Divorced mom life comes with a range of challenges as I mentioned in an earlier post (which you should go read). However, there are some silver linings of a shared custody arrangement too.
Frankly, it’s the silver linings of shared custody that help me keep perspective when things do feel rough: primarily, the times when I miss my kid, or when I want someone nearby to face the hardships of parenting with or to laugh with me at that really hilarious thing my son just did. The times where I’ve gone to bed at night a little more lonely, exhausted, and unsure of myself – as a parent, a person, or someday a partner to a hypothetical somebody in the future.
Those silver linings include:
*When I’m by myself, I can take a bathroom break, a shower, or even a bath, without it being a party of 2. I don’t think I need to explain why this is so great.
*I can also drink as much wine as I want.
While I’m not a consistent or heavy drinker, I still tend to stay away from alcohol while my son is in my care, even after he’s gone to bed. I have this fear – perhaps unwarranted – that if I fall asleep after a couple of glasses of wine, I won’t wake up to hear his calls, cries, or needs as quickly. So when he’s with his dad, I can indulge without guilt or worry.
*I can have girls’ nights or movie nights or date nights, even.
Any of these allow me the freedom to stretch my spirit, cuss, laugh out loud, and be a little less appropriate. My adult conversations aren’t being interrupted. Heck, I can actually have adult conversations. If it’s a movie night, I can watch something that isn’t animated and maybe doesn’t have talking animals or even morals. In fact, it could be utter garbage. Something with no plot. Lots of swearing. Inappropriate subject matters. You know, just because.
*I can sleep more. My sleep isn’t interrupted. Enough said.
*I only have to truly cook and worry about meals half the time – that’s the half of the time that my son is with me.
The break from meal preparation and planning is welcomed. I can cook, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. And when I have my son, it’s a lot of work to facilitate meal making while balancing his needs, but there isn’t a choice. We have to eat. When I don’t have him, I rely on leftovers or a handy bowl of cereal (hey now, don’t judge) and gain back a few me-moments at the same time.
Okay, okay. So those first five reasons are all true and also a little funny. But these last two are the biggest silver linings of shared custody. These are the real deep and honest truths about the blessings of shared custody that come from this divorced mom’s life.
*The days I don’t have my kiddo, I can get all the boring, less fun, household crap out of the way.
The bills. Grocery shopping, laundry, the cleaning. This isn’t to say that I don’t do some of these things when my son is with me. Or that some of these things aren’t good for him to witness or participate in, but it’s not how I really want to spend the precious moments I get with my son. I would rather be able to focus my attention on him fully.
If I still had to do these things every day, I would be less present with him. By now only having him half the time due to our shared custody arrangement, I value that time in a whole different way than when I was seeing him day-in and day-out. I can soak up his laughter and smile, the sound of his voice, his imagination, and activity than be pushing him around in a cart at the grocery store or telling him to wait, I’ll play with him after the checkbook is balanced and the sheets are folded. Now, the time with him is solely about him and our relationship. We can play. We can engage. I can relish in that little boy and all his wonder.
*When I’m alone, I have time to spend with myself, restoring my sense of identity, engaging in things that I love, refueling me, taking proper care of myself as an individual rather than only being the person responsible for caretaking for others.
I can go get my nails done, go for a massage, journal, read without interruption, or craft. I figure, if I’m only going to see my kid half the time, I might as well use the time without him to work on me. That time ends up being a gift, in a way. I can focus on my own personal growth and development and that makes me feel like a better mom for when I am with him.
For me, time alone allows me to hit the reset button. The days I don’t have him, I can do a little more self-care. A little more focus on re-energizing. When it’s my turn to have him again, my battery is back on full power and I have more energy to keep up with his pace, more patience to handle his threenager tendencies, and more of a sense of an identity (outside of motherhood) which brings me security and satisfaction. This, in turn, makes me feel like I can be a stronger role model.
It goes without saying that if there was some way to have my kid with me 100% of the time, I would choose that.
I miss him incredibly when I can’t hear his breath from the room next door on the nights I don’t have him. When he’s sick and not with me, my heart physically aches because I’m worried and I don’t know throughout the night how he is doing. The weekends that aren’t mine can feel particularly long if I don’t stay busy or surrounded by others who love me. I wonder if there are any firsts I’m missing. Sometimes I’ll see something that might be really fun to do together and then realize it’s not a “mommy day” and feel a pang of disappointment.
It’s for these reasons that I have to focus on the silver linings of shared custody because the truth is, if I focused too much on what I felt I was missing, or what I had lost, this divorced mom would be in a permanent state of heartache.
And that is not a feeling I want to be stuck in or the way I want to go about the life that I chose when I decided to get a divorce in the first place.
If you’re divorced with shared custody, what do you focus on to get through the tough times?