Divorced Parents, Split Holidays, Shuffled Kids

Posted by admin on Nov 23, 2009 in Meaningful Mommy Moments |

“You are so lucky,” my former college roommate from North Carolina would say to me.  “You have built-in time just to focus on yourself! I’d love a break from all the kids and family around.  You can do whatever you want.” 

I would smile back at her through the telephone, though she couldn’t see me.  “Yes, I can do whatever I want.  And now I am off for my brunch/massage/etc…” I would say back.

She is married with two kids and lots of family nearby to help.  I have been a single mom by divorced since 2003, but I am also blessed with good friends and family. 

The first time a conversation like this happened between us was on Halloween, in 2004.  My daughter was three and she was going to be at her father’s house.  I’m not one to sit around and do nothing, so I had made plans for a night to myself (meet a friend for a drink, watch Sex and the City re-runs, get Thai takeout).  And my girlfriend had called from North Carolina again to say how fortunate I was to avoid all that annoying kiddie stuff as the little devils got themselves buzzed up on sugar.  After our call, my mind was on auto-pilot.  Thoughts buzzed in and out.  I absentmindedly painted my nails.  

Thirty minutes later, nails drying, I tuned in to my mind’s conversation.  It was saying, “From age four to eighteen, she (my daughter) will experience fifteen Halloweens.  I can’t participate in seven of them because she will be with her dad; I can participate in the other eight.  And I’ll lose one due to leap year, because my divorce decree says she spends Halloween with the parent who has her on that specific day (i.e. it’s not an alternating Holiday for us).  By the time she’s twelve or thirteen, she won’t want to do any of this with either of her parents.  So at most I will have two or three more Halloweens with her, as will her father.”

I have six more Thanksgivings and six more Christmas mornings with her until she is eighteen.  I recalculate it every year.  She is shuffled back and forth, back and forth.  And, at eight, she already takes it as a matter of fact.  Sometimes she even gets doubles – two Christmas mornings; a second turkey a week after Thanksgiving.  She goes with the flow.

I know my former college roommate is well-intentioned.  She and I both know that the truth is not “I can do this or that activity with my free time.”  The truth is I cannot have my own daughter with me on specific days.  And that is totally different from scheduling “mommy-time” every now and then.  It’s a quirky twist of fate and there’s no good answer as to why it’s turned out that way for us; it just is.

My consolation is my very logical, optimistic mind.  I know I could have stayed in a loveless marriage and had every Holiday with her, and we would have been miserable together.  In the life I have chosen, we can and are creating wonderful and loving memories together in the time we have.  More is not necessarily better.  This helps me stay present when I do have her, and it helps me enjoy my time alone too.

As I said, I am fortunate to have lots of friends and family around me.  It’s just that when someone finds that wishbone in the turkey and I am not with her, I cannot help but wonder what my daughter would wish for at that moment.  At age six, she wished everybody in the world was happy and could have whatever they wanted.  At age seven, she wasn’t with me.  I wished her a wonderful and fun Holiday no matter where she was.  This year, I cannot wait to hear what her wish will be.

Have a wonderful week all –


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  • Colleen says:

    Swati, I can relate, but from a different perspective. I was stepmother (custodial parent) of 3 boys. I actually wanted a break when they’d go to their mother/grandmother’s on holidays and a week (yes, 1 week) in the summer.
    But now, them being grown men, we’re all realizing what we missed. They don’t have Christmas traditions as they were always gone, nor Easter.
    So I’m deadset on starting them w/my grandson, no matter what. It started on Halloween and I noticed my son didn’t know how to carve a pumpkin. Another holiday tradition we missed out on.
    So while I’m sorry I missed family traditions with the boys I raised, I’m now trying my best to include them as grown ups.
    I’m sorry you have to split your time with your daughter. It is painful, no matter how you look at it. My prayers are with you that you somehow make it a wonderful time.

  • Swati says:

    Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for that honest insight; I am so happy to hear you are taking advantage of spending time with your grandson and creating new memories with your step-sons.

    Thank you for your warm wishes. I wish you a wonderful Holiday too (and I hope your grandson gets the wishbone).

  • Lauren says:

    Wow – that last blog touched my heart – having a six year old, Steve and I have already started the “how many more years do we have with Santa” chats, and we, fortunately don’t have to split anything. Time goes way to fast. I don’t envy you having to pack her up -but I do know that you are one of the best mommys I know and while you may have to share her on the holidays, I know there is never any doubt in her mind about how much you love her or how special the holidays (and everydays) are with you, regardless of what day they are celebrated on the calendar. Enjoy Turkey day!!

