Monday, October 5, 2009

Racing From One Weekend to the Next

There are a gazillion ways to arrange custody when divorcing. For us, a 50/50 arrangement was a given so we started from there. Because we have a little-one (Maia) we decided that a full week without seeing one or the other of us would be hard for her so that figured largely into the equation. In the end we came up with the following schedule: I have the kids every Monday and Tuesday. They are with their dad every Wednesday and Thursday. We switch off every other Friday and Saturday, and switch again every other Sunday.

So far the arrangement has worked for us (with minor tweaks and adjustments here and there to accommodate their dad's teaching schedule).

But it takes a lot of adjusting.

As it works out, every other week I drop the children off at school on Wednesday morning and don't see them again until 4 pm on Sunday. Five days.

When the 5 o'clock hour comes on Wednesday, the first day without them, I'm at a loss. I suddenly don't have to jump in my car and "play pickup kids." He's doing it. I can't pin down how this feels but the closest thing to describe it is anxiety. A pulsing in my veins, wringing of my hands, twiddling of my thumbs... What to do?

On Thursday evening it gets easier. By Friday, at 5, I'm lonely. Saturday rolls around and my objective is to get the house ready for them - laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping - so that on Sunday I can sit in my favorite chair and enjoy the New York Times with cup of coffee while KFOG plays the Acoustic Morning program on the radio. By the time they arrive at 4, I'm relaxed and excited to see them.

Until they arrive.

And I'm suddenly shocked into the reality of motherhood. Almost immediate whining, and requests for food, or gum or juice; quarrels between the two of them; very loud voices; screaming, crying, tantrums, defiance, anger, exhaustion. Wow. Mommying is hard work. Especially when you do it alone.

Monday morning, getting up in time to get to school by 8. I rise at 6 - try to get a half hour of time alone with my coffee before waking them at 6:30 to start getting ready for school. This morning hour is perhaps the most challenging of the day. Never mind me - I need to get two children dressed, washed up and fed in addition to making boxed lunches and tending to Moses the Dog. We leave the house at 7:50 and drive across town to Joe's school where we drop him off and then take off back across town (tracing where we've just been and passing our house) to Maia's preschool. Once there the ritual is that we spend about 10 minutes playing or reading together and then she "pushes me out the door" and I'm off on my own. An immediate sense of relief and freedom.

It seems to be one or the other - extreme stress or loneliness - I've not yet found a common ground. A place where one or the other is satisfying and fulfilling. Instead, one just seems like a race to get to the other. I'm constantly running and never winning.

When does this end?