If You Were A GOOD Mom, You Would Be Sad…

At the beginning of every summer I feel such a loss in my heart when the “summer schedule” begins because the kids spend every other week with their dad. As you all know, I thrive on schedules and I feel comfort in predictability, so the change is tough on me. That first week (or even two) when the kids are gone, I withdraw. Everything makes me sad and I crave to talk to them nonstop. At the beginning of this summer, I was driving alone down the road listening to my Broadway Show Tunes (as “ALWAYSSSSS” the kids say) and the song “Learn To Live Without” came on. Although it is written about divorce, I fell all to pieces. Here’s the song:

Sadly, the sentiments are the same for me in the summer… I have to learn to live without.

The funny part of it is that I don’t just miss the good stuff about the kids… I also miss the not-so-great stuff. Sure, I come home to an empty house without 5 gabillion plates and cups in the sink, but it doesn’t bring happiness to see the shiny silver at the bottom of the sink (I know?!?! I didn’t know it was shiny silver either!!!!). I miss the smell of Axe body spray in an attempt to cover up that someone REALLY needs a shower. I miss the piles of dirty clothes (even the inside-out Nike Elite socks that I have to reach my hands into to turn right side out). I miss walking up the stairs and feeling a little panic at the overwhelming smell of nail polish remover.

My first few weeks of summer are spent in mourning. I don’t know why I let the change affect me like I do, but it just happens. I have no control over it and all I can say is, “BLESS JOE’S SWEET HEART” for having to deal with me.

Then something changes.

I come home one day to an empty sink and rather than feel an emptiness, I smile. Not in a “I wish life was like this every single day!” kind of way, but in a “I can handle having no real worries for short periods at a time.”  My life goes from learning to live without them to hopping in the car on a Friday and heading out of town while knowing the kids are all taken care of.

Picture me riding down the road singing this song (bizarre video, but the song is amazing):

Last week, I received an email from a reader who is also in a blended family. Her letter said:

Hey lady!!! I have a good idea for a blog…. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. We have had all 5 kids for over a week together straight. Which we love every second of it! Then today when they all went to different homes, the feeling was such relief. Even though I miss them terribly it’s wonderful to sit down and eat without dealing with teenagers or take a walk, etc. Just wondered if that feeling was just me…. Am I alone with this?? Now I always miss them but….. It is a positive to having another house for your children to go to!

And she is right! There is a sense of relief when you come home to an empty, CLEAN house. There is peace in knowing that when you walk in the door from work you won’t be bombarded with questions – “Can we go to the mall?” “What time will dinner be ready?” “If I finish my homework, can I go fishing?” “Can we paint?” “I’m starving, can I have a bowl of cereal since dinner isn’t ready?” For me, I like that I don’t have to rush home from work, so I can go do things that make me happy. While the kids were gone last week, I went to dinner with my sister-in-law at my favorite restaurant, then went to the library and walked around looking at books until they closed. (I must be maturing if I am closing down a library instead of a bar!) It’s just nice to be able to do what you love without having to worry about the kids.

BUT THEN THE GUILT HITS.

My friend’s email hinted on this “Mother’s Guilt.” It is real. We have been trained (and our kids encourage this way of thinking) to think that we should be home and feel sad when our kids aren’t around. Joe and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago without the kids and one of them said, “Why do you always go to the beach without us?” IT WAS OUR FIRST TRIP OF THE SUMMER WITHOUT THEM, but that one question made me feel guilty for going without them.

Let me say it loudly, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR ENJOYING YOUR TIME WITHOUT THE KIDS WHEN THEY ARE WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT!!!! Being a mother is tough, so if you want to spend the entire Saturday in bed reading a book while your kids are at their dad’s house, then DO IT.  If you want to take a trip with your husband to New York, then DO IT.  I feel strongly that if you focus all of your energy on your children while they are with you, then you have earned the right to live your life to the fullest when they are not with you.

