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My Struggle to Become a Part-Time Parent

Family pile

For the last six years, I've been a stay-at-home parent. I've worked out of my house, bringing my kids with me to my photo studio, to my shoots and to most of my meetings. My almost ex-husband started a job that made it possible for him to work from home, so we've all been used to the four of us constantly sharing space and being together.

We are all best friends and prefer each other's company to anyone else's. But everything has changed since my children's father and I have decided to divorce and become co-parents.

RELATED: On the Eve of My Upcoming Divorce

In theory, the way we planned out the living arrangements seemed easy and perfect for our needs. We sat together many nights mapping out how we would do things, how we could have equal amounts of time, and we felt confident. We assumed we were prepared, proud of how we worked through all the "technical stuff." The kids would stay in the house, while we took turns throughout the week being there, swapping weekends. We would still do family dinners and movie nights. It was settled.

The first few weeks I called every morning they weren't with me to see if they got to school on time, if they had brushed their teeth and asked if they had dressed themselves.

A few months ago I moved into my new place and that first weekend away from my kids felt like it would kill me. I wasn't prepared. I don't even think I was ready. But I don't know if I would ever be ready to give up parenting full time. I had spent countless weekends away from the kids, when I traveled or when they'd go to their grandparents. Yet, driving away from my children during the week or on weekends hurts every single time. I find myself leaving my house and thinking that I've forgotten my kids, only to come to the realization that it's their day/night with their dad.

Divorce and all that comes with it made me realize I wasn't prepared for it. I'm aware that it happens, but it wasn't supposed to happen to me or my family. During our early conversations about separating, we knew we weren't going to be the couple that stayed together for our kids. We understood why people do that, but our policy has always been complete honesty with each other.

So while doing our bedtime routine one night, we had a conversation about what divorce is and why Mommy and Daddy were having one. Instantly, my daughter's face fell, and she curled up into a corner saying, "You were suppose to be married forever. I didn't want to be one of those kids whose parents are divorced."

My son climbed into my lap, simply burying his face into my shoulder, and all I could think was, "What have we done? How do parents get through this? How do parents watch their kids go through this?"

The night ended with the children telling us they loved us, that they just wanted us to be happy, and that they were happy we were still going to be a family. I couldn't sleep that night, my heart was breaking all over again. The same way it broke when we came to the decision that a divorce would be best for us. That night was just the beginning of a very long journey, one that is far from over.

This adjustment is taking longer than I was hoping it would.

Last night was the first time my son spent the night at my place while my daughter stayed with her dad. It was heartbreaking for me to only be able to take one of them, to have them separated. There were tears, and they both proceeded to spend a good portion of the night texting back and forth to each other. Waking up next to my son like I'm used to made so many things feel right, in a way they hadn't. I wish I could be with them every morning like it had been, but splitting time between their dad and me makes it so it isn't possible. The first few weeks I called every morning they weren't with me to see if they got to school on time, if they had brushed their teeth and asked if they had dressed themselves. I would text to see if they needed me, hoping that they would, but also hoping they were just fine without me.

Most of the time it's the latter. I try to give them and their dad the space they need when we're apart, but it doesn't stop me from worrying.

It's disheartening to look at your life and realize it looks nothing like what you had imagined or, as the theme of this post seems to be, nothing like you planned. This isn't to say that I'm not happy with my life or where it's headed. I am. But alongside that happiness is fear and heartbreak. They are currently existing together. A lot of days it's really difficult for me to sort out—how this decision has made my life better in certain ways but a lot harder in others. I miss my kids constantly when we're apart.

Some people tell me it gets easier over time, while others say it doesn't, and they continue dread when their days come to an end and it's the other parent's turn. This adjustment is taking longer than I was hoping it would. I feel as if my balance has been thrown off, and I'm grasping to make sense of where and how I've been left standing. Time is beautiful because it'll help bring everything back into balance.

But when?

I'm grateful that, amidst all of this, we are striving to stay a family.

I would love to be told that we will get a rhythm down. That we will get through this. If someone could just confirm that, that would be grand. Some days I even long for how things were, when we all existed under the same roof. Seeing each other didn't take numerous texts/phone calls and comparing calendars. We were just there. Together. Now we are in different spaces, still attempting to be together.

The other side of all of this is this new appreciation for each other. All four of us are cherishing our time together in a way we didn't before. I don't think we understood how to then. So while we may be trying to learn how to navigate through divorce and separate homes, we are learning new ways to love each other. Our moments have become more sacred, even more "I love yous" than before.

My daughter mentioned the other day, "I like that we will always be a family. No matter what happens." I'm grateful that, amidst all of this, we are striving to stay a family. Obviously not in the traditional sense but as people that love and take care of each other, that show up for each other and are constant.

RELATED: My Postpartum Depression Turned Into Depression

I never wanted to be a divorced mother at 27. But I'm here and, even though it feels like I've lost apart of myself, even though there are nights I can't sleep because I can't hear my kids softly snoring and even though I have to learn so many things over again, I'm confident that the family I did create, will continue to be just that. My family.

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