This sounded fair at the time, especially because I respect and encourage a strong and healthy relationship between my two boys and their father and believe that shared custody is in the best interests of all children wherever possible.
However knowing that it is “fair” and that it is the custody arrangement that is in the best interest of my children meant nothing when it was time for them to go to their father’s for the first time. I watched them go knowing that I would not see them again for four days. As they pulled out of the driveway the tears began to fall.
Four days. Four days without my children. How was I going to bear the lonliness of it? I was overwhelmed with the loss of what I had always wanted, to be a mother 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now what?
I made it through the first week…barely, and then the second. Each week became a little easier as I started filling up my time with friends, meetings, appointments, errands and anything that I could do to make the empty feeling go away.
Well that was almost 7 years ago. And over time I have come to (dare I say) enjoy having a bit of free time to reconnect to myself, enjoy new relationships, spend time with friends and work on my business without it taking away from time with my children.
Sharing your children with your Ex is something that is part of divorce. But you never get used to it.
You never get used to going to sleep at night knowing that your children’s beds are empty in their rooms. You never get used to missing the opportunity to take care of them when they are sick in the middle of the night. You never get used to going entire days without seeing or speaking to them.
I have come to feel GRATEFUL for the invention of texting technology. Yes, I said it. Texting. While my oldest son is now driving and I am scared to death of the texting while driving statistics, I am still grateful for the technology that allows me to communicate with them anytime, day or night.
If you have teenagers, you realize that they only want to talk with you and hang out with you when it is convenient for them and they are interested, which is not often. Because divorce often includes shared custody, this already small amount of time they are interested in talking to you is made even less by having them only part the week.
When they were small, I would only be able to speak to them on the phone when they were with their father if the timing worked out, otherwise I could go a few days without seeing or speaking to them. And I missed my children terribly.
With cell phone technology and the invention of texting, the game changed. Yes I call them whenever I want to hear their voices, but again, teenagers only answer the phone when they want to. They, too, screen their calls and mom doesn’t always make the list. However, I have come to learn that they always read their text messages!
So now I get to say “Good morning, have a great day today!” every morning. And I get to send them goodnight wishes and kisses every night. I even send them random, “I love you” texts during the day when I am feeling the ache of missing them.
The truth is that they don’t always text me back. Sometimes they are in the mood to talk and call me back instead of texting. But I know that they always read my text messages. And they know that I am thinking about them and loving them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And while it is not a substitute for seeing them, it allows me to share my love, support, humor, and often pertinent information with them directly and often.
We don’t need permission to connect to our children. We don’t need to have custody of our children every day to connect to them. All we need to do is love them and let them know it, any way we can.
Oh, and the answer to the question? NO. You never get used to sharing your children, not even with your Ex. But, the joy of technology means that there are more and more ways to connect with them while you are apart.
If you have found creative ways of connecting with your children when they are with your Ex, I welcome and encourage you to share them with us!