People often describe feeling feelings they hadn't anticipated during their divorce. One example of this is thinking they would be happy to get the divorce decree only to find that they were depressed for days, or, on the contrary, they thought they'd be devastated when the finality of the divorce hit them, only to find they were relieved.
Parenting is a full time job and, although most people say they wouldn't trade it for the world, it can be exhausting and thankless. Frankly speaking, while co-parenting can have its challenges, the shared custody arrangements that come in a divorce situation can actually bring a sense of balance into one's life.
In writing this article, I realize that not every parent sharing custody with an ex will feel good about the new lifestyle - especially those don't trust their kid's other parent. However, there are many who will find this article normalizing and, as such, a relief to their already burdened conscience.
The following scenario is based on true stories of countless parents who have ultimately enjoyed sharing custody with their exes. It is written in second person so that you, the reader facing (and dreading) a joint custody set up, might better relate to it:
After a long custody dispute, the day has finally come when you have to hand over the kids to your ex. You knew this would be an excruciatingly painful experience and you called a friend and asked if you could meet at a movie and then grab a bite to eat - something you hadn't done since before the kids were born.
As you drop them off for their first overnight away, you try not to let the kids see you cry. You try not to let them hear the sadness in your voice as you wish them well. You hope your phony smile will fool them into thinking you believe this is a good thing.
When the car door closes, you fall apart. The depth of loneliness is far worse than you feared it would be. Even though you have plans, you feel as though one of your limbs has just been severed off your body. The emptiness is profound. You're not sure how you are going to stand the agony of this separation.
Through the tears, you drive away and head toward the movie theater. During the drive, you perseverate over all the things that might go wrong while the kids are with their other parent. You say some prayers that they stay safe and sound with your ex and now your mind turns to finding a good parking space.
As you change your focus to the evening you are about to have, without realizing it, you stop thinking about your kids. Upon closing the car door, you feel a blast of endorphins being released from your brain and then coursing through your body over having a "free" night out.
By the time you reach the movie theater, you can't even relate to the horrible belief that you were abandoning your children you'd had 15 minutes earlier.
Your friend greets you and you are thrilled to be there. You can't get your popcorn and soda fast enough and a giddy excitement has now filled your spirit at the idea that you get to see an adult movie for a change!
By night's end, you look back and realize that, not only were you able to forget about not having the kids for the night, you actually felt happy to have a small piece of your time back to do with as you pleased.
The next morning, you wake up (at whatever hour you want to wake up), ride your bike to town to grab a coffee and a muffin. You are literally free to do what you want so you hang out and people-watch.
Reading the newspaper, you're struck by the fact that you're actually loving being alone. In fact, you don't want the kids back just yet! You are dreading the three o'clock hour when they will be back in your house, bouncing around being kids and pulling on you to meet their needs.
Guilt begins to creep into your consciousness as you admit to yourself that, as much as you love the little tikes, you have thoroughly enjoyed being away from them.
You can actually have a semblance of a life now that you are divorced. Your identity is no longer consumed by being "the mom" or "the dad." You can get a prolonged break from parenting and truly share the responsibility in a way you never did when you were still married.
But, because you "shouldn't" feel this way, you will never speak about this revelation to anyone. If anyone asks about what it's like when the kids are away from you, you will feign sadness (although on some level, you are truly sad).
Relishing your alone time will remain a secret guilty pleasure of your divorce.