I recently wrote a post about my week on Lake Superior with my ex husband and our children. I wrote about how awesome it was to vacation with an ex, because it was amazing for our children to experience being a ‘together’ family. My eight year old is actually self conscious about being a child of divorce.
I always assure her, that when she gets older, she will have more friends of divorced parents than not. And then I tell her that since she went through it first, that she will be a great friend to help the newbies when they experience it. Still, she was so happy to go on that vacation, to have her dad around. I wrote about the absolute joy it was to actually have an ex husband that I can get along with. It really was a great week.
What I haven’t written about is the crippling depression that followed our adventures. I crashed hard after the high of being part of the family that we could have been for a short time. It was incredibly emotional for me to experience that, only to have my kids go with their dad for two whole weeks right after. I went from having everything that ever meant anything back for a week to being completely alone, in a day. My girls have never been gone this long. It has been a dark time for me.
These emotions are more complex than what I’m used to. It has nothing to do with wanting my ex back. I absolutely do not want my ex back. But at the same time, he remains the only man I’ve ever really loved. He represents my greatest achievement, being a mother with a family of my own. He also represents my greatest failure, tearing that family apart and struggling ever since.
It was the nostalgia of the way it used to be. It was talking with my ex mother-in-law, who I love talking with now. But also remembering that she used to drive me insane. And then realizing that I always took her unconditional love for granted, because I didn’t really know what the hell to do with it. I resented her for being everything my own mother wasn’t. I pushed her away, divorced her son, and she is still the closest thing to a loving mom that I have ever had.
It was listening to the old CD’s and talking about our first date. It was reminiscing about bringing our little girls home from the hospital. It was admitting that we had both done wrong, understanding that we went through it all together, and seeing each other as both family and strangers in a vulnerable new blending of the people we had become after hurting each other for ten damn years.
And while he drove off with our girls in his truck, on his way to see his patient new girlfriend and assure her that his heart is hers now and no longer belongs to me, I was left in the emotional wake of being completely alone. Just me and the cats, sitting around thinking about how my life has been a series of bad decisions that landed me alone in a trailer and crying over the fact that my kids really are probably better off living with their dad. He is building a home and a family for them that I will never be able to give. He cooks beautiful and healthy meals and manages his money like an accountant. I can barely take care of myself some days and am starting all over again in life because I fell in love with another guy who couldn’t stand me.
And this is the darkest side of single parenting. The guilt never really goes away. The pressure of doing it all never really becomes bearable. And sometimes you sit and think about how much better it would be for them if you weren’t in the picture. And then you remember that you love them enough to try harder. So you get up off your whining ass and get started with rebuilding your damn life again. Because eventually, if you keep trying, you know you will get it right. And if you don’t, they will at least know that you tried. And kept trying. For them.