Sunday, 5 February 2012

The reality of co-parenting

This post is written as part of the 'Do Something Yummy: CLIC Sargent awareness raising campaign' blog prompt by Nickie over at  Typecast.  So welcome to the:-

#dosomethingyummy - Link Up - Week 1

Each week throughout February, Nickie will be providing a writing prompt.  This weeks prompt is this... "What Your Children Mean To You".  A choice of three types of post were provided:-
  1. Personal post. Why did you have children? How have they changed your life?
  2. Yummy post. Do you have any experience of childhood cancer?
  3. Creative writing. Imagine your child can't be at home with you. You are missing them terribly. How do you feel?
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I’ve  broken the rules a bit.  I’ve picked the subject matter of number three but the post is a personal piece rather than being a piece of creative writing.  The reason behind this rule breaking rebellion is that I live with the reality of my eldest son being away from me for half of each week.  Six and a half years ago, I separated from The Eight Year Olds Dad and since that time my  eldest son has split his time 50-50 between his two parents.  This has resulted in a boy who is loved by many, who is happy, well balanced, and who has a real sense of family.

I passionately believe, that under the right circumstances, co-parenting can be the best option for children whose parents seperate.  If both parents are equally keen, and able, to care for their children, then why should a Mother have more right than a Father to spend a greater amount of time caring for a child? And, more to the point, why should the child involved be made to miss out on spending as much time with one parent as they do with the other?  The important thing is that the focus is always on doing the best thing for the child, regardless of how the parents feel about each other.    As I’ve discovered though, as a parent, co-parenting can be incredibly difficult to live with in reality.
The first night my eighteen month old child spent the night away from me, I drank a bottle of wine, smoked a packet of cigarettes – even though I hadn’’t smoked since my early twenties -  and I cried.  A lot.   This was a pattern that would continue for many weeks and months to come.  I suddenly found myself leading a double life.  Half the week,  I was trying to be the best mum I could be to my amazing little boy, the second half of the week I was desperately unhappy, sad, confused and lonely.  Being away from my only child (at the time) gave me a physical ache in the pit of my stomach.  
As a newly single person you may think I would have appreciated the child free time to socialise, get ‘out there’ again as it were.  But no.  I hated it.  I made the effort to enjoy the time I had away from my  son - I developed a good ‘front’ in order to be seen to be functioning like a normal ‘ together' type of person.  When I did go out to socialise during my child-free evenings and weekends, I felt guilty if I enjoyed myself.  I grieved for the family life I had wanted to provide my son with and felt that I had badly let him down.

As my son got older, being away from him became both easier, and harder, all at the same time. I worried less about how he was being looked after when I wasn’t there.  I knew he was being well cared for by his Dad but how could I know if things were being done in the way that I believed to be the right way.  As time went by I eased up a bit on the level of detail I wrote in the diary of my son's everyday routine – the method by which we (me and my son's Dad) discovered we could maintain a sense of cohesion so that we didn’t confuse our son with different ways of doing things.  Waking up times, meal times, nap times, bed time, illnesses, new developments…all were recorded in those many diaries.   

As my son has became more independent I can relax a little more, knowing he can phone me if he wants to talk to me when we are apart – he never does though, always completely lost in the moment whichever house he is at.  We have been lucky that he has never once been sad at leaving one house to go to the other.  I have always been amazed by, and completely relieved about, that. 
As my son gets older and becomes more and more his own person, I miss his company.   I miss talking to him about his day and hearing him ask about mine.  I miss laughing with him.  I miss the bedtime story and cuddle, the feel of his skin as it brushes against mine.  I miss telling him that I love him.   I miss him climbing into our bed in the morning to greet a new day.  Sometimes when he is away , I find myself at night walking past his bedroom and hesitating.  Shall I pull the door to and pretend to myself that he’s in there or do I need to go in and  check that he isn’t,  just in case it’s all been a horrible mistake and really he’s with me every night after all

Whenever he goes on holiday with his Dad , and I know we will not see each other for a couple of weeks at a time, I always tell him that whenever he feels the heat from the sun on his face that I will be feeling the heat from that very same sun on my face.  And if he should look at the moon and the stars I will be looking up at the very same moon and stars and so therefore we are not really that far apart at all.  I suspect this is more comfort to me that it has ever needed to be for him.
And now, six and a half years since the first time he went away, I still always feel a sadness creep over me when he leaves to spend a few days with his Dad.  Ad, although I don’t cry nearly so much now, I still find that each moment he is away, it feels to me as if something isn’t quite right.  I can't always put my finger on what's wrong, it's just wrong.  And then he returns home to me… and all is right with my world once again.


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If you'd like to join in with this awareness raising campaign then head over to Typecast to find out more.  To find out more about CLIC Sargent, click here.  The 'Do Something Yummy' Website can be accessed here.

3 comments:

  1. A heartbreakingly honest and beautifully written post. Thanks so much for supporting #dosomethingyummy

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  2. You're slightly very brave to write such an emotional post I know it can't have been an easy write at all and knowing you as well as I do I can say it wasn't an easy read. Heartbreakingly honest absolutely but its every bit as inspiring as you are a truly fab-tastic mum to the luckiest and loveliest 8 year old and baby!

    R x

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