“…my children are not truly mine. They don’t belong to me; they’ve simply been entrusted to me. They are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.”
My mind is a big old scramble right now.
Queue the tears, right?
This excerpt is from The Passion of Parenting. It was the piece, from just before a certain weekend, in a certain year, that absolutely wrecked me as I was processing how, exactly, being divorced from the kids’ dad was going to ‘work.’ The kids were 1, 3 and 5 years old. I was a stay-at-home mom that had given up a great career to be ‘that mom.’ I had rarely spent a night away from them – only to give birth to their siblings! But part of what divorce means is shared custody….for better and for worse. (You get the joke, right?)
The Passion of Parenting genuinely touched me. It broke my heart and gave me hope simultaneously.
“Letting go is hard for me to do. I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them.”
That freaking hollow is just so relatable. To all of us, for whatever the circumstances: divorce, work, responsibilities, life, kids growing up – all of it.
I’ve only been at this parent thing for nine years now. But I’ve been at it for nine full years, the first six of which were non-stop day-in, day-out, no breaks and I liked it like that. And then I made a choice for my own life, one that effectively created this seemingly gigantic void where every other weekend I am physically without my kids, without my heart. And Thursday nights. And half of all holidays and vacations. And they are without their mom. And that?
I remember reading once that you get less than 1000 Saturdays before your kids leave for college, so use them well. I checked the math. It’s true.
That’s just not that many.
And I cut mine in half.
What the f&%# was I thinking???
Hollow is a word that I think describes well how that makes my heart feel.
And yet…I read that NYT piece and thought, ok…maybe this is an opportunity (or at least I better make it one).
First, make them count. Cliche, right? But when you can actually assign a numeric value to time – and you appreciate that there isn’t much of it – holy moly does it become exponentially more meaningful.
And then: own this crazy notion (from NYT author’s brilliant mother) that my kids don’t belong to me. Own that it is simply my job to do the absolute best I can while they are with me, and then to let them go. And DO IT.
Next: spend my hollow/off time so well that I am the absolute best person I can be both without them and when I am with them….and genuinely engage in being their mom – with the determination and focus I gain from whatever I do in the hollow.
And finally: APPRECIATE that I will get 500 practice tries at turning them out before I have to actually do it when they go to college or life or wherever they go. Maybe then, it won’t feel so hollow. (That’s just the optimist in me.)
The realist knows it’ll still suck.
So almost four years into this self imposed void of divorce and custody sharing, I’m trying. I genuinely make it count when I am with the kids and I also try to genuinely make it count when I’m not. Which is how I landed in Charleston, South Carolina and Nicaragua last month, for spring break, without the kids.
Ten Days without kids. Can you imagine? EVERYONE – like every single one of my girlfriends – has a DIFFERENT response to that idea, ranging from full-on horror to dream-come-true. The custody schedule says spring break every other year, last day of school through return to school and so I had a gigantic, first ever, 10-day-hollow-void to fill and so:
Romantic weekend getaway to Charleston, South Carolina, and a Girlfriends Adventure in Nicaragua.
And absolutely A-MAZING.