Custody is an Ugly Word for Respite

When I became pregnant with the twins at the ripe old age of 33, I was gainfully employed, more or less psychologically sound, and relatively mature.  The fact that I’d only dated their father for 5 months was insufficient cause for me to consider not continuing with the pregnancy.  At the time I was madly in love and foresaw a rosy future for us and our soon-to-be-twins.

What happened next, anyone could have predicted from the less-than-sunny-sidelines of my life: the twins, the hormones, the fighting, the crying, the sleep deprivation, my feelings of betrayal and heartbreak when he seemed disinterested/bored/impatient with our babies. 

When the twins were 9 months old, I bought myself a small cheap house in the northern reaches of Washington State, commuted to my big money job over an hour away while my Mom watched the babies, and attempted to start over as a single mother.  Though the twin’s father and I never married, he wanted to be in their lives, and we agreed that he’d see them every other weekend from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. 

From the beginning, especially for the first two years of the twin’s lives, I would be so utterly exhausted, I’d fall asleep at my desk at work, and slap myself awake every day driving home.  I’d look forward to his weekends with the twins to catch up on my sleep, clean the house, and sleep some more. 

Now that I’m remarried and have a 20 month old, the joint custody arrangement is still bittersweet.  I miss them sorely, I hope and pray that our cooperation helps ease their transition between homes,  and I and my husband try and give them a good, secure, happy loving home life, sharing birthdays and holidays with their Dad & his new wife.

But this every other weekend respite.  Is. So. Lovely.  And no, I don’t recommend breaking up with your spouse in order to get a break.  Nor do I recommend getting very very ill in order to have a week in bed.  What I am saying is that everyone should have what I have, but without the drama & heartbreak & the missing of the children.

Every mama and daddy deserve time to recharge — to sing loudly to bad country music, dance around the house, get a massage, have coffee while staring outside and not have to answer questions about Jesus, sleep in until (I don’t know, I’m feeling CRAZY today) 8 or 9am.

I can’t describe to you fully how sorry I am that my lovely daughters will have to live with my mistakes for the rest of their upbringing.

But I work with what I have and it’s this: I use their time at their Dad’s to recharge so that when they get back, I can be stronger, and more devoted, and more loving than I was when they left.


19 Responses to “Custody is an Ugly Word for Respite”

  1. November 19, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    I can only imagine that with twins the need for respite is ever more critical. I think one plus one is definitely more than two in that equation. Thanks for the interesting topic.

  2. November 19, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    I hear you.

    I could certainly use some damn recharging. And 8:00 is sleeping WAY in over in my home.

  3. November 19, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    You deserve a pat on the back. So many parents use the children and access to them as a way of hurting their former partners. It’s a powerful temptation and a guaranteed way to mess with your kids heads. that you did not do that means you sould allow yourself a little pride.

  4. 4 bec
    November 20, 2006 at 2:30 am

    I admit I have fantasised about shared custody.

    I have a friend for whom it works brilliantly (much of the time) for her, the ex, and the kids.

    Sadly – or happily – my choice of second husband was much better than my choice of first.

    And I had no kids with the first!!

  5. November 20, 2006 at 6:55 am

    CM, You are a wise woman in trying to facilitate good relationships for your daughters with their Dad. My stepdaughters were older when D. and I married, but we knew from the get-go that it would be important for them to have dad time without me (altho’ sometimes they lovingly complain about “TMD” — Too Much Dad!) Today, they are two wonderful adult daughters who think their dad is great.

    As for the time to recharge, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s been tough on this end with D’s ridiculous work hours and obligations — even when he’s home, he’s working and not really here. But I confess, I had a whole weekend to myself this past weekend at a conference, and it was glorious! Now, back to reality!

  6. November 20, 2006 at 8:53 am

    You are so wonderful. Don’t beat yourself up about this. Wow, you see a silver lining in every cloud, and of course the twins need to see their biological father.

  7. November 20, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    I love the way you’re able to see the positives in your arrangement. If only all divorced couples could be so healthy!