  • Swati says:

    Thanks Lauren! I appreciate you reminding me!

  • Robin says:

    Awwww. That was sweet, but sort of sad. 🙂 On a selfish level, think of all the grownup fun you can have or already have had because you were able to go out on holidays while your daughter was safe with her daddy. My daughter’s father was completely out of the picture, and I spent most of my holidays until recently either sitting home with her, or waiting up for her. I’m just now able to go out on Holidays! Look out, world!

  • Stacie says:

    Swati I too could relate to this. For a while my ex was getting my son every other Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Then he kind of fizzled out of the picture. I hated missing out on Holidays as they are always so special. You think it’s hard on you it’s also hard on the kids whether they realize it or not. Now my son has gotten use to the way things are. He doesn’t see his dad because his dad is a dead beat dad and doesn’t call or see him. Living together miserable isn’t good for any of you so you made the right decision. I like your attitude focusing on all the time you do spend together as well :})

  • Swati says:

    Hi Stacie and Robin,
    I guess it’s probably it’s own post at some time…but I don’t always feel she’s totally safe overt here either (he struggles with his drinking). And I can count on my my hands the times she truly comes back happy. But she is a trooper and often remarks how happy she is to have 5 nights a week with me and only 2 over there. It’s no competition – so my honest wish would be to have her be happy in both homes.
    – Swati

  • AmyMusings says:

    Your attitude will help her tremendously. She’s lucky to have a mom who is nurturing herself instead of having a pity party.

  • Stacie says:

    You know they always told us in the Divorce classes if you feel your child is not safe don’t send them. But then if you don’t send them your in just as much trouble. It’s a catch 22. Oh I could tell you stories. My son was not safe at his dads by no means. I had to send him as I didn’t want the people he lived with in trouble as they were not part of the argument and I didn’t want to look over my shoulder the rest of my life either. Going back to court costs money and now a days who has money to pay a lawyer. I love how you think though. It’s really great.

  • Swati says:

    Stacie – it is such an unfair Catch 22, you are so right. I’ve been in and out of court a lot…but it’s a tough tact and there’s a lot of,”In this state, what you are describing is considering bad parenting, but not abuse.” The kids suffer; I am thankful for sole custody and 80% of the time, my daughter is in my home. But, as you well know, visitation is separate from custody and very difficult to change. I am constantly amazed though at how intelligent kids are these days. My daughter, at 8, knows the scoop. And I don’t talk about my ex at all. I understand completely and you handled your situation correctly I am sure; I’m glad you have peace in your life now.

  • Swati, I come from a divorced family and I know what you are talking about. My parents fought over spending time with us. It was wonderful to know that they both wanted to be with us, but painful for me even as a child to realize that they couldn’t be with us as much as they desired. When my mom moved out of town (which my dad vehemently protested) my dad bought a house 120 miles from where he lived the rest of the time, so he could drive down and visit us on weekends. Both my parents are so loving and wonderful. I am truly blessed. And so is your daughter. Because from the sounds of it, she has two fantastic parents who want to be with her and enjoy spending time with her. You are a wonderful mom!! Be proud of yourself. And wow, your blog has had an awesome makeover!!! Loving it!!!!!!!!! Have a great week. PS And agent in NYC is looking at my book 🙂 Can you believe it???

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Swati!
    Here to follow you thru MBC!
    First I am sorry to hear of your divorce! It is something that is sad no matter what anyone else thinks!
    I am with you about your friend. I went through a divorce and everytime my kids would leave I would feel empty and out of sorts. I am not a sit around kind of gal, so making plans to have a drink with a friend may be nice, but they have the opportunity to get out of needed.
    I would always always get offended when my friends would needle me about how great my life was getting a break from them! ARRRGGGHHHH!
    Good luck with all you do and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Swati says:

    Naomi: Thank you for adding another point of view from your “child’s” eye! It’s good to see it from all points of view.
    I’m glad to like the new look, more changes coming.
    Congrats on your book – I cannot wait to buy a copy :-)!

  • Thanks for the follow. I’m now following your lovely blog.

  • Pamela says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I read it a few days ago and where you write about how many more holidays, etc. you will have with your daughter has really stuck with me. I’ve found myself trying to be more engaged with my son as I think about the time I have left with him.

    He’s seven, but I already had been thinking that seven years has gone by so fast and by the time he’s 13 he probably will only want to be with his friends — so your post really reinforced some of what I had been considering.

    It’s easy to be frustrated or dying for that break when your child goes to the other parent, but thinking about the time left (and for me, I only have one child) puts those feelings into perspective.

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