Divorced Parenting

I am working a traditional full time job for the first time in 15 years. I have mostly worked, at least part time, most of my children’s lives. But I have worked from home. I have worked from 9PM-Midnight. For 15 years, I have been the one who picked them up, drove them places, attended every event. I have a strong memory of watching my former husband arrive home one day from a business trip and receiving an enthusiastic welcome from the kids and I commented on the fact that I wish they would be so excited to see me when I come home. My oldest laughed and said, “Mom, you are always around…there’s no reason to miss you.”

True.

But not true anymore. I work full time now. I have joint custody so I don’t see them for two days sometimes. It’s weird. I think we are all getting used to it. Maybe. I guess we are.

Tonight my 13 year old son called around 4:40 while I was work and asked if I was coming to watch his band play at a fundraiser. I told him I probably wouldn’t make it in time.

“No one is coming to watch me?”

Um…shit.

My heart stopped and I grew instantly defensive.

“I don’t get off work until 5:00 honey, and I work downtown. I have to walk to my car and fight traffic. I won’t make it in time.” I wanted to say that it was his dad’s week and I was  going out of my way to pick him up. But I stopped myself. Another thing about divorced parenting, holding your tongue…a LOT.

He wasn’t happy. And my heart broke a little.

My boss had overheard the conversation and told me to leave. At this point it was too late to make it anyway but I rushed to my car and got on the freeway. And sat in traffic. And crept along. And hoped I would make it.

I arrived at the event at 5:30. I ran in high heels through the parking lot and walked in just as they began the first song. And I cried like an asshole. I actually cried. Because I made it.

They played beautifully. I took a video and pictures. I told the band instructor how good they sounded. Even though It was the 100th time I have heard them play, It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.

Working parents everywhere have been dealing with this shit forever. I have been lucky to be able to do a job that didn’t require so much time from me. I have been lucky to be married to someone who could support the family without my income making a big impact.

Those days are over. And I am ok with that it. It needed to happen. But it’s hard. Harder in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I can imagine them now. I am living them.

Parenting is tough.

Working and parenting is hard.

But working and parenting while divorced is really, really extra

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious hard.

(this blog post needed some humor so I threw that in)

You can never assess what’s happening with your kids again without it becoming about the divorce. If I weren’t divorced it would probably be something else but I am, so every bump in the road becomes about the divorce. A choice I made. My fault.

And then comes the guilt.

Parenting with guilt is incredibly ineffective and dangerous. It causes you to make choices that you definitely shouldn’t make. Buy shit you shouldn’t buy. Say yes to things you shouldn’t say yes to. Let kids get away with things you shouldn’t let them get away with. You know you shouldn’t feel that way, but you do.

It causes you pain. And you will never know whether you would have had the same problems with your kids that you have if you hadn’t gotten divorced. You can’t know. You can blame you. They can blame you. Hell, even society can blame you.

Divorced parenting is also exhausting. On my weeks with the kids I am in charge of everything. The day begins at 5:30 and doesn’t stop until 11PM when the teenager finally finishes her homework or pretends to. It’s you and only doing all the driving. Unless you ask for help from the other parent. And thank GOD I have his help. Thank GOD he’s a good man who wants to stay as involved as I want to stay. But he isn’t there all the time and I can’t say, “you deal with it…I am done.” It’s all you.

You don’t get to be done.

I think you just have to stay on top of the guilt feelings. You have to do the best you can. And when you suck at it, screw it up, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, forget something important, get frustrated, yell, feel guilty…you just have to forgive yourself. You have to ask your kids to forgive you for being human.  And you have to love your kids and hope they can afford a really good therapist in a few years.

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