The kids spent the first two weeks of August with their father.
This is the longest time we’ve ever spent apart (except for Ingrd who goes to school about 5 hours from home).
I knew I needed to file for divorce for a long, long time. For many years.
What kept me from pulling the trigger was thinking I couldn’t survive without the kids.
That I couldn’t miss a minute of what they were doing.
For fifteen years I was home with the kids.
That’s like 5,500 days.
It takes about 66 days to develop a new habit.
It takes about a million years to break an old one.
Not doing the same thing I’d been doing for over 5,000 days was TERRIFYING.
I had been home for everything. I’d been present for all the milestones.
I was a part of all their memories.
Now the kids would be making memories without me. They’d be having experiences without me. They’d be living their lives. Without me.
I had to do a lot of work to get to the point where I was willing to experience the unknown.
Every single one of my divorced friends told me even though I’d miss the kids I’d begin to look forward to my time away from them. That I would need it. That it would be restorative.
I didn’t believe them.
They were all right.
I was able to make the shift pretty quickly from thinking about how I was missing out on time with the kids to using any alone time I got to take care of myself.
And looking at it as not just something I had to deal with, but something that I actually needed.
I was really, really struggling the weekend before the kids left.
I wasn’t struggling because I was going to miss them so badly (although I was really going to miss having them home).
I was struggling more because of guilt.
They didn’t want to leave and they weren’t going on a vacation.
They wanted to stay home and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
And I felt terrible.
Because they were in this situation because of me.
And while I knew I was going to REALLY enjoy my two weeks, I knew they weren’t going to really enjoy theirs.
That’s a hard pill to swallow.
It took me about four days to unwind and decompress.
It was VERY strange to not be responsible for anyone other than myself (and Stormie) for 14 days (although in that time I did see all the kids on their last day of camp and at the triathlon and I drove Ingrid to a doctor’s appointment in Hartford and Kristofer stopped over about five times by himself and he stopped by with three of the kids on once).
So I didn’t exactly not see them for two weeks.
But the break from responsibility was pretty awesome.
What this break made glaringly clear is how much I still automatically (and uneccessarily) prioritize the kids over myself.
It’s like a reflex! I don’t even know I’m doing it sometimes!
I noticed this most when the kids came home on the 15th.
I was agreeing to do stuff I didn’t want or need to do, and I was completely disrupting my plans – repeatedly – for the kids.
And then I was getting frustrated and losing patience and not being the mom I want to be.
I’m still operating out of guilt.
I have to stop doing this. It’s exhausting me and it’s preventing me from taking care of myself.
My kids need me to take care of myself.
They may not realize it, but they do.
They need me to set more boundaries. They need me to stop making decisions out of guilt. They need me to stop thinking in the short term.I need to be thinking long-term for them.
And thinking long term for them means taking good care of myself NOW.
And that’s what I learned when the kids were gone for two weeks.