Co-parenting is challenging, I think the most difficult issue for me has been how to share my child’s time with my ex. The thought of giving my son’s father more time with his son has actually made me sick to my stomach. I think, “I didn’t have this child, labor for 17 hours with no drugs, push him out and nurse him for three years to then turn around and give him to someone else for half his young life.”
Since my son’s father and I separated, I have been the primary parent. Our son spent most of his time with me and weekends with his father. We chose this schedule to accommodate my ex-husband’s very demanding work schedule and because I was nursing our son for years, and that required that he be with me more. The third reason was purely because I wanted my son with me. That said, I love my time alone. I love it so much that I decided early on I would never consider reconciling with my ex, because I never wanted to forgo the opportunity to have time to myself, without being certain that my son was safe and cared for.
It was really hard at first. When my son started spending weekends with his father, I would stay home and mope. I’d spend an entire day wondering what I was missing. I thought for sure my son was bonding with my ex’s new girlfriend, and I would be replaced as his mother. I was sad and depressed until a very good male friend of mine suggested that I might be losing myself to motherhood. He encouraged me to use my time alone to do things I enjoyed.
“Allow yourself,” he said, “to be a woman in your son’s absence and not just a mother.” Hearing his words, I decided to live. I started dating and doing things that really made me feel alive. By the time my son would return on Sunday morning, I was ready for him to be home. We kept that schedule for five years.
This new schedule has offered me a chance to accept that I’m his one and only mother, regardless of where I am at any given moment.
One day my son’s father called to say, “I miss my son when he’s not with me, and I’d like to have him for longer periods of time.” I could feel the resistance building in my throat and my heart burning. The tears rolled down my face as I he suggested we move to a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule. After we hung up, I called another male friend of mine who offered that this might be good for me to have more time to work and take care of things with a new health challenge I was facing. "And you might consider," he added, “your son will soon be 8. His father needs more time with him, but he can benefit from more time with his father as well.”
I cried and cried, because I knew his words were true. Just like me, my son’s father didn’t have a child in order to spend long periods of time without him. After little consideration and a couple of months to prepare, I agreed.
It’s been a few months now, and I’m still adjusting. The days my son leaves my house, I feel depressed and listless. It takes an entire 24 hours before I can catch my breath and start moving. But I’ve found the benefit of being alone for an entire week has been that I stop rushing.
Mothering has me on a constant clock—I’m always trying to get somewhere or get something done within a certain time frame. All of that falls away when my son is at his father’s house. Slowing down has given me space to relax. When my son comes home, I’m rested and ready to serve his needs.
I no longer feel I’m missing out. This new schedule has offered me a chance to accept that I’m his one and only mother, regardless of where I am at any given moment. I’ve also accepted that it can only be good for my son to have many people who love and care for him. The best part is learning that I’m not exclusively responsible for my son’s well being. I might want to feel like I’m my son’s guardian angel, but I’m not. I’m his mother.