I would bounce between sleep or the above-mentioned COD and Chipotle routine to make the time go by as quickly as possible. I kept to myself because I was pretty much in survival mode and didn’t care what I had to do to get through it.
As time went by, I slowly stopped isolating myself and began spending time with family while my kids were gone. Before too long, I began to see the value in having time to myself. At first, I felt guilty, but I eventually got over that. The boys were having fun on their visit, and why should I feel guilty about doing the same in their temporary absence. A little time apart can be a good thing, especially for an exhausted single parent.
What is one of the most important things any parent, single or not, can do?
If you said practice self-care, you’re absolutely correct. Good for you! Self-care is so important, and while my desire to be with my kids 24/7 was coming from a good place, it wasn’t healthy for me. Heck, it probably wasn’t healthy for them either. Part of practicing self-care means putting myself (or, in your case, yourself) first. The reality was that I didn’t get breaks very often, and when I did, I needed to make the best of the time I had to myself. I know how hard it is to do that, but it’s vital. It’s absolutely crucial for your physical and emotional wellbeing.
I’m not going to dive any deeper into self-care because I talk about it all the time. I do, however, want to point out that enjoying time away from your kids can be a great way to practice self-care. I’m just sayin’…
The whole reason I wanted to write this is that while it’s important to talk about the struggles, it’s arguably more important that we highlight the positive as well. I mentioned earlier that it was a process for me, and I built myself back up a little at a time. I started out sleeping, playing video games, and eating two-pound burritos to pass the time. I was an emotional mess, and I openly admit that it wasn’t uncommon for me to cry alone on my couch because I missed my kids. I realize how sad that is, but it was a difficult time for me.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my life has changed tremendously. I love my kids even more today but I’ll tell you a secret. I can’t wait for the visits with their mom. I genuinely appreciate the downtime for several reasons, but the most important thing for me is rebuilding my life. It took me a little while, but I eventually started dating. It was pretty scary at first, but I’m in a very healthy relationship and have been for some time now. She’s completely changed my life and helped me rebuild myself. I’m fortunate, and I know it. I still have some hard work ahead of me but I know where I’m going and new opportunities keep presenting themselves. My most recent realization is that working outside the house has become a possibility again and that’s kind of exciting. I find comfort in having options. Sometimes I’m guilty of tunnel vision, especially when I’ve been stuck doing the same thing for a long time. I don’t always see how the circumstances have changed. At least not right away.
The important thing is that I embrace the growth and I’m open to positive change. Today, when my kids are gone, rather than isolating myself, staring at a screen, and pounding 1,200 cal burritos, I take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I use the time away from my kids to put back into myself, and I no longer feel guilty about it.
Putting back into myself helps me to be a better father. For that matter, it helps me to be a better human. The people I love deserve the best version of me possible.
If you’d have told me two years ago that I would have figured all this shit out, no part of me would have believed you. It felt like the end of the world and things would never work out. Being miserable is a horrible feeling, and I know so many of you out there know what that’s like. We’re all in different places on this journey we call life. I vividly remember being told that it gets better. I also vividly remember not seeing how that was possible.
Everyone says that time has a way of healing and maybe that’s true. I tend to see it a little differently for myself. I see time as providing me the space I need to adjust to the major changes in my life. Sometimes it takes longer to adapt to certain changes but if we’re open to embracing the change, it goes a long way towards helping us do that.
If you’re reading this and can relate to where I’ve been, please know that it does get better. The timing of things may vary, but life goes on. Allow yourself time to adjust. Feel whatever you need to feel, for as long as you need to, but not a minute more. Life is short, folks, but I promise you will find a path forward. It may not be the path you were originally on, and you might not be ready to see it just yet. Give it time. You will find happiness and joy once again.
I’m so grateful to have found my path forward. Do I wish I’d found it faster? Of course, I do, but the truth is, I wasn’t ready. Take the time you need to rebuild and rediscover yourself. Eventually, you’ll learn to find joy in the bittersweet time you have away from your kids.
I genuinely hope this helps someone out there. I’m so thankful for everyone’s love and support when I was going through this stuff, and I hope I can be there for you as well. Please be kind to yourself and remember that you’re not alone.