I’m a divorced mom, and I am happy my kids are with their dad this weekend.
I know that’s surprising to read.
Divorce stigma is powerful and real. We divorced parents carry shame and grief and worry around on our backs like three clingy monkeys. We feel the stigma when we fill out school paperwork that doesn’t allow for two houses and hear the constant pitying refrain of “oh, I’m sorry” when we talk about our “broken home.”
The truth is: lots about shared custody is complicated and difficult and sad. But there’s a secret part of this equation that we don’t talk about. Ever. Maybe we divorced parents are afraid being honest about any positive part of sharing custody, however small, might be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back and make us social outcasts forever.
Stigma, schtigma. I’m talking about it. Without further ado, here are the ten reasons I’m glad my three angels are with their dad this weekend.
10. I’m over cooking for people who have opinions: For the last week, I’ve put healthy, balanced meals on the table so my children could look at them and ask if this is what we’re having for dinner. No, this is the display dinner before I break out the burgers and fries. Of course this is what’s for dinner! Get your face right, child, I don’t want to see or hear that you and Brussels sprouts are not a thing.
9. My house is clean and will stay that way: If my children are ever lost in the woods, we will be able to find them by the trail of hair bands, chargers, and other assorted schmutz left in their wake. When my house is clean and they’re home, the tidiness doesn’t last long enough to snap a photo, let alone revel in it. I’ve learned to adjust my routine so the house is clean the day they leave. That gives me a weekend to look at neatly stacked magazines and easy-to-find remotes stacked near the couch before Monday arrives and the hurricane hits.
8. Car pool drop offs and pick ups are the sixth circle of hell: I drove for, wait for it, four hours yesterday and never left the five miles surrounding our home. I was at the same intersection five times. Each time, I had a different kid in the back. I may not drive at all this weekend, just to give the car a much-needed rest.
6. The kids miss their dad: I love my sweeties. My husband loves my sweeties. I’m their mama and he is a terrific stepfather. That doesn’t fill the daddy space in their hearts. Dad sleeps in and makes pancakes and knows all the silly viral videos they watched this week. He’s different from Mama. They need him.
5. I’m all out of words: Seriously, fresh out. I am asked to comment on 64,000 things a day. Yesterday, my 8-year-old asked me what planet I would be if I had to choose. Mostly, I love it. I want nothing more than to be fully connected and enmeshed in their busy lives. I appreciate that they want my opinion. It’s a privilege. Also, it is exhausting.
4. No more pop-quizzes: Who was the 15th president? What’s important about the Pythagorean Theorem? What’s for dinner April 23? Nope. All done. Google and Mama are signing off for the weekend.
3. I need to tag in my partner: This parenting gig is not for the faint of heart. My 15-year-old son is pushing hard against any limit I set, which is his job as a teenager. I’ve been the bad guy most of the week. Dad is prepped and ready to take over as the Master of No. No, you can’t meet your friends when your homework’s not done. No, girls can’t “hang” upstairs in your room with the door closed. No, you can’t finance a new phone. I’m glad to pass the No baton.
2. I miss my husband: Our life is loud and busy and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Four days a month, I connect with my husband in the way we might if we were newlyweds. Just us and the dog. We eat breakfast late and nap and stay up binge-watching totally inappropriate shows. It’s glorious, and I look forward to it. Blended family couples don’t get alone time at the start of their marriages; we must capture it where we can.
1. They’re still mine, and they’ll be back: I’m happy to see them go because I’m finally at peace with our family’s regular and predictable rhythm. I love my children and they love me. I’d rather have them full time but that isn’t our path.
They’re not any less mine at Dad’s. They’ll be back. Our children are happy and healthy and loved and loving, just as they would be in a first family. They simply split time differently.
Secure in the knowledge that the kids are happy and healthy, I can pursue what keeps me happy and healthy too. I fill my reserves when the kids are with their dad, and that makes me a better mom when they come home to me.
I know this isn’t every divorced parent’s reality. Many single moms and dads do not have an active parenting partner to tag in. Many are still swimming through grief. That’s okay. It took time and work for me to even whisper that a weekend to myself twice a month was not all horrible. Today, I’m owning it.
Kate Chapman is a mom and stepmom to six children, ages 8-15. She writes about her modern-day Brady Bunch adventures at This Life in Progress. Drawing on her extensive experience as a coach and a background in psychology and sociology, Kate addresses the tricky topics of divorce, coparenting and blended families. Follow Kate on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest on her blended stepfamily adventures.