that make us uncomfortable, anxious, fearful, uncertain. We share our dreams, our hopes, our wins.
This is one of the gifts of my journey. That we’ve been able to transform our relationships; that they are evolving and growing. While I may miss out on some time with our boys, I’ve gained a deep connection not otherwise possible.
I may not be with our boys full time, yet I am anything but a 50% mom.