Riding the elevator of shared parenting

IT’S been five years since the father of my two daughters and I parted ways. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, much has changed, and many new scenarios have come home to roost – most are welcome and enjoyable, like not feeling the pressure to always prepare an evening meal featuring some variety of meat and carbohydrate, usually with an international flavour to disguise my daily cookery conundrum, or more correctly, boredom.

In fact, evening meals have become a really slap dash (but still healthy!) affair, which is a whole other blog topic I’ll attempt another day.

One of the new and initially dreaded scenarios of separation was the phenomenon of waiting for my offspring to go stay overnight with their dad, coping while they were away, expectantly awaiting their return, and more importantly, surviving the 24-48 hours after the homecoming.

Be prepared for an emotional elevator – it still takes me for a ride all these years later, if I let it.

I’ll cut to the chase – yes, you are going through a stressful new experience that probably takes up a lot of your emotional energy, but so are the kids, and it’ll be obvious from their unsettled behaviour and mindset when they come home.

While you are dying to see them, smother them with your affection and find out what they’ve been up to because you’ve missed them so much, be prepared for them to be standoffish and snappy. I would routinely be offended by their behaviour and admonish them for being rude to me, or each other, and the homecoming would be spoiled, which would have me snivelling quietly in a corner of my bedroom.

But, after a while I noticed it was a pattern and it was how they coped with the readjustment to living arrangements and rules, and probably from being on such good behaviour for their dad who they missed and weren’t seeing nearly as much as I (still) felt (feel) they should. I don’t even think they realised they were doing it.

So now I give them a wide berth for a day or so, and they eventually come to me with open arms and stories to share. They can still appear cranky when they get home, but I just ignore it, knowing it’s only temporary and let those meaningless knee-jerk reactions ‘go through to the keeper’, as they say.

As for preparing for their departure, I would always be so anxious for it to just happen so I could stop worrying about it. When their dad was late, which was usual, they would be strung out wondering why and I would just have to pretend it was all ok and cool to go with the flow – inside I was seething because they were so excited to spend time with their dad – didn’t he realise that?

The first few times I would peek out the window and watch them drive away from the house, big tears welling in my eyes and a feeling of having pieces of my heart ripped out through my heaving ribcage.

These days I rotate between collapsing in a thankful heap at the opportunity to rest – no cooking, laundry, shopping, taxi-ing or homework – or I madly catch up with girlfriends and morph into a dirty stop-out, enjoying meals, movies, shows, wine and lots of chat.

Having a social life or time and space to just be comatose is quite a novelty so it’s normal to experience slight dread at their return, so don’t go feeling guilty about that either – your offspring also experience this emotional seesaw too.

Just ride it like a wave…expect to go A over T a few times but you’ll eventually find your balance and enjoy the changing scenery.
Pic Credit: melphoto.com                                               

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