We do not have holidays spelled out in the Custody Order, rather, we are supposed to work it out, so this is a big deal. I’ve always had the kids at Christmas since our separation, he’s always had them at Thanksgiving. This is really an extension of what happened during our marriage. We spent Thanksgiving with his family, and Christmas with mine. That worked for us. In fact, when we were together I spent Easter and all of the barbecue holidays (Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day) with his family. I traded all celebrations throughout the year just to get Christmas.
Last Christmas when I asked for the kids over Christmas break, he said fine but added that one of these years he’s going to want them at Christmas. That scared me. He meant it to scare me, I believe. But then he and his wife (then girlfriend) went on a beach vacation together over the holidays. He didn’t even spend it with his family, something the kids noticed and openly wondered about. “Why didn’t Daddy spend Christmas with his own family?” they asked. (No comment.) Last week I heard from the kids that my Ex-husband had already made Thanksgiving plans with the kids, his wife, and her extended family (again, not his family, something the kids are upset about, but again, no comment). I hoped that this meant that he would honor our tradition of “letting” me having the kids at Christmas. But one never knows. There’s a new wife in town now. Plus, my Ex can be mean. When I had to speak to my Ex about Summer vacation plans he yelled at me for almost an hour about various unrelated crap before eventually saying, “Go on take them for as long as you want. I don’t care, just let me know.” Haven’t been feeling up for a verbal beat down like that again.
So today, when he informed me he’d be traveling for work and would miss his visitations with the kids for the next couple of weeks, I finally got the nerve to ask him about the holidays. He was completely fine with it, not even a pause. My guess is he had already made plans with his wife anyway and/or assumed I’d take the kids regardless. He assumes and makes plans. I ask permission. (Yeah, I know, I see it, I’m working on it, acknowledging his rights does not mean being a doormat, but this is a lifelong pattern of accommodation I’m dealing with “My High School Self”. ) My Ex-Husband added that he had been planning to tell me that Christmas presents for the kids from him will be sparse this year, his wife isn’t working and he’s struggling. (No comment.) I’m just glad, hell, I’m freaking rejoicing in the fact that now I can openly discuss Christmas and that I didn’t first have to take a verbal beat down for the privilege.
Christmas with my family has a special meaning for me. It’s not even particularly religious, and we’re not wealthy so it’s not about the gifts. It is, however, usually the only time that my small but geographically fractured family gets together. My sisters went to college and moved hundreds of miles away from our home of origin and never moved back. They rarely made it home for Thanksgiving, don’t always make a Summer visit, but have always made it home for Christmas, even after they married and had children of their own. They, like me, often spent Thanksgiving, Easter and Spring Break with their in-laws or their own homes but reserved Christmas for us. It’s always been that way. Perhaps it is because so many of my family members are involved in academia. Teachers, people who work for universities, and students have off the week between Christmas and New Years Day and this is when they can travel and relax. Even now, my oldest sister’s grown children with professional careers make time and arrangements to travel cross-country to be with their grandparents and the rest of the family at Christmas. I know that one day someone won’t be able to make it; I know that one year we will have lost someone. But it is our family tradition to be together, and I look forward to it. My kids look forward to it. I’m just so thankful that today I know for sure I “have permission” to continue the tradition — to spend this Christmas with my kids, together with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and that my divorce did not change that — this year. What a relief.
Just Me With . . . holiday plans. Woo Hoo!!!!!!!
I was at a school function. It was already obvious to me that although I was acquainted with most of the parents there, I had no real friends. People said hi but no one stayed to talk to me, I changed locations three times to try to either strike up a conversation or make it less obvious that I had no one to talk to. Then when I finally settled on a spot, I overheard a mother talking really loudly, stating,
“It is so much harder to be a married mother than a single mother. I don’t get three nights off a week. I have to run the kids around by myself every day! He’s never around!”
Two other women nodded in agreement, a little uncomfortably.
One kind mother who also overheard this statement and who obviously knows my marital status, turned to me and said quietly,
“Do you find it easier to be a single mom?”
Gotta love her for recognizing my discomfort among the Stepford Wives in my community. (I’m not suggesting that all married women are Stepford Wives, this is a description of the particular women who offended me ). The kind soul who recognized my discomfort is a psychiatrist and one of the moms in an interracial lesbian relationship. So she has probably felt like she doesn’t fit in either. But at least she had her partner with her. I was alone. It was so insensitive for that other mouthy mother (fucker) to be talking like that, that loudly. Didn’t she think that one of those supposedly breezy single mothers might be in her midst? She’s entitled to her opinion, but geesh. It hurt a little; it hurt a lot. It felt like hearing a religious or racial slur from a person you wouldn’t expect it from.
Let the record reflect that I was once married. And I was married with children for eight years. And I’d like to say that I’ve known this woman since our oldest kids were in kindergarten. She was married then and she’s still married now. I was married then, I am not married now. So out of the two of us, I am infinitely more qualified to make the comparison between married with kids and single with kids. I’m the one who has been on both sides.
