My ex and I share custody of the kids exactly 50/50. I get the boys for a week, then he has them for a week. It wasn’t always this way. They were mine and just mine for a long time.
The ex, the entire time we were a couple, lived in a different house a couple of blocks away. I liked being on my own. Back then, the kids always slept at my house, unless it was an emergency, and their dad came and had dinner with us sometimes, spent the night with us sometimes, often took us all out for the day.
When we split up, I felt I had to make an extra show of being fair and just, so I came to the table offering him 50% of his kids’ time. Perfectly fair. Precisely half. He gets the Jewish holidays and I took my Druid holidays. It was cut and dry.
It doesn’t feel that way though. I pretty much have every emotion there is about this arrangement.
I periodically regret jumping into justice. I could have made an argument for keeping the kids more than half the time; they had always been with me, never lived with him. I co-slept, breastfed on demand til the kids were preschoolers, homeschooled from the start, and was so wrapped up in being a mom to them every moment of their every day. Why would our breakup mean that the kids suddenly should start living with him half-time when they never had in their whole lives before known him as more than a visitor?
I do get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing it is what is fair. He’s just as much their parent as I am. He probably should have been doing more from the start. (He did do plenty. He was a diaper-changing, tantrum-soothing dad from day one.) I admit I get angry at mothers who try to cheat fathers out of their fifty percent of their kids’ time. When I hear parents say “go visit Daddy” I get annoyed. If they don’t live with Daddy half the time, Daddy’s being cheated and so are the kids. And living somewhere half the time is not visiting.
I also enjoy being free half the time, able to work on projects, have a social life. As Ms Rizzuto writes in this excellent article about being a non-custodial mother, being able to do all the non-mom things while the kids are away makes me a much better mom when the kids are around. I can afford to play June Cleaver for a week, ’cause when that week’s over, I can be whoever else I want to be for another week til the kids come home again. I can and have spent entire weeks prepping for when the kids are here.
But the fact is, I’m not very June Cleaver, haven’t ever been. Much more Jean Liedloff. I like it when my kids do the things I do with me. All those projects, all that social life, I’d rather it include them. As they get older, I find that continuum concept parenting switches around. Instead of me living a project-centered life and absorbing children into it as much as I can, the kids lead a project-centered life and absorb me into it as much as I can relax to let myself be taken in. They are my pathway, their interests my direction.
So I miss the kids. This morning before I put them on the bus to their dad’s place, Verdi and Bear and I curled up in my bed to watch some sci-fi. My buddies, they are, these days; conversationalists with crazy cool ideas about inventions and games and other worlds. Terran’s been gone a few days extra because of a special event and I find it begins to feel like the sunshine’s gone out of the house when he is away awhile. No one else I know is so eager to express and receive pure glow-y love. I crave his little pure-hearted smile, beaming at me with such intense pride and joy.
I do have projects to get on to: taking the dog for a run, filling out the scholarship paperwork for a yoga class, making a batch or two of raw brownies, returning library books, making up an outline of my most recent writing project for the next writers’ challenge, and finalizing the schedule for childrens’ programming for a Druid campout later this month.
I’m sure I’ll be fine, two days in to my non-custodial days, when I’m absorbed in this alternate kid-free life I live half the time. Just right at this moment, when their sillinesses are still echoing between the walls, I miss the kids so much.