Divorce is about goodbyes. Goodbyes you never thought you’d be saying. Instead of everyday, like I imagined, I only see my kids 10 out of the 30 days in an average month. That’s a lot of time without their smiling faces. And when you’re the off parent, it’s a lot of time alone.
Today I’m in a much better place with it, but it’s never easy. I miss them. And I’m amazed when days go by without even a text or Snapchat. But they’re teenagers and doing their own thing. I get it. Still, it’s a heartbreaking situation for someone who’s emotionally open and connected. I suppose there a people who are more business like about it, but I’m a card-carrying member of the attachment parenting movement, and perhaps the attachment is just as strong both ways.
I’ve been a divorced dad for almost seven years and I’m still going through empty nest syndrome. Perhaps this is one of the gifts of divorce, the real empty nest won’t be so hard for me, since I’ve been 2/3 empty already. But the gift is a painful one.
On Monday mornings, at the end of my four-day run with the kids, I drop them off at school and then return to my old house and drop off their bags. Early on in the divorce this was hugely depressing. Everything about it brought back the pain. My old house. Dropping them at school knowing I wouldn’t see them for several days. And that one day thing on the off week is pretty hard too, but drop off Mondays were really a bitch.
Just this past Monday I had a moment of sadness and overwhelm. There were a lot of other pressures that converged on this particular Monday, but something about the drop off really struck a deep chord of pain in me. There’s no explaining it. I used to get sad sometimes dropping them off at day care when I was going to see them that same night. I miss my kids. I like to hear about their day (what they’ll tell me) and their ambitions for whatever. Being around them in their daily activities is a joy.
The only tonic to this sad dance is picking up your own life and moving on. In the spaces between being dad I learned to reinvest in myself. I healed from my sadness and divorce by writing, exercising, and living through it. And I continue to work on myself outside of my relationships, doing the emotional excavation to understand my sadness.
I was asked by a friend the other day what was the hardest part of divorce, losing my primary relationship or losing my kids? Kids. It wasn’t even close. Maybe that’s still some of the anger of the divorce talking, but I could imagine myself without my ex-wife, I could not imagine my life without my kids. It’s not that I’m living for or through them. But your love for your kids is something unlike any other relationship. There’s no explaining this to someone without kids. It simply doesn’t compute.
Today, I’m glad I have the time to devote to all the messy loveliness of being in a relationship again. I’m engaged to be married and very happy about life.
Do I still get tripped up on drop off Mondays? Yep. It’s part of the ebb and flow of life as a divorced parent. One day things seem okay and the next day the universe is split in two: time with your kids and time without them. I’ll take what I can get and do the best I can in that time. The rest is up to me.
The Off Parent
< back to Single Parenting
- The Long Tail of Parenting and Custody After Divorce
- When Will I Get Over My Divorce?
- The Divorce Part You’ll Never Understand: Living Within the Compromise
- I Want To Thank You for the Divorce
image: kids at play, creative commons usage
My posts/poems about desire are really about hoping and striving towards “what’s next.”
I had a friend ping me on Facebook yesterday after reading one of my poems. She said, “They make me so sad for you.” I was surprised. But I can understand how things might come off that way, especially if you are entering The Off Parent from one of the more emotional posts. But I want to be clear, this is a process, and this blog is large enough to contain the anger, the depression, the joy, the thrill of new relationships, and the frustration at dealing with a woman who no longer thinks I’m hot shit. (That’s okay, it’s mutual.) Overall, the picture I am hoping to paint… WAIT. That’s not the idea. I’m not trying to put a bow around the process of divorce. Let’s try again.
I would not want Divorce for ANYONE. That said, my divorce, has become one of the defining and re-defining moments of my life. I would not say I wanted the divorce, or that it was MY idea… BUT… I was starting to stand up for a situation that had become unbearable for me.
The difference between my ex-wife’s perspective and mine was minor. Critical, but minor. In the large scheme of things, I was also demanding a change.
MY PERSPECTIVE: this demand was the only way I had to effect change from within my marriage. I was arguing and demanding answers to some dark questions from the perspective that I WANTED THE MARRIAGE TO CONTINUE.
HER PERSPECTIVE: (somewhat paraphrased, but we went over it a number of times in therapy, so I’m not putting words into her mouth) she was unhappy with the marriage and saw no signs of things changing or getting better, thus it was better for her to move to something different.
The points of leverage changed dramatically when she let me know, in therapy, that she HAD consulted an attorney. I was crushed and panicked, but unsurprised. The anger she had been demonstrating in action and words over the previous 12 months had all but wrecked my positive outlook. And this admission, only revealed by my direct ask, “Have you already been to see a lawyer?” When she said yes, I just about hit the eject button right there. I did the sober thing, and expressed my dismay in a rational manner and left the session feeling absolutely lost about what to do next.
In the process of the next few days, primarily via email, I ranted and demanded she make a decision. She demurred and deflected for a couple of days. But in the end I was asked to leave the house and give her some space, so relief from the stress and tension she and the kids were experiencing. Um, what?
In the end, I refused. It was March. My line, “The process of divorce takes time. There is no hurry. And I’m not going to throw my kid’s lives into this hell before the school year is up. We’ve been living as roommates for a year, we can do it for another two months. We can split sleeping on the couch.”
Somewhere in the back of my mind, in my rapidly crashing heart, I was certain she would see the error of her ways and come back. I knew, however, in my rational mind, that this was not going to happen.
A few sessions before the hammer fell the therapist had asked a pivotal question, “How do you feel about the marriage and this process at this point.”
I went first. “Hopeful.”
Her word, and I knew more than I wanted to admit actually how hopeless I was feeling, was “Cynical.”
I think that was the beginning of my revelation into the darkness that now separated the two of us. It was different for each of us. But the pain, sadness, and anger was just a potent for each of us. I like to think I was on the optimist-side of the whole deal, but I was pretty disheartened.
All that said… as water under the bridge…
Today, three years later, I am happy. Alone. But happy. And I won’t pass judgement on her and the boyfriend who has given her strength and steadiness. My daughter likes him. That’s enough for me.
As I cursed, raged, pleaded, and cried at my wife trying to get her to come back to the marriage, I was also certain that I could not do it alone. Two people have to be IN for a marriage to work. So she exited before me. Probably, maybe, that whole year of blinding anger, was really her way of trying to help ME exit. But I’m projecting now.
When the agreement was made to divorce I also demanded the right to stay in the house until the kids were out of school. A shitty-hard decision, but I did not want to reenact the gross and bitter divorce struggle of my parents. And it was my argument, even against the therapist, that remaining in the house while the kids finished their 1st and 4th grade years at elementary school was much better than me leaving the house immediately.
Take heart. It gets better.
And today, I would assure you that my kids are thriving. And while the ex-y and I don’t communicate much, we have kids who love both of us and are seeing how we can still care about each other while moving in new directions with our lives.
So as I write poems about being “a poet rather than a player” I mean to be happy about it. This journey has taken some amazingly wonderful turns. And the next one is coming right up.
The Off Parent
- The Divorce Whisperer
- On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money
- Re-finding My Dick After Divorce
- The Light At the End of the Tunnel, It’s Yours
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
image: broken dreams, brandon satterwhite, creative commons usage