the smell of my desperation has become a stench


Hey. Yeah. So I know that posting around here has been really light recently, and that’s due in no small part to the fact that I have about 14 different things in the air right now and I’m desperately trying not to let anything hit the ground. Sometimes that desperation leads to paralysis and I can’t unclench my hands which makes things a little tricky. Add to that meetings that require me to be away from my desk for most of the day and my brain doesn’t have the time it needs to produce the creative work I need to produce.

But a bigger, more underlying problem is at play here, and I’ve been reticent to talk about it, afraid even, because everyone has their own set of cards to bring to this table. I finally decided to admit how I’m feeling because I’m wondering for those who have lived through this if it will get better with time or if I’ll just get used to it. I don’t know. I’m just really sad.

I’ve been feeling this way for a few months, and it has taken me awhile to figure out why I can’t climb out of this mud-like funk. And then one morning after I dropped the girls off at camp I realized I wouldn’t see them for three days. I’d be going home to a silent house and it would remain like that until I picked them up from camp three days later. That enormous void in my house is like a rapidly growing cancer that infests my every thought and every action.

I miss them and that longing ache is crushing me.

When my cousin was here watching Marlo, I saw both of my kids every day. I’d hear Marlo running around in the room over my head, jumping on chairs and lecturing the dogs. I’d greet Leta when she’d walk in from school and take a look at the homework ahead of her for the night. I touched their hair, pressed my face to the back of their necks, swapped a few jokes whenever I took a break. The sound and the smell and the touch of my children filled my home.



But all that changed when my cousin left and I had to find other childcare for my girls during the day. It changed suddenly, overnight. And now I don’t see them for days. Yes, when I travel I don’t see my kids for just as long, but I do not enjoy being in my house without my kids. I dread walking in that door.

I had friends tell me that I would love the free time I’d have on the days and nights they are with their father. But the opposite is true. Those days shred my heart to pieces.

What compounds this ache is that when they are here I only have two hands and they seem to have hundreds. The work of taking care of two kids alone in my house, two kids who have very different and often conflicting needs is difficult. It’s frustrating, sometimes overwhelmingly. The work of it can obstruct the joy, and when it does, when I’ve put them to bed and realize that all I did for the previous two hours was repeat myself in an attempt to maintain some order, those are the nights when I close the door to my bedroom, sit up against a wall and hold myself.

I know, it’s only two kids. It’s not five or six or god forbid ten. And it’s only a few days. I understand it could be so much worse. But understanding that doesn’t lessen the agonizing pain of their absence or the toll it takes on me emotionally. It doesn’t alleviate the sadness. It doesn’t help me figure out the exasperation of doing it alone.

And so I have to hope that it gets easier or that I will get used to it. And in the meantime just put my head down, pry open my hands and try not to panic.

  • Nancy

    2013/09/05 at 6:50 pm

    I just have to remind myself that change is inevitable and good if it enhances my two daughters’ lives. I’ve been lucky to be able to be a stay-at-home-mom but now my younger daughter just started high school and my older daughter left for college this year. That tears me apart but she is ready and loving it. Ultimately that is what we raise them to do; be strong, independent people that go out into the world to successfully make their own way in whatever form that is. (After all, we really wouldn’t want them to be 28 and not wanting to leave home!) It feels like there is a big hole in my life but I realize I have to shift my focus a little (I’m looking for a part-time job) – life will just take a new direction and I am really appreciating the time I have with my younger daughter. Aaaargh! Just when you think you have things figured out….

  • eames

    2013/09/05 at 6:50 pm

    Of course it could be worse, but that doesn’t make your feelings less valid. I am not divorced, but I do have children. Being away from them for work is hard enough, to imagine having to be away from them for days at a time so they could be with their father if we were divorced makes me sick to my stomach. Find your healthy distractions, keep doing the best that you can do and let yourself have a little fun while they are away. You deserve it. Being fully present and truly getting the most out of the time you have with them will probably be challenging since they’re, well, kids. I miss mine all day and then THAT time of day arrives. Everyone is crabby, hungry and tired and there is so much to do. But I am so happy to see them and hug them and I’ve missed them so much. But then one hits another and they’re both screaming and the dogs are barking and dinner didn’t magically just appear on the table. It’s a cycle and all we can do is try. I hope that it does get better for you. Soon. You deserve to feel happy and peaceful. You bring your readers a pleasant distraction when maybe we’re taking a break from our workdays and missing our children. Maybe your readers can be a source of hope and support for you. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Joy Fisher

