If you were to ask me what the biggest change was when my ex and I separated, I would have to say the loss of time with my children. That has, and continues to be, the part that sucks the most.
When I had my first child in 2001, I stopped teaching full time. My goal was to stay at home for as long as possible with my children. In the last 11 years, I have had a home business for a few years, taught part time at college for ten years, and had a brick and mortar business for five years . . . with lots of overlap. Having all of those jobs lets me stay home as much as possible with all three of my children. In doing so, I was able to take my children to school almost everyday and pick them up after school most days. I was able to volunteer in their classrooms and even participate in field trips.
After my separation, I lost them for 50% of the time. During the first few weeks, while my ex got set up in an apartment, I got to have the kids for most the time. However, within two months, I lost them for about half of the time and still only have them half time. This has been HUGE for me. As a mother you never think you’re going to lose all that time with your kids. I think it’s a big misconception among most moms. I have friends who say, “I’d never let that happen.”
Like you have a choice.
I learned, the hard way, that it doesn’t matter. In the state of California, if your ex isn’t a drug dealer or a sex offender, nowadays, it’s 50-50. So what if your ex only saw them two hours a day while you were married? So what if he never took them to doctor or dentist appointments? So what if he cheated, walked away from the mortgage, had the mistress around within weeks, spent money on trips with her and complained about spending money on the kids? So what?! It didn’t matter. None of it did!
So now, after years of my world revolving around my kids pretty much 24/7 . . . I have to go without them. Before the custody arrangement, I had only been without my kids for a few days, ever. Now I have to go without them for days at a time on a weekly basis. As it is now, I have my kids Mondays and Tuesdays, he has them Wednesdays and Thursdays, and we alternate weekends. One good thing is that I always have them on Sunday evenings, to get them prepared for the beginning of the school week. However, I do get upset when they don’t do well on the spelling tests on Friday; I have no control over that. I have no control over anything that happens over there at the end of the school week.
For years my kids have had a bedtime routine that has them in bed at a decent time, especially for school nights. I have no control on the other nights . . . so when they are still up an hour after their bedtime, there’s nothing I can do. When things don’t get done the way they have been done for years, I have no control. I do understand that there are different ways to do things, but kids like structure and over all the years that I was with them doing things while my ex was working, etc. we had a schedule that worked well for them. They’ve had enough change with our divorce; I don’t feel changing their entire routine should happen too. But again, no control.
One thing that has been great for me is that while I am waiting to get hired full time, I can still take my kids to school every morning. Even on the mornings my ex has them. They go to school where I live, and we meet half way. So I help him out by meeting him on his mornings and evenings. That way I get to see my kids for a few hours on days that aren’t mine. This will work great until I get a full time job, or summertime when I will not see them for 4+ days every other week.
My “lemonade” in this scenario is that losing my kids for all this time makes me cherish the time I have with them more now. I don’t take them for granted at all. Our time is OUR TIME. It sucks that in an entire year I will not be with them for six months of it!!! Probably, another reason why I’m not totally stressed about the job situation yet. Sure, I don’t have a lot of money coming in and I lose my insurance in two months, but I still get to see the three sweetest faces on days that aren’t mine. I won’t trade that in for a full time job until I have to.