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.

two black Brown skinned girls sitting on a slide with natural hair

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.

white coffee mug that reads "Be Strong"

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.

Woman laying on a bed with legs crossed in the air

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?

The other day I took my girls with me to Target to window shop and of course, in typical Target fashion, I left with more than I intended to as well as a stomach full of a sweet caramel coffee concoction.

I ended up purchasing a couple of bras and a few pairs of underwear, which is out of the norm for me. I typically lean toward a $9.99 pack of cotton briefs from Walmart and bra from the clearance section that may or may not be my size and make it last a long as humanly possible. I’m just being honest here. I know I can’t be the only one. This time, I decided to treat myself and get some of the colorful, frilly stuff that makes you feel sexy in all the right places even though these places won’t be seeing the light of day for a while. (Hashtag single mama).

Aniyah hanging from monkey bars in a blue dress

When I got home, I decided to try on my new gear, which also leads me to realize that I’m officially an adult now to be that excited about new underwear among other things like electric toothbrushes. My youngest fell asleep after her bath, but my oldest was still up and wanted to hang out in my room.

For most of their lives, it’s been just the three of us, so I’ve always dressed in front of them with no shame. As I went in and out of the closet to try on each piece as if it was a low budget fashion show, I voiced how each made me feel and what I loved most about my body. I often speak to my girls openly about body image and loving ourselves both internally and externally.

I allowed myself to be vulnerable

Aniyah asked about my stretch marks and where they come from. I explained how I believe they’re my badge of honor for becoming her mother. I told her how my body stretched as God formed her in my womb and I was left with my “tiger stripes” as evidence of the most amazing experience that led to my initiation into motherhood. I told her how much I loved my thick thighs and how they’d always been that way even at her age. I even did a little shimmy to show her how they jiggle. She laughed and jiggled hers too.

The short conversation left a big impact

After pointing out my flaws and explaining how I love them anyway, I told Aniyah just how beautiful I believe she is and that we are a lot alike in so many ways. She ended the conversation by telling me that she loves her body just the way it is and that she loves her thighs too. I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear and held her so tight. She didn’t realize it, but that short conversation we had while I stood in front of a mirror in my underwear exposing my love handles and stretch marks was one of the most powerful conversations we’ve ever had.

I didn’t want history to repeat itself

I suffered from issues with body image my entire life until recently. I covered up as much as I could and was ashamed for what I looked like. I wanted to look like the other girls I went to school with. I envied their thigh gap, flat stomachs, and skinny arms. I’ve always had a small waist, thick thighs, and arms that jiggled.

I remember going to the doctor at thirteen for a checkup and hearing my mother and the doctor whisper about my being overweight while I sat on the table holding back tears of frustration, embarrassment, and anger. I felt like I was built wrong and shamed for it. My stepfather would make jokes about my size and ask me if I was pregnant. My weight fluctuated from being overweight to being extremely small through my high school years.

I chose to break the cycle

It took a few years and a few wrong turns to learn to love myself just the way I am not reliant on the opinions of others. It also took me to go through these experiences to learn how to mother my children in areas that I’ve never experienced in my own childhood. Because of the hurt that I experienced at a young age and the lack of support and encouragement, I was able to give these things to my own daughter who doesn’t quite fit the mold according to society. I see myself in my little nine-year-old melanin beauty. I tell her that God just gave me more of her to love and that’s a fact.