I say this because I know a married woman’s desire, the fantasy of a having her husband say, “I’m taking the kids for the weekend.” You do whatever you want, or “you go –I got this.” And I recognize that most married women never get a weekend for themselves, unless it is some preplanned girls’ weekend that only happens very infrequently and she has to “pay back” her husband for the privilege somehow. So I get it. My husband never took the kids, I was never completely “off duty.” I completely understand when I hear still married women envy single moms and their traditional every other weekend off. (Which, I might add is not a law, it doesn’t come with the divorce.) I get it. And I get that when my kids are on their (half weekend) visitations, I have absolutely no responsibility for them. I can go out, I can entertain at home. I can sleep in, I can walk around naked and listen to inappropriate music and watch R rated movies or porn —- in the family room! I get it. In its purist simplest sense visitation time is guaranteed time away from the kids that married women do not get. And I get that married women have parental responsibilities that are not necessarily shared with their husband and plus, they are maintaining a relationship. I get it. So I don’t take anything away from married women with children. Did I say that I get it? Because I do. I’ve been there.
However, for many single women with children, the myth of the carefree weekends off is just that — a myth.
First of all, single mothers do not always have one whole weekend off every other week. In my case it is not a whole weekend. It is one night every two weeks. (And I’m not complaining about that, it’s just what it is.) Second, my kids do not “summer” with anyone but me. (And I’m not complaining about that either). Some fathers don’t take their kids at all. Some take them out of spite or to reduce child support payments. Some parents have the best intentions but the children are carted back and forth according to an elaborate schedule based on percentages and someone else’s norm — an attempt to literally “split the baby.” Nothing breezy about it.
Second, and more, importantly, the time that the children are away is by court order. So this is not time for me, on a day good for me and/or that fits my friends’ schedules or the schedules of my favorite hobby. It is not a time where someone who loves me says that he will take care of everything that needs to be done in order for me to have some fun or relaxation in appreciation for all that I do. No, it is a time I am required to present my children to someone who, in my case, has shown complete disrespect for me. It is HIS time with the kids during which he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. It doesn’t matter whether I’d rather have the kids at home or whether I wanted to do something with them, I’m not allowed to have my kids home on designated days. For me, the guaranteed time away from my children is not a good feeling. For me, it often involves tears, Xanax, excessive cleaning, excessive sleep or hardly any sleep at all.
I once explained it this way.
Imagine your child having a minor medical procedure which required a hospital stay. It is something that needs to be done, but you’ve put off. It is something that is not life-threatening and you know your child will not intentionally be harmed but he or she will experience some discomfort. You spent all week preparing your child for this but really, you wish he/she didn’t have to go. You are not permitted to stay in the hospital with your child, you are not permitted to call. But in the long run, it has to be done. Plus, you have no choice.
Now, under this scenario you have a guaranteed free evening, right? Child-free!! Woo-Hoo! Feel much like going out? Would you arrange for a girls night out or a date with someone you met online for the very night you knew your kid was going to be in the hospital, simply because you knew it was one night where you wouldn’t have to get a sitter? Really?
My point is, not every child-free night is a blessing . . . or fun.
Here’s another example:
I remember after giving birth to my first. They kept him in the hospital one day longer than me because they needed to monitor his heart as a precaution (he’d had a pre-natal heart murmur). They told me to go home and get sleep and come back in the morning. I went home. I was up and standing by the bed fully dressed at 6am, still dripping and stitched from giving birth. My husband was fast asleep. (I think it scared him a little when he awoke and I was standing over him. bwahahaha. ) I don’t know how he could sleep. I hadn’t even known this kid for more than two days. I was physically more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life, but the idea of using my baby’s hospital stay to catch up on sleep was completely ridiculous.
Fast forward. Post divorce.
A friend of mine was hosting a school of rock type performance at her house. Kids playing real instruments in a band. I would have loved to have taken my kids. But, it wasn’t my day. The event was at 4:00pm, I had presented the kids for visitation at 2:00pm. I went anyway in support of other people’s kids. I had to fight back tears. My friend noticed my sadness. She has four kids of her own, is married and a stay at home mom. Probably never gets a real break.
She said, “It must be weird not to have your kids here.”
“Yeah, it is. ” I quickly added, “I don’t like it.” She nodded in silence.
Back to the school function and the mouthy lady.
I didn’t say anything to the lady. I’m sick of my circumstance and marital status and don’t feel like defending, explaining or even addressing it. I just wanted to see my kids’ event and possibly enjoy it with other parents. Well, at least I saw my kids. I enjoyed it alone, albeit a bit uncomfortably. Regardless of her right to her opinion, that woman’s behavior was rude, and without regard for the feelings of others.
For the record, I sometimes get sick of the single mom hype, too. I tire of the label. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I hate that. I don’t want pity. I hate that, too. But envy? Envy for a situation you know nothing about? I hate that most of all.
The myth of the weekends off — well, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be, it’s not the same as a married woman’s weekend off– if she ever gets one, it’s not the same for every single mother. My personal experience has been horrendous, despite my court-ordered night “off” and often because of it.
And that mouthy woman? I doubt we’ll ever be friends.
Just Me With . . . my children . . . at home tonight. Thank God.