Forty Two Days and Cupcakes :: Acceptance of Childless Summers

I stayed married several years longer than I should have. Because… holidays. Those sweet golden days sandwiched between long monotonous stretches of work and school. Summers and Christmas and Thanksgiving and Spring Break… they were they were the glue that held together the toxic social experiment that was my marriage.

Understandably, people fear the dissolution of a marriage for a myriad of different and valid reasons. Being alone. Money. The end of the fairytale. The unknown. Me? I feared divorce because the thought of waking up on Christmas morning knowing my children were not in the next room was considerably worse than enduring 365 days of unanticipated intermittent but inevitable stress. Or so I thought.

Mom Goals

Interestingly enough, I am not the mother that strives for familial perfection. There isn’t much June Cleaver or Claire Huxtable in me; my mothering approach leans more towards Peg Bundy or a pre-Twitter Roseanne Conner. But being away from my people for extended periods of time or on those days when families traditionally gather together is something that I dreaded to the max. Once you’ve spent a full day attempting to expel a self-made little human from your body – you have a pretty strong attachment to said human{s}.

The Short Story

Over the course of one week, a special set of events transpired. I realized just how I wrong I’d been about continuing to live in toxicity and I made a change. The divorce was finalized in 2012 and in 2013 I prepared myself to be away from my three children for an extended period of time – for the first time ever.

Before the divorce, I looked forward to the end of the school year. But that year, the closer we got to summer – the more I wanted to slow time. I obsessed over packing their belongings. I obsessed over phone chargers and cords. I obsessed over how long I would go without talking to my kids. All the while, I secretly hoped that their father would decide that our kids weren’t all that interesting and let them stay home. The whole summer. With me. In my house. Where they really belonged.

Leaving My Neighborhood

But alas, the day after school ended, the evil kidna… ummm, I mean, their dad arrived to scoop them up and tote them a few hundred miles up the road. I’m not an actress, but I gave an Oscar worthy performance. I acted dignified. I walked the kids out to the car. Kissed their cheeks. Reminded them to do their summer reading. Prayed for safe travels to their summer home. I told them to have a good time {stated half-heartedly because I selfishly wanted their best times to be with me}. I held it together. All the while, they didn’t even seem the least bit bothered about leaving me. Sixty-eight collective hours spent pushing them out of my personal neighborhood and not one tear shed. At least not by them.

When they backed out of the driveway, I quickly turned my back to them and walked slowly into my empty house. Then I dropped to the ground and did the big cry. Not the sweet little feminine cry of sad mommy. I did the full on big ugly cry with sounds that evoked images of wounded animals. Where you almost lose your breath. And words refuse to form betwixt you malformed cry baby lips. Legit tears fell from my eyes. Lots of them.

The Math

Forty two days. I reminded myself. Six little weeks. Times seven days per week. Equals 42 days. I had absolutely no idea how I would be able to endure 42 days without my children.

I don’t remember exactly how I pulled myself together, but I know cupcakes, root beer, reruns of Criminal Minds and Amazon shopping were involved. But that wasn’t all. In their absence, I made a few emotional decisions. The first summer, I blew up my budget redecorating all three of their bedrooms. The first Christmas away, I got a dog. We didn’t need a dog. My hands were full with three kids. But in my overemotional mind, this furry four legged creature helped to solidify our status as a full family unit. And their other family had dogs… so… yeah. Another summer, they returned to a mother that was approximately 20 pounds heavier than the one they left. My coping skills are definitely questionable.

Eighteen hundred days later and I still really haven’t figured it out. I always know the number of days left until they return. Melancholy still strikes on occasion. I doubt I’ll ever be a pro, but I tolerate it more easily now. I’ve learned to appreciate the time to myself. Movies and dining out are more affordable – and peaceful. Distractions are fewer and projects more manageable. I can linger from aisle to aisle in Target without worrying that someone at home needs my attention. Also, cupcakes for dinner can be a real thing when no one is watching.

Thirteen Days. That’s all that’s left in the 2018 summer visit. I can do 13 days with my eyes closed. As long as there are cupcakes.

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5 Responses to Forty Two Days and Cupcakes :: Acceptance of Childless Summers

  1. Jennifer H.
    Jennifer H. July 24, 2018 at 8:31 am #

    I love and hate this all at the same time. Your strength, Joi, is so admirable and your writing is captivating. I do not know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but the way you describe them makes me feel like I’m on the floor crying with you. You can do this!!

  2. Avatar
    Julie K July 24, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    Shortly after my daughter’s father and I split for the last time, I moved cross country with her. The first time away from me(ever in her 9 years of life) was at Christmas, not to mention my birthday is 12/23 so she missed that too. I was a mess. My fiance did the best he could to distract me and perk me up but to no avail. After many holidays and summers away(delayed flights, rerouted planes and road trips to meet half way) it did get easier. It does help that i had 2 more kids during that time. She’s 21 now and the time she spent with her dad away, did make leaving for college and growing up a tad easier on me.

  3. Joi
    Joi July 24, 2018 at 11:18 pm #

    Thank you Jennifer! I survived. And Im smiling alot more now!

  4. Joi
    Joi July 24, 2018 at 11:20 pm #

    Every cloud has a silver lining! Glad you found yours Julie!

  5. Avatar
    Montoya Hudson July 31, 2018 at 4:29 pm #

    Aw man, Joi! This hit all in the soft spots. I’ve always said I wanted my daughter to spend the summer with her dad so I can have the summer to myself. But once he started seriously discussing it, I clutched her to my chest and ran away from the conversation (figuratively and literally lol). I can’t even imagine. But I admire your transparency! And if you ever want some kids to borrow in the absence, mine are available anytime. 😉

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