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.