Of course, we are always parents engaging, thinking about and preparing for the lives of our children;
however, once we are no longer physically with the father of our children and sharing custody, there will be times where we are not physically present with our kids during times where we would have been in the past. Hence, the title of this article.
There are many studies that confirm the benefits of children growing up with two participating parents in their lives. Parenting together, while apart, can still yields very well adjusted and healthy children. There is, however, an adjustment period for parents who once lived together.
I clearly remember the first weekend I spent without my boys. I was delighted to be in my new place and looking forward to starting anew (I have to add that my excitement about moving on with my life was less about my ex-husband and more about getting out of limbo). I remember getting in a warm bath, in a quiet house, with all of the trappings and suddenly bursting into tears.
The tears were the realization that there would be moments I would miss with my boys, and that until my ex and I were communicating more regularly, I wouldn’t even hear about them. I thought to myself “what kind of mother is ever without her children?”. Shortly after and during my soak, I thought “one who is sharing the responsibility with a loving father”. I settled in, still with a feeling that something was missing, but with a greater comfort and a willingness to use the time to grow and reflect.
There was more reality to set in when I realized that I couldn’t run to the grocery store when the boys were in bed with no one to watch them or come home late from work without a babysitter on tap, or have someone to help out if I was ill or simply to help me get them dressed . Over time, I became more organized (which in my fly by the seat of your pants lifestyle was a huge achievement) and comfortable.
You may be the first of you friends to experience the situation and my not have anyone to go to for guidance. If I had to share with a parent who was about to parent together with their ex while apart, I would say:
- Take time to let yourself feel. Change can be hard.
- Get a support system; preferably women who have been through it and taken a positive road or those who can support you when you need help.
- Your co-parenting relationship is reaching new heights when you can make it a give and take. Let him know that you are available if and when he needs assistance, which will open up the door for you.
- Try to get a routine in place for morning and evening as soon as possible.
- In the beginning (and from time to time after), it may feel like a lot to deal with. Allow yourself time to decompress. Cry, take a class at the gym, go dancing, go running, etc. Don’t feel a need to hold it all together all the time.
Don’t let your time without the children be spent sulking or depressed. Read. Grow. Have fun.