As a recently divorced mom, there are a lot of expectations that go into our few days together. I feel giddy when they arrive, feel happy throughout and sadness when it’s over... so it’s not unlike Christmas, really. This is my life as a single mom sharing 50/50 custody with their father week after week. It’s Christmas Eve on repeat with some big, sad, and heavy moments.
Seeing my kids only half of the week forces me to be intentional with my time and provides me the mental space to feel grounded. I’ve had the other half of the week to be single Meg — to sleep in a little longer, to get errands done sans kids, and to carve out time for things that make me me. Things like writing, hanging out with friends, staying at home with my books, binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the 20th time, and dating. Sounds pretty nice to all the moms out there, right?
Honest answer? Yes, it is, and no, it’s not.
Those Gilmore Girl episodes I’m rewatching? The TV screen has left-behind-hummus handprints from my toddler I have to look through in order to see the many brilliant facial expressions of Lorelai. I leave them there intentionally, avoiding any form of cleaning, because I need to sense his presence in my home. The book pile I previously mentioned? Yes, there is a Five-minutes of My Little Pony book in that pile I look through simply to remind me of the nighttime routine I have with my daughter and to make it feel like she just might be there, next to me, before I drift asleep. The errands I run? I pass their schools knowing they’re inside, imagining what they’re doing in there, longing to drop by and get a big hug, to see their sweet faces in person maybe one time before Sunday morning.
On Wednesday mornings, I do the impossible. I drop them off at school and head to work. This is the day when their dad picks them up and has a few days with them. Often the kids will say, “I’ll see you after school?” with hopeful eyes as I kiss their cheeks and give one more hug. With some of the most mustered up excitement in my voice I say, “Your daddy is picking you up today! You’re going to have so much fun with him, and then we’ll get to have our adventures in a few sleeps!” I can barely breathe in these moments. My saving grace is knowing just how quickly a few days pass. I remind myself that I will be OK and how I am going to use that time to prep for seeing the kids again and to take care of me. Self-care is at the forefront of a mom’s mental health, and I certainly have no excuse to not indulge. I remember wanting just one night away from the kids when I was part of a two-parent household; now I have a few each week. Perspective.
It’s their absence that pushes me into Supermom-mode. With time away — as any mom who’s ever left her kids even for a night will tell you — I’m more patient with them, more understanding, and more willing and wanting to play with them for consecutive hours after having half the week without them. I’ve had the time for self-care and “me-time.” I’m refreshed, something I know not many moms can say.
But I’m also anxious. I haven’t had the chance to hold them, to cook for them, or to have living room dance parties together in days. I won’t ever get to have them again daily. That’s a hard truth to swallow and not what I signed up for when I became a mom. When their dad and I split, 50/50 split made sense. We’re on good terms, and trust each other. In the summertime we each get two uninterrupted weeks with the kids. This allows time for making memories vacationing and traveling to see their out-of-state grandparents. This is common across 50/50 split arrangements. My fellow divorced girlfriends have both very positive feelings about having half their week with their kids and half to themselves, and very negative ones about missing out on the day-to-day, especially when all alone at night and not getting to experience the hugs and kisses kids often pour out before bedtime. One of my married girlfriends flat out tells me she gets a bit jealous of the balance that is afforded a 50/50 split. She likes to tell me I have the best of both worlds — though quickly reminds me it would be brutal to not get to see the kids whenever you wanted.
For the past year, it’s become my new normal that has, ultimately, led to more gratitude for consecutive time spent with my children, more eagerness to be with the children, and more intentionality in the memories being made. I’m making it as positive of an experience as I can, and I can say it’s nice to get to experience “Christmas Eve excitement” each Saturday.
Meg Raby is a mom, children’s author of the My Brother Otto series, and Autistic residing in Salt Lake City where you can find her playing and working with neurodivergent children as a Speech Language Pathologist and friend, or writing and planning big things in the second booth at her local coffee shop that overlooks the Wasatch Mountains while sipping on her Americano. Meg believes the essence of life is to understand, love and welcome others (aka, to give a damn about humans).