As a newly single mother of three, I am confronting numerous changes in my life, while simultaneously trying to maintain stability for our children and shield them from further pain. Despite my efforts, some days I feel overwhelmed by the divorce process and doubt my resilience. Divorce sucks. Divorce sucks worse when children are involved. Below are five things I hate most about being a single mom.
1. The Handover
One night a week and every other weekend I meet my soon-to-be ex at a neutral location for the handover. If all goes well, the children swiftly transfer from my car to their father’s without any verbal exchange between the two of us. I will not be an obstacle in our boys’ relationship with their father. I acknowledge that he has the right to parent them too. Nevertheless, saying goodbye to our children each time feels as if someone is tearing out my organs without anesthesia even though I know they are spending sacred time with him. As I kiss each son one last time and say a prayer for their safety and happiness, I swallow the anguish and hide the tears until I am far from sight and free to let go.
2. The Empty House
My family, friends, and even my lawyer assure me that I will someday appreciate the solitude that these overnights provide, but I remain skeptical. The silence in the house is deafening and their absence is palpable. I long for the sound of little feet stomping across the hardwood floor in the middle of the night in pursuit of the safety of my bed after a bad dream. I miss the “I’m done” shout from the potty, the constant bickering between the twins, and even the screaming of the baby at 2:00 am.
3. The Free Time
Suddenly relieved of all child-related responsibilities, I know I should be sleeping or enjoying a book, maybe even seeing a movie, but in all honesty, I am at an absolute loss as to how to occupy my time. Therefore I attack each room in the house with frenzy, cleaning and organizing everything I can. There is no closet or drawer that escapes my madness. When there is nothing left to organize or clean I invent tasks like washing the crusted soap drips off of the soap dispenser or sorting through the children’s art supplies eliminating the dried out markers and broken crayons. My fear is that inevitably I will run out of projects. And when this happens, I will be forced to sit still, to feel my loneliness and pain and to address the thoughts that never stop churning in my head.
4. The Worry
I know my ex loves our children. I still worry about their physical safety and emotional well being both when they are with me and when they are out of my grasp. My worries are a combination of real and immediate concerns like do they have their coats, will they flounder in their own relationships because of our divorce, and worst-case scenario fears like car accidents, middle of the night fevers, and other unspeakable horrors. While I recognize worry is a natural part of parenthood, I know my fears are exacerbated as a result of marital problems and being regularly separated from our children.
5. The Guilt
While there are those who will undoubtedly argue that divorce is an easy way out, I am confident we are making the best decision for our children, as our marriage is simply beyond repair. My hope is that our children will eventually have a positive relationship to model. In the meantime, two parents living apart is a much healthier situation than the chaos and pain they were forced to witness regularly. Nevertheless, knowing that I am acting in their best interest does not minimize the guilt I feel about what has and is continuing to happen. I am trying to learn to channel the guilt into positive actions and ensure that we make the best of our current reality.