When my ex-husband and I decided to separate in 2016, the hardest thing to swallow, by far, for both of us was the fact we would have less time with our children after he moved out. Co-parenting would be a challenge for us.
We were both dreading it, but I think I was more. In their early years, I was a SAHM who didn’t work. As they got older, I became a mum who worked from home; I’ve picked them up every day from school, I made sure they’ve had what they needed for every party, excursion and I’ve been able to be home with them while they are sick. I remember him saying he had a feeling it would tear me up a bit more while we were discussing it– he was used to being away from them since he worked long hours.
But for the past 15 years, they have been my whole life. I’ve always had them here, with me. I’d forgotten what having an empty house for 24 hours has felt like- it was devastating to go from a family of 5, to being solo a few nights a week. You might not think you’ll miss the chaos and commotion, but you do. There have been nights when the silence hurts my ears and I’ve felt so lost without my people, I’ve retreated to my bed at 6pm just to make the hurt stop.
I know these feelings are normal– excruciating but normal– and I soon realised I could be miserable each and every night and weekend my kids were gone, or I could pick myself up and try with all I had to move forward. And through that, I’ve found quite a few things that are positive about co-parenting.
1. Cereal counts as dinner without the guilt.
It’s eaten in bed, and it’s wonderful. Or you drop your kids off and meet your girlfriends out for a plate of nachos, go home and have a fun time with your vibrator and pass out – simply because you can.
2. You know a break is coming.
Yes, it’s intense when you are parenting alone and it can feel like a huge weight is on your shoulders, but you know there is always a break coming around the corner. You work really hard and give it your all knowing it won’t be long and you can rest a bit.
3. You get to call the shots.
You don’t have to worry about disagreeing with your partner, or arguing over where to eat or how much you can spend in Target. You get to consult with yourself, no one else. It’s empowering and a lot less exhausting.
4. You put more effort into your relationship with your kids.
You aren’t with your kids all the time like you used to be. You all have a new appreciation for each other and cherish the time you spend with them that much more. My kids and I have a different bond now that their father and I aren’t married anymore and I know they share the same new bond with him.
5. You get to know yourself again.
You are forced to do things you love, work on yourself and your friendships, and you definitely put yourself out of your comfort zone by trying new things like dating, rock climbing or learning to knit. You know you have a choice: You can spend every night without your kids alone – and believe me, they will know if you are doing that and it will make them sad – or you can get out there and meet new people, get together with old friends and try things you might not if you didn’t have this time with yourself.
6. You invest in self-care.
Going to get a pedicure or giving myself one happens a lot more now that I have some free nights. I keep up with my face masks, actually read magazines, and can watch trashy television at a decent hour instead of having to put my kids to bed first then struggle to stay awake.
Of course, I still wish my kids were with me every night. I hate that they have to go back and forth; this decision was out of their control. But instead of wallowing (which I did for a long time, and still do once in a while), I decided to face my new reality and try and make the best of it. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I know my kids are better off having a happy mother who makes the most of her time without them rather than knowing their mum sobs on the sofa whenever they aren’t here.
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