First Time Without Kids: “My heart is so heavy”
I received this message from a newly-separated woman on Facebook today: “My ex-husband took the kids for the first time this weekend….and my heart feels so heavy. My “free time” just reminds me how alone and directionless I am.”
I read her message with a tight chest: I remember…
Three years ago, my own divorce journey began and my ex-husband started taking our three children for sleepovers. I remember how surreal the first time felt: going through the motions of packing their clothes, writing out a list of activities, reassuring my kids with the biggest, fake smile ever: “This weekend is going to be SO much fun with daddy!”
And then my ex was ringing the doorbell… standing in the foyer… not taking off his shoes and coming in, but here to do “pick-up.” Me explaining a few things from the list, my voice overly cheery, him not looking at me, while little feet scrambled around to put on coats and shoes. The tearful hugs goodbye, again more reassurances, and my super cheery voice calling out, “Bye-bye, guys! I love you!” Standing in the doorway, watching my kids walk away, waving and smiling as if they were going out for ice cream.
Then, retreating back into the house – into silence. A silence so eerie I felt I’d landed on a different planet. I emptied the dishwasher and paced around. I noticed every toy, every belonging of my children, sitting motionless. The silence was deafening. Here it was – the free time I’d never had as a mom. But it felt empty – suffocating. Oh my God, this is really happening. And I buckled to the floor in tears.
I’d naively thought that making the final decision to divorce would be the hardest part of the journey – it had taken me years to swallow that choice. But of course, divorce is not a decision but a process, one full of many “firsts” that eat you up inside, like the ex taking the kids for the first sleepover. Those first times are first steps, followed by second steps and thirds. And oftentimes, without warning, you take two steps backwards…back into pain, back into confusion and heartache and self-doubt.
I sat down at my computer in a frenzied state of purpose: my girlfriend, my fellow warrior, had stumbled on her path in the Wilderness of divorce. And even though I knew that she, and only she, could navigate her way out of that hellhole, I knew she needed me – someone a bit further along the path – to help her regain her footing, even if just to make it through the day.
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