I lead two different lives. So does my son.
I have a life with my son and a life without my son. And my son has a life at my house and a life at his dad’s house. His dad and I have been divorced since before our son was born. We’ve never known a family home together, and my son knows nothing different than these two separate homes.
Our Co-Parenting Life
My son spends a larger percentage of nights with me at my house. He spends 1-2 nights per week at his dad’s, and has for many years. When he is not home, I have the life I live without him. I use his “away” nights to see friends, go on dates with my husband, run errands, cook meals my son doesn’t like, and not worry about being interrupted when watching a rated-R movie.
After my evenings alone, my boy comes home, and I settle back into my mom gig. Then, we lather, rinse and repeat for another week.
This co-parenting life can get exhausting, all this switching back and forth all the time. What day of the week is it? Some mornings, I wake up and wonder “Is my son home or not?” Sharing custody is both a blessing and an interruption for all of us.
My son has gone on several vacations with his dad, two brothers and stepmom. He visits family with them, goes on adventures and fits into his own unique space in their family. While he is away, I use my non-mom time wisely, taking trips of my own, seeing friends, doing home improvement projects, and doing adult-y stuff kids don’t like.
When he returns, he tells me of the adventures and experiences that he’s had when he’s with his dad. And sometimes, it’s hard to hear. Instead of being a participant in his full life, I’m only a spectator for portions. Sharing custody means I only get to hear about parts of these happenings instead of being in the thick of of the experiences with him.
He’s Growing Up
My son is 12 and in 7th grade. Middle school and this tween period has been eye opening to me. He has developed a separate life apart from his dad and apart from me. He experiences so many things that no one knows about except for himself while he is at school, seeing friends, and at football practice.
As he has grown up, I realized that I’ve always been a spectator for portions of his life. The moment I returned to work and he went to the babysitters, one of the heartstrings connecting us was cut. As he ages, those strings tethering us together continue to be removed. And it hurts.
So Many Firsts
The moment our children come into our lives, we parents begin to study the art of letting go. Our babies are so helpless, but in their baby books, we record each “first” with giddy excitement. But each first draws them away from us a little bit at a time. We celebrate their growth; we relish the new moments of independence; we look for the day they are self-sufficient.
And before we know it, we are watching from the sidelines while they embrace their lives. With a 12 year old, I’m not yet at that place, but I see it looming on the horizon. It makes me excited and tearful all at once. It’s a feeling I cannot name, but I know you know it, too, mama.
Co-Parenting Life as Training
I feel a little more prepared for his growing up because I’ve been practicing watching from a distance his whole life as he spends time with his dad without me. And now watching him embrace middle school and the tremendous growth and changes that are taking place continues my training in letting him go.
While co-parenting may make it feel like I lead two separate lives, I really don’t. It’s as simple as sometimes I’m with my son and sometimes I’m not. Being a mom is part of my core self and that is the strongest of all of the heartstrings. Nothing can ever break it.