Divorced Parenting: It's a Carnival!

There are moments when I wonder how in the world I navigated the 7 years of married motherhood.

As a divorced mom, I get breaks.  Lots of nice breaks.

I make lists of things that I can get done with no one underfoot.  Things I can fix or clean without the inevitability that something is being dirtied or broken in the other room while I do it.  I practically salivate with anticipation of scrubbing the kitchen floor without someone trying to “help” by proceeding to dump over the bucket and drop saltines all over the wet linoleum.

Yeah...that has happened.  Twice.

Now, I never actually get everything on my list accomplished.  Sometimes I get very little of it accomplished.  In fact, I should really write “Watch a minimum of 3 consecutive hours of Chopped while eating Lean Cuisines and popcorn” right on my list.  Then I’d be able to actually scratch something off of that thing.

Still, regardless of what I am able to accomplish during the time away from my kids – whether it’s home improvement or leisure or sex – it is important because I am a better mom for it. Back when the breaks were few and far-between, I couldn’t allow my energy to be drained because there was no telling when or if it would ever be replenished.   I often dragged through my days putting most of my effort into conserving what little energy I had left.  I felt numb and grubby and beat-up by the time the kids were both in bed. Sex?  Forgeddaboutit.  Housework?  Uhhhhhhggggggggggbllllllllluuuuuuurrrffffffffffff.  Stare at an episode of Breaking Bad and then fall into bed feeling a little resentful?  Yep.  That's the one.

I’m a better mom on Thursday and Friday when they spend Friday evening with their dad. I am more cheerful and more patient and more energetic because I can allow the energy and patience to drain and know that there is a time in the near future when it will be replenished.  I am a better mom on the weekends when they’re with me because I know that there are some weekends I’ll miss.  And I do miss them A LOT when they’re gone.  I mean A LOT.   But I know I am a better mom on those following Mondays and Tuesdays because I’ve had a break.

It has only been 18 months but I try to imagine the crushing weight of not having any type of break on the horizon day after day and I can’t.

I suppose it's possible to get regular breaks without getting a divorce but that would take communication and understanding and give and take, huh?  That takes some effort from everybody, probably.

I never wanted this divorce but I did occasionally see a divorced friend working peacefully in her garden or she would tell me that she was going out for drinks with friends on her night off and I would think it looked pretty good.

And it is.  It is good.

The flip side of that coin is that I often feel sad and fearful as they actually leave.  I have discovered that it’s easier for me if I don’t see them drive away.  It’s better for me if I wave goodbye to them as they serpentine down the hall toward the elevator.  Sending them away in a car feels dangerous.  I find myself imagining that I might be saying goodbye to them for the last time and I give two or three extra hugs and kisses and I memorize the faces peering out the windows and I stop myself from pulling them back out and taking them up to the slightly-too-warm condo where we always feel safe.

It’s generally fleeting.  I recover about an hour after they leave and I haven’t received a frantic phone call.  I relax.  I use my time.  I have a date tonight. That's kinda awesome.  Some nights I hang out with my lady friends and a bottle of wine.  They're wonderful.

I remind myself that the man my kids are with isn’t a stranger to them – he just feels like one to me.  And he loves them a lot.

This life still feels so strange and foreign.  So simultaneously exciting and precarious.  I am more free than I’ve been in over a decade and also hopelessly tethered.

I am equal parts grateful and resentful.

The result is like a county fair.  Don’t you love a good county fair?  With bright lights and colorful games and rides that make you catch your breath and delicious smells and an occasional cool breeze that all makes you feel full and alive if you allow yourself to just BE without scrutiny or investigation.

But dark alleys and weird carnies and rats and overflowing porta-potties and unknown substances that adhere to your shoes are there too if you allow yourself to peek around the corner.

I’m not sure that analogy works.

I might just want to go to a carnival.


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