To The Single Mom Facing Her First Visitation: You’ll Be Okay

I don’t know your specific situation. I don’t know the details of what led to the downfall of your marriage. I don’t know if there even was a marriage.

I don’t know if you left or if it was him. I don’t know if it’s an amicable split or a devastating demise of all you ever held sacred. I don’t know how you feel about your ex at this point.

All I know is that if you are facing sharing your children with someone else for part of the time, your heart probably hurts.

As the day approaches for you to begin a visitation schedule with your ex, you probably feel like you might die. Like the air is being sucked right out of your lungs.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. You’re about to be broken wide open. But you’re going to be ok. Regardless of the details surrounding your situation, I know that you love your babies more than life. I know that most likely, the thought of handing over your sweet peas to someone you are no longer with is devastating. It feels cruel. Inhumane. It goes against the very core of who we are as mothers.

As I geared up for the first weekend without my sons, I literally couldn’t breathe at times. It felt like someone was asking me to rip my heart out and hand it over to the one person in this world who damaged it the most. I had to surrender my children to the man I left, in part, because of his inability to be a father. To trust the most sacred thing I have with the one person who was the most irreverent of my heart, my sons, and his role in our lives. Someone who didn’t ever really want to be a dad and who is, on all fronts, incapable of handling the responsibility.

Yet, he has rights. And so does yours. I have no choice. And neither do you. Whether your ex is an alcoholic, manipulative liar like mine or father of the year, it’s hard to let go of our babies. It goes against a mama’s nature. It’s unnatural. Unfair. And in some cases, unreasonable.

I know your pain. I know you probably aren’t breathing. Your heart hurts. You might not be taking care of yourself properly because it’s all you can do to take care of your children and power through the day. You probably aren’t sleeping well. You may be angry. Confused. Sad. Relieved. Scared.

Oh how scared you must be.

Your head and your heart are spinning. You may feel alone. Even if you have support, unless they’ve walked in your shoes, they probably don’t understand what it feels like inside your body. Your body. The place that housed and birthed pieces of your soul into the world. Your body, that now has to figure out how to survive when parts of it are missing for periods of time.

You put on your brave face. You smile for your children. You choke back the tears in front of your family. You act strong on the outside even though your insides are crumbling. You go to work each day wondering how your broken heart is even still beating. You do the small things. The hard things. The important things. And you do them with grace. You do them because you have no other choice.

What you’re facing isn’t something any mother should ever have to face. You didn’t plan it, but here you are. It’s not the life you wanted for yourself or your children, but things happened and this is where you landed.

I don’t know that visitation will ever be something we feel fantastic about. Even under the best circumstances, it’s not what we wanted. It’s not what we pictured. The split birthdays and shared holidays. The missed bedtimes and every other weekend compromises.

If your ex is someone with bigger demons like addiction or mental illness, your fear is all consuming. The fear of placing your children in the care of someone so unstable, unreliable and untrustworthy swallows you whole.

“View it as a break,” people will say. Maybe you have an ex that allows this devastating loss to have the silver lining of a “break.” But even still, it’s probably not a break. The 24 to 48 hours you spend away from your kids will be spent catching up on things you haven’t had time to do. When you learn to overcome the fear and worry in order to try and enjoy yourself for a few hours, there will be guilt.

It’s going to be hard no matter what the details are.

BUT, You will figure it out.

You will learn how to build a wall around your heart for those chunks of time so that you don’t collapse each time you hand over your babies. You will learn how to take care of yourself. You may even begin to look forward to a few hours of alone time.

Your heart will ache and you will feel weak. But you will grow stronger than you ever knew you could be. You will feel angry. But you will experience forgiveness like you never knew existed. You will feel sad when your children are gone. But you will find deeper joy when you’re with them. You will be scared. But you’ll find peace that passes all understanding…eventually. You may have to fight your way into these positives, but you will find them if you keep looking up.

It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. And depending on the kind of ex you have, the road may be extremely unpredictable. Both for you and your kids. It will be messy.

But you, brave mama, are capable of enduring this.

You may fear you’ll lose something in your relationship and bond with your children if they start regularly spending time with their dad. (Assuming your ex is consistent enough to validate this fear.) Regardless of your counterpart, let me tell you something. You won’t.

