The hardest part of shared custody

I wish I could enjoy the weekends my daughter goes to her dad’s house, I really do.

But yeah, I totally don’t. On the weekends she’s away, I should be catching up on laundry, sleep and socializing — but instead, I hear emptiness and the absence of little feet on the staircase. The absence of her life sends me into something that resembles a depression, and all I can seem to manage is binge-watching episodes of 30 Rock and feeling weird.

I feel weird because the whole thing is weird. Her parts and pieces were formed in my womb, her strength was forged from the year we spent breastfeeding and her happy demeanor is only possible because I poured out my life for her. And then she’s just freakin’ gone for days at a time — a tiny life plucked from my care because her dad and I couldn’t get along. It makes no sense. It’s weird.

My friends imagine it’s great. “You get a whole weekend to yourself,” they say. “How wonderful is that?” I know where they’re coming from, but the arrangement isn’t great so much as it is jolting. Just when I get used to the ebb and flow of our daily lives as a fearless duo, she goes away and I’m left with her absence. Just as quickly as she goes away and I adjust to the quiet and the rest, she returns with her needs and her energy. The push-pull is emotionally exhausting. I both hate to see her go and dread the moment she comes back. What I want more than anything is to have the opportunity to step away for a few hours at a time when she’s with me, rather than to send her away for days. I’d like for my “break” from motherhood to be a part of the natural rhythm of my life, rather than a state-mandated and lengthy absence from my child, which causes me to feel as though I’m watching motherhood from the outside looking in.

Custody arrangements aren’t exactly to blame. They’re the necessary arrangement for parents who have no other options. But man, I wish something could have prepared me for how quickly time would go by as I parented a young child.

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