  8. November 20, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    I love that you can see the benefits to your arrangement for yourself outside of the obvious personal pain it also causes you in missing them! And, I agree with what everyone else said: that you (and their father) deserve immense respect for putting your children first and creating two happy, healthy homes full of love and support.
    Enjoy your breaks, you certainly deserve them!

  9. November 20, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    So that’s your secret to being such a great mom! I have a friend whose parents take her babies from Thursday until Sunday every week. At first I thought it was a weird arrangement but now I’m envious. She’s such a calm, relaxed mom because she gets to recharge every weekend. Helps her marriage too!

    Good for you for seeing the positive aspects of sharing custody.

  10. November 20, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Oh, I felt the exact same way with my first son when they both were younger.

    However, there is something I didn’t take into consideration. Now that they are 7 and 10, when James is away Christopher is insufferably BORED and it requires a lot more time and energy to keep him entertained.

    Those early days were LOVELY, though

  11. November 20, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    I’ve read before that in cases where the father is quite uninvolved, the children actually see MORE of him after the parents split up: it’s too easy for some men to assume that mommy’s taking care of all the child-rearing – at least this way there are times when he knows that it’s his turn.

  12. November 21, 2006 at 5:47 am

    I’m with moobs… I know from whence she speaks, sadly.

    The funny thing is, I tell my wife all the time… “go away for a weekend… stay in town for the weekend at a hotel near the house… get away for a while, relax…” She won’t do it.

  13. November 21, 2006 at 5:52 am

    I’m with moobs… I know from whence she speaks, sadly.

    The funny thing is, I tell my wife all the time… “go away for a weekend… stay in town for the weekend at a hotel near the house… get away for a while, relax…” She won’t do it.

  14. November 21, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    I am filing for divorce RIGHT NOW…
    Here I GOOOOOO…
    Just kidding.
    Although I agree that recharging is NECESSARY…yet we women really don’t get much time for it. The men need to tune in more…read our minds…and give it to us! And I don’t just mean sex. 😉
    Seriously though…you should be proud that you are doing this all with dignity. It’s a tough thing and I saw many many MANY of my friends used as weapons between their parents and it sucked…

  15. November 21, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    this post is brimming with love for your children. it is so inspiring. and I still don’t know how you did it alone with your twins. you’re a great mom. and you’re right, every parent needs a break once in a while to recharge.

  16. November 22, 2006 at 12:05 am

    You must have been copying from my site because I talk about this subject a lot:-)) I consider it very important to let both mother and father have some time away from the kids to recharge and think about life. The time alone doesn’t have to be long or consist of anything advanced. Get drunk, sleep, work out, blogging, knitting, reading, or sitting on the balcony tanning. It doesn’t matter. But I see this as a crucial mistake most couple make when they have kids. Kids are fantastic bu there is no need to stop living. And I think we all become better parents by getting a break quite often(unless you don’t spend any time with the kids, then a break isn’t really needed). In the short term it won’t be noticed, but wait a year or two and it will be very clear what parents are getting a break.

    Sounds like your daughters will be much better off because of what you will teach them about your own personal experiences. Interesting read.


  17. November 22, 2006 at 5:49 am

    Respite is absolutely, absolutely key. And alone time for couples. AND ‘alone time’ for children with each parent.

    Total family togetherness is over-rated.

  18. November 23, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    Excellent idea. I’m glad you’re getting your rest. Our plan is to have travel weekends when L.A. Toddler gets older. One of us will take off for the weekend with the kid and let the other one do what they want, on our own. And it will be a great way for us to bond. I plan to take her to Catalina Island, maybe San Diego, and let L.A. Toddler experience the area. And let L.A. Mommy get some rest…

  19. 19 Allyson
    December 18, 2006 at 11:22 am

    You my dear are amazing! I hold single mother’s on the highest possible pedistal, because I just don’t know how they do it; especially with twins! You are amazing! I am sure your husband thinks so too! 😉

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