For the first time in what seemed like forever, my daughters were off to their first summer visitation with their dad for two whole weeks.
I searched for a while online to look for resources or even other blogs discussing this topic, but I hardly found anything. Girl, I was a complete mess! I tried to hold myself together until the week prior to their departure. My tears fell at the most random times while driving, in the shower, and even at the grocery store. I never had this amount of time to myself away from my girls and I was definitely feeling it.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows
To the naked eye, most moms seem pretty thrilled to be kid-free during summer visitation. It allows them to breathe for a moment. Although this is true, mamas don’t typically discuss the tough times they have when their kids are gone for long stretches of time.
If you really think about it, we spend every waking moment planning our day, week, and months around our children. We’re coordinating around sports practices, school, homework, and everything in between. As a single mama, my life is constantly revolving around my daughters. When my kids are gone, I can easily feel lost without them. Over time, our identities become wrapped around our children and we don’t even realize it. If you were to ask me what my favorite movie is or favorite thing to do, I’d probably say going to the park, making slime, and watching any Disney movie that’s trending.
Yes, dropping my kids off for an extended period of time can be exciting and something to look forward to, but I’m still human and I still love my children enough to miss them dearly while their gone. When they left it was like an essential organ was being ripped from my body. I didn’t know how I was going to function.
This trip brought fear and anxiety
I also had plenty of fear going into this. There was the fear of being replaced by another woman who was foreign to my girls. I feared them being told to call her mama the same way I was told to call a man Daddy as a child. My mind wandered about how they would be treated and if they would be cared for the way that I do.
Thoughts of them missing me came to mind as well as me not being there to comfort them in times of need. I even questioned their father’s parenting skills because he is not active in their lives and had been abusive toward me in the past. My children are now products of divorce and have seen so much trauma in our once happy home. I worked so hard to build our little family of now three to the strong bond it is now. I didn’t want it all blown away by one bad wolf.
Despite my fears, I trusted that God would cover us all in this process. My daughters deserved to spend time with their father no matter how much of it that may have been. The work that I have and am still doing to heal our brokenness cannot be ripped off like a bandaid during the span of two weeks. This work has been internal. My daughters will always know where their home is.
There is strength in our weakness
As mothers, it’s easy for us to feel like we have to be strong all of the time. If we show how we feel, we can potentially be seen as weak or as if we can’t handle the situation at hand. There’s this imaginary notion that we shouldn’t allow our children to see us when we’re hurt, vulnerable, or upset. But that’s the only way they’ll learn to be able to deal with their own emotions. Our children learn from us. So IT’S OKAY to cry when you’re sad, smile when you’re happy and tell them how you feel when you’re feeling it. Show them how to express their feelings rather than bottle them up inside. This shows them that you are their safe space. In order to carry ourselves as strong women, we have to be able to process our feelings properly. There is strength in our weakness.
Processing the drop-off
I had been dreading this summer drop-off for some time but did not expect to feel so empty when I let my girls go. I held up pretty well until it was time to hand them over to their dad. Almost immediately I let the waterworks go as I squeezed them tight for the last time and told them how much I loved them.
Walking back inside of the airport alone felt strange. I didn’t have to hold a little hand or constantly look in my peripheral vision to make sure my children were always in sight. I didn’t have to worry about planning out the next meal or making sure I sit somewhere near a restroom.
For the first time in so long, it was just me that I had to worry about. No one else. This was not an easy thing to process. It was out of the norm for me. I ran to the bathroom a few times to let out what tears still remained. I then looked myself in the mirror and put on a smile. It was all going to be okay.
Although my children shed their tears as well, I knew that they were going to be okay. I knew that they were safe with their father and that’s all that mattered.
My life is not solely about my children. I am my own person.
Moving forward with the rest of my day, I repeated these words to myself in order to keep my composure. I even wrote them down in my notes on my phone. “I am my own person.” Wow! Those words hit me hard. My children have their own unique identities so why don’t I? I decided to take this experience and do the work to find out who Erin was, is, and will be. This moment was necessary to allow me the breathing room that everyone speaks so highly about. I deserved to rest. So I did just that.
How did you normally feel when you’re apart from your kids? What things do you do to take advantage of that time?