“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 –