    2013/09/05 at 6:55 pm

    Ashley Ann Campbell, another blogger I follow regularly as I do you, did a post yesterday on “practical ways to encourage” – . I wanted to make sure you saw it and recognized how YOUR honesty is so encouraging to others. I’ll just say that since my father died two years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness and what is real happiness and what things trick us into thinking we are happy. In that time, I’ve been developing my photographic skills and I now “see” so much more even when I don’t have my camera in hand. It has simultaneously made me happier than I have ever been – to really notice and capture the details of my life with my husband and two girls – but, at the same time, I still find there is a great sadness inside me. I sometimes wonder if that sadness is not also richer, if that’s the right word, because I see how fleeting the moments are and how easily I can waste them as a wife and mother who gets tired and sometimes feels trapped by the very things in this world I love more than life. I haven’t found the key to my happiness yet, but it’s post like yours, and my camera, and a struggle to become more self aware, less judgmental towards people and situations that I haven’t experienced for myself in general that’s getting me there. Right now, that’s all I can do and it seems to me from the peak into your life that you give us with this blog that you are well versed in these things. Heather, I so wish I could say the perfect thing that would be the epiphany you need to pull yourself up and out of your “mud-like funk.” The only thing I can reiterate is that your honesty has helped me and thank you for that. I only hope that what Ashley’s friend said is right, that the honesty written here in these comments might encourage you. You certainly deserve it for all that you give to so many.

  • stollison

    2013/09/05 at 7:21 pm

    Hang in there. You don’t owe readers anything, take care of yourself and your family above anything.

  • Queen of Sheba

    2013/09/05 at 7:31 pm

    I would love to tell you that it gets easier, but I found it just gets different. I have been divorced for 11 years now, and there are still times I can’t catch my breath I miss my boys so much when they aren’t here. A few things have helped me. The first was when my therapist told me that my boys did not choose to get married, and they did not choose to get divorced. As their parent, it was up to me to deal with my sadness, not theirs. Then there were these words from Angel’s Hands by Rodney Atkins.

    they said honey grown-ups do this all the time

    and tears welled up in their little girls eyes

    they said now it’s not something that you’ve done

    it just that mommy and daddy don’t get along

    she said do you guys mean that you need a time out

    and that daddy’s gonna move to a different house

    they said you’ll have two bedrooms you’re a lucky kid

    she said what about checkers, where’s he gonna live

    she prays, angels watch me through the night

    stay by my side till morning light

    god bless mama, god bless daddy

    keep us together and happy

    Isn’t that what all kids want? I can’t give them their mama and daddy living together again, but I can give them my love. I would write letters to them when they went to their dad’s and they would do the same in a book, and we would swap when they got home. They got to share some memories and so did I. No matter what, you can do this. xo

  • ariedenlove

    2013/09/05 at 7:31 pm

    Gawd. It’s so hard. So so so hard. My daughter (4.5) is with her father half of the time, while my son (9) is with us always. We’ve been apart since I was 3 months pregnant with her. I am getting married next summer; he has a new girlfriend. We just miss her so much every time she’s gone, hate seeing her empty bed, her toys scattered about. And we have no contact with her/her father while she’s there. But, like so many have posted below, I find that if I fill up those days with as much as I can, it goes by so much quicker. And reminding myself also, that while we do wish we had her all the time, she does enjoy the time with her dad. And while he is difficult for us to deal with, we know she’s safe and loved. I also find comfort in knowing that this is just a season. In 8 years or so (agh), she’ll be able to choose where she’d like to be. And by then, I feel like this will just be the life we’ll have become accustomed to. That we’ll only know it this way, so it will feel less like we’re lacking and more like, this is just what we know. Also, because we go 3.5 days without seeing her, it’s a frickin love fest when she’s here, and I like knowing that that’s how home is over here. That she can always count on being mauled and eaten to pieces for days. It’s much easier now than it was 2 years ago. There are still hard days, especially when we’re dealing with an outburst of one kind or another with her father. Then, I just want to hold her close. And resent that I don’t have her. But there are many more ok days than not now. You will find a swing. A way to be. See movies, read books, drink with girlfriends, knock off the lists… It WILL become a different thing than it is now. It just will. Big love.

  • Melanie

    2013/09/05 at 7:47 pm

    At least Matt fills the absence for you.

  • abby

    2013/09/05 at 8:00 pm

    I am in the process of a divorce raising three kids on my own. I could have written this post almost word for word. I now know I am not alone. Thank you.

