I know I usually write about issues I faced during the two years I was parenting solo in this column, but this post is about a challenge I will continue to face as a result of my break up- splitting Alice’s time with her Dad.
Last week I dropped Alice off at the airport for her annual trip to America with him, he has family there so inevitably this will be a yearly thing and I have to do my best to manage with all those miles between us. Family trips to America would have always been on the cards so when we separated I knew that I didn’t want to take these experiences away from Alice just because we weren’t together anymore. That said, it isn’t easy to wave goodbye to her and carry the anxiety around for the duration of her time away, but I know this is something for me to manage. I hear stories of single Mums making it difficult for Dads to see their kids and it really upsets me. In some cases I understand there are reasons as to why a child needs to be protected from their Dad, but in the majority of cases when a loving Father who wants quality time with their kids is denied it I get pretty mad. It’s not easy at all to say bye to your kids for nearly two weeks, but it is absolutely in Alice’s best interests (in my opinion) and as she skipped off happily with her Dad at the airport I knew it was the right thing. It might be a bitter pill to swallow as a parent, especially if there is animosity between you, but you won’t go far wrong if the motivation behind your actions when co-parenting puts your little one first.
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. When we first broke up I was frustrated at the lack of communication, the advice I was given at the time was to give it a year. I gave it a year to let emotions calm down, court procedures to happen and the dust to settle and we have managed to get to an amicable place. Alice has been seeing her Dad every other weekend and at the most for a week at a time- he lives in Scotland still so I had to make my peace with extended visits early on- which has been working alright. When she starts school this will change slightly and I’m sure that arrangements will continue to evolve as she grows up. Missing out on every other weekend has been hard, yes, but my advice is try to see the positives in it. I made sure to use my time off for socialising guilt free, house projects, boring stuff like cleaning and focussed on recharging myself and my patience ready for her return! This holiday is the longest she will have been away and although it’s so difficult being away from her, sleep is on and off and I feel like I’m missing a limb, I’m trying to focus on the positives and count down the days.
Alice’s time away doesn’t just affect me, I’m always conscious of how she is coping with it. At the moment, she is always happy to see her Dad and goodbyes aren’t a problem, she doesn’t get upset and want to come home when she’s away but I do notice that she is always more clingy when she comes home. This is an ongoing learning curve for me, making adjustments here and there to help her when she comes home from weekends and trips away. Little things like being less strict about bedtime for those first couple of nights and giving her my undvided time and space to settle back into her own room and the excitement of being home. This time I’m taking the week off after she gets home and have planned some fun stuff, importantly without too many strict arrival times, to let her do her thing whilst she’s adjusting to being at home and getting over jet lag. I can’t wait for some quality time with her before she starts pre-school and turns 4- how did that happen?!
With another week to go I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself! Bank Holiday weekend is looming so there will be plenty of distractions (if you’re looking for things to do in Milton Keynes I’ve got you covered in my latest Celebrate:MK column) but I know there’ll be a few more sleepless nights and anxious moments before I get to hold my girlie again next week.
I’d love to hear from you if you’re a separated Mum or Dad and have similar experiences or tips for how you manage splitting time with your little ones. There is no one-size fits all but I hope that by talking about it a bit more we won’t feel like the only person going through it like I did at times!
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