To stave off the guilt, I make sure to focus 100% on my kids when they are with me. When one of them speaks to me, I make sure to turn toward them and look them straight in the face. We wonder why kids always have their noses in their electronics… it’s because that’s what they see their parents doing! I also make sure to work extra hours when they are away so that I don’t have to work as much when they are with me. I understand mothers who feel guilt if they are always doing their own thing when the kids are gone, so then they have to work nonstop while the kids are with them. They don’t get to spend any quality time with their kids! That would make me feel horribly guilty too! If you do everything in your power so the kids know, wholeheartedly, that they are your priority, then you can feel free to enjoy a little quiet time away from them.

You don’t have to be sad to be a good mom. Don’t let that mother’s guilt fool you into thinking that way.

Plus, we all know that in another couple of days…. THINGS WILL BE RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

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Remove Emotions From Co-Parenting

Published originally today on the Huffington Post:

English: A metaphorical visualization of the w...

English: A metaphorical visualization of the word Anger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Co-parenting following divorce can be very challenging to say the least. You feel like you have finally broken the ties of marriage, but you find yourself having to deal daily with the one person you want nothing to do with. As soon as you are able, you need to do everything in your power to remove emotions from the co-parenting equation. Do not enter this new role with preconceived ideas. Try to focus on the fact that the marital relationship is over, so this is your new role as co-parents. For the kids, you must remove emotion and start fresh. Let the old ghosts go.

Sure, I get that your ex was irresponsible with your finances. That’s awful. Yeah, so maybe she was having an affair with your next door neighbor. Despicable! But what do those past transgressions have to do with raising your children NOW? Nothing. The marital relationship is over and the co-parenting relationship has begun. And this relationship will last for the rest of your lives.

Just like in a business partnership, you must remain professional in this new role. It seems that the parents who focus on their own agenda or refuse to cooperate with the other parent are the ones who are still harboring a great deal of resentment or anger over the divorce. As a result of this anger, they are only hindering the children’s healing.

From my experience, I have learned that who initiated the divorce is not predictive of who harbors the most anger. I think that the pendulum can swing based on certain life changes. The pendulum can also swing based on the passion each side feels about a certain topic — for example, educational or medical decisions.

The problem with allowing emotion in is that when emotion is involved, logic isn’t. You cannot have a reasonable discussion or think logically when you are caught up in your own internal emotional battle. How can you possibly agree on any major issues when you are being ruled strictly by your emotions? The anger you may feel toward your ex will only cloud your judgment and cause you to make decisions based on revenge rather than focusing on the best interests of your children.

Sure, you can claim to be unemotional, but if you resort to name calling or hanging up on your ex or refusing to respond to emails/texts, then you are clearly working on emotions rather than focusing on your shared vision for the children.

In order to put the kids first, you first have to release your anger. You may feel anger over the events that led up to the divorce. You may feel anger over your ex getting remarried. You may feel anger about how your ex treats you. All of this anger is valid and is a natural part of the grieving process, but just like grieving, you have to work through the feelings to move on with your life. And your children NEED you to move on with your life.

Playing the victim card doesn’t work in this new role as a co-parent either. If you find yourself playing the victim role, then you are basically declaring that you are not strong enough to move forward. If you repeat the story about how you were wronged in your marriage over and over to anyone who will listen, then you are stuck. It may be time to seek professional help. Why are you allowing him/her that much power over your emotions? You need to gain control of your emotions so that you can be a good parent.

Letting go of your anger and emotions all starts with your thoughts. Turning those thoughts around is something that only you can change. Changing your ex is out of your control, so take control of YOU and start the process of healing.

For your children, you need to make it your priority to do whatever is necessary to be able to have a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex. So remove the emotion and embrace this new role as a co-parent. Your children will notice the change in your interactions with your ex and EVERYONE will be more relaxed as a result. You will be surprised when you find yourself able to discuss situations with your ex without raising your voice. Disagreements are inevitable, but with emotions removed, you will be able to handle them together as business partners invested in the future of your kids.