Nothing and no one will ever replace you in the eyes and hearts of your babies. They can love and enjoy him without losing anything with you. You are their home. You are their backbone. Their foundation. Their safe place to land. You are their comfort. Their strength. Their joy. You hold their days and their nights. You have the magic touch no one else has.

You are their heart, and they are yours.

You may feel overwhelmed. Terrified by the journey set before you. You are completely justified in all these fears and feelings.

I haven’t been on this path much longer than you have, but if you’ll accept it, I am here to offer a hand of comfort from a few steps up. We are in this together. You are strong on your own, but you are not alone. Trust your mama gut along the way and have faith that the holes are being filled, even if you can’t see it.

This road is hard. You’re going to be busted wide open. But you are super-mom. You are going to be ok. And so will your kids.

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***This post was originally published on DivorcedMoms.com. It contains all my original words and thoughts.

30 thoughts on “To The Single Mom Facing Her First Visitation: You’ll Be Okay

  1. This was painfully powerful, and I can imagine how much it will help other women in the same situation. You are brave to share your heart in this in such a helpfully transparent way, because I know this is a time when women feel so very, very alone and don’t always know how to express the feelings they can going through.

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  2. You are one of the strongest people that I know (blog friends count right?!).. I am happily married with 2 kids but my heart still breaks wide open every time I read about your divorce story. I try to put myself in your shoes.. if my husband and I split and I had to turn my babies over every other week.. ughhh so hard to imagine. I know you probably hear it a lot, and I know it probably doesn’t help you any – but you truly are an amazing mama and an incredible inspiration to other single mamas out there!

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    • Thank you Melissa! It is extremely difficult, mostly because of the type of person he is. It’s hard no matter what because there’s so much that goes itno it, but with someone with so many personal demons to fight, it’s even worse. I hope things get smoother for your sister in law!

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  3. Your writing always give me chills, Rachael. You are strong and amazing. My parents were divorced when I was young, and I know how hard it is from the kid point of view. You’re doing everything right and when they go off with their dad, take time for YOU. Take a warm bath, get a massage, take a nap, read a good book, write more awesome blogs… Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Your boys will love you just the same, if not more every time they return home. Hugs mama! ❤

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    • Thank you so much Sue! I’m sorry you endured this as a child, but you turned out well so that’s encouraging! 🙂 And yes, thank you… when and if he does actually follow through with any visitation (which he hasn’t lately) I do try to use the time wisely and rejuvenate as much as possible. It’s tough but it makes us all tougher and you’re right, if anything I can see the boys and my relationship getting even stronger and more solid day by day! It’s actually pretty awesome! 🙂

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  4. Thank you for such an honest, heart-renching post. I cannot even imagine what it is like to have to face your first visitation. I’m sure there are many out there who would really relate to this post.

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    • Thank you Tricia! It is difficult but somehow, we are managing and somehow, I always survive it! Luckily, it hasn’t happened very many times and they are getting even fewer and farther between…so while that’s not good, it is good! Thank you for your comment ❤

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  5. This is a wonderful story I know EXACTLY how all this feels, I myself am a mother of 3 boys 8yr & 6yr twins and I have also been through(&still going through) all this I have been a single mother for 3 years (6 if you count the time my ex was there but not THERE) all this is true feelings, I know that heart breaking feeling of your babies being gone even if it is just for the weekend . I just want to say thank you for putting your life out there sharing your story & letting us know we’re not alone it never really gets easier no matter how long the visitation has been going on, we as moms just get stronger about the situation & yes WE are their EVERYTHING and yes the bond just gets stronger with every weekend we are apart. Thank you again.

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    • Oh wow, thank you for hsaring that with me. It’s encouraging to know you are in the same boat only further up the path and are surviving. I’m sorry you are having to go through this though, and that it’s still going on. I pray it gets better somehow…but as you said, even if it doesn’t get better, WE get better and stronger and so do our kids. We are their everything and that is a true gift!! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! ❤

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  6. This is such a powerful post. I cannot imagine going through this and knowing that my mother went thorough it is just heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing such thoughts and experiences, it shows how strong you truly are!

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  7. Thank you so much for this post. I cried my eyes out! Nice to know of another mom who has gone thru what I’m feeling but I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!

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