By Betsy Chasse
Originally published on Modern Mom 2013
It’s Friday night, my kids are with their dad and I am home sitting at the computer watching the latest episode of “Sylvester the Talking Kitty Cat” and really missing my kids.
How is that possible, right?! It’s not that I don’t absolutely love my kids and miss them when they’re gone, it’s just that it’s Friday night and I have a relatively new boyfriend and well, you know…
The truth is, my kids have been with their dad for about two weeks and I have stayed out late, drank too much wine, seen a movie or two, had lunch and brunch and coffee and everything in between, and now I am ready to go back to what I love most: being a mom.
I’ve gone through phases with this whole co-parenting thing, from crying my eyes out as they drove away to barely being able to contain my excitement as I packed their suitcases.
This is normal I’m told, although I still seem to have moments where I feel guilty. Guilty, mostly because I don’t think swapping kids from one house to another should be normal.
And tonight as I sit here and wonder about tomorrow’s transition, worrying about what kind of mood they’ll be in, will they be mad at me, will they want to run back to their dad and never see me again, will they like their dad’s pancakes better than mine, every ounce of doubt and guilt I can muster will pass through my head.
I have planned their homecoming, gathered their friends and am doing everything I can to show them they are loved and all is good and make their transition as easy as possible for them, and I worry if they’ll know that. Will it be enough for them to know how much I love them?
In addition to my phases about whether to party or not upon their departure, I have also worked through some of the phases around guilt, of which in divorce there seems to be a lot of. And all of this is normal.
It is perfectly normal to feel a sense of failure around your divorce and your kids.
I know I said the F word, but it’s probably what some of you are feeling, especially if this is a new thing and even sometimes if it isn’t. And it feels better just to admit it, to say it, say it loud and say it proud, own it, because until you do you won’t actually be able to move past that feeling, at least in my opinion.
Failure, the F word, has quite a stigma. People recoil in fear at the first utterance of the word as if it’s contagious. Say it: “Failure.” Even when people start running and screaming and trampling over each other, say it louder: “I failed.”
I failed at marriage, I married the wrong guy, I suck at choosing men (ok, maybe that’s over the top, but it’s how I felt for sure). And I’ll bet you are frothing at the mouth right now wanting to shake me and say something sympathetic and wise like, “It wasn’t a failure, don’t be so hard on yourself, be more forgiving and accepting of yourself.”
To those kind words, I say this: it was a failure, and guess what, I am totally cool with admitting that.
Because when I was able to admit that I failed at marriage, I could also finally see that I wasn’t a failure as a mother. And that was huge.
I could finally see that my stint as a wife had nothing to do with my lifelong commitment to being a mother. For sure having one house, two parents is, I’m told, optimum, but when is life optimum? Optimum is a relative term. I do not have to be married to be a good mother, I do not have to be married to love my children with every ounce of my being, I do not have to be married to create a home and life in which my children feel loved and cared for, all of that and more I could do very well on my own and I do.
I know I do the moment my kids jump out of the car and yell, “MOM MOM MOM” and run and hug me, I know that I do when they call me from their dad’s just to say “I love you” and I especially know it when I make pancakes and they tell me their dad makes them better (they are right, he does), and they tell me it’s ok…I can make muffins like nobody’s business.
So as I sit here tonight hanging out with doubt and guilt, I feel a sense of normalcy. I know it’s ok to have these feelings, I know I don’t have to feed them or offer them drinks, that if they really want to watch cat videos with me they are welcome to do so.
Allowing myself to feel the way I feel has offered me a new freedom, to honestly and openly face them, to find the truth in them and the lies in them as well. We can be so hard on ourselves and I have found that speaking my fears, acknowledging my true feelings, helps
to send them away empty handed. Because the moment my kids come home and we laugh and we fight over who get’s to be what character in Skylanders, our house will be filled with love, not because of what I do, but because it’s what’s in my heart and they’ll know it and I’ll know it, and doubt and guilt won’t be hanging out anymore.