  • anon

    2013/09/05 at 8:19 pm

    this may be how Jon feels most days

  • debra

    2013/09/05 at 8:22 pm

    Sunshine, if your comment is actually meant to be supportive, then good for you. But it doesn’t sound to me like anything will fill the void for Heather but 1) her children or 2) time; maybe.
    If your comment wasn’t intended to be supportive, you know, please don’t do that. There is enough pain in the world. You’ll notice that 99% of comments here are loving and supportive. It feels a lot better to be in that 99%.

  • RGZ

    2013/09/05 at 8:37 pm

    this is lovely, but maybe the pressure of “100%” is unreasonable and sets people up for feelings of failure and guilt. that said, the philosophy in general is wonderful; i’d just revise “100%” to “all i have.”

  • Apic

    2013/09/05 at 8:37 pm

    I am not a single mother but some days seem like it. My husband is home at bedtime, every other Saturday, and Sundays. It gets so frustrating and some days I pray for relief. As soon as they get on the bus or I drop then off to sleep over my mother’s house, I miss them. I will linger at her house or out somewhere to avoid being in my home without them. I tell myself about how much fun they are having while over there. I see these times as just one more aspect of my life that I focus on them and their happiness first. It helps. This doesn’t always help at 2am when I am sitting at work in front of my computer, alone with my thoughts, and can contemplate if the time we have together is quality enough.
    I’m sorry to hear how hard it has been but am glad I am not the only mom that misses her kids so painfully when they are not home. I’ve only ever gotten puzzled faces when admitting this before. I hope that all the comments help at least make you feel not so alone.
    I think the work harder so you can work less when they are around sounds like a great idea and it keeps you busy.

  • Mariya

    2013/09/05 at 8:44 pm

    I’ve felt that aching loneliness (as well as being overwhelmed by single motherhood). I loved this article by one of my favorite authors:

  • RGZ

    2013/09/05 at 8:47 pm

    okay, so obviously you have your own therapist — i know you don’t need my remote interpretations (i *am* a therapist though, if that gives my drivel any more weight). i am certain that you miss your kids, plain and simple. but i think this is a bit more complex than that. the girls being away with dad is a very tangible reminder of all of the grief — all of the loss that means they will sometimes be with someone whom YOU are not “with,” are reminder that you didn’t lose just having them in your home all the time, but that you lost, on some level, the family that you *were.* and the family that you will become is as beautiful, but that family is still finding its way.
    if they girls are, say, at your mom’s, i suspect you still miss them terribly but don’t feel that same sickening ache? (of course, i’m wrong as often as i’m right, so, you know…). this is all to say that the part of you that just simply misses them won’t get easier. BUT, the part of this that is about the grief, the grief that is still very much alive, that part WILL get better. there’s a book i think would be really supportive for you right now. it’s called “The Way of Transition” by William Bridges. I can not recommend it highly enough. but bourbon works, too.

  • Ari

    2013/09/05 at 9:22 pm

    I don’t have anything very helpful to say, Heather, but my partner just moved out two weeks ago and I’m left with one nearly-four year old and one nearly-two year old with very different needs. I get the overwhelmed and exasperated and exhausted thing, and I know that the ache of absence is in my future, not to mention the associated pangs of reassuring, of answering awkward questions, of just not having anyone around to laugh or cry with me or tell me that I’m doing a good job.

    I just want to hide under the covers for a million years, while somehow simultaneously not missing anything and being everything and perfect for these two tiny anarchists who deserve so much better than what I have for them.

    Anyway. I’m so sorry to read that you’re aching and sorrowful, but I’m also so grateful that you posted about it, because here are all these comments from people who do have helpful things to say, and here’s this discussion where I know that I’m not alone. So thank you, Heather, and thank you, other commenters. I am so grateful.

  • Guest

    2013/09/05 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing Heather and everyone. I’m in the same boat. 4 months in to separation and divorce, I often feel like I’m hanging in the wind, no idea what to expect. This magnifies m

  • Erin

    2013/09/05 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog since just after Marlo was born, and in those four years I’ve come to feel like you’re a close friend, even though you have no idea who I am and sometimes I feel like a creeper because I always just read, never comment.
    I don’t give advice, because usually my advice blows. But right now, as a friend, I want to give you a big hug. You can cry, and I’ll cry with you. We, your readers, love you and love your girls, even though the vast majority of us only know you from photos. We’ll do anything to support you–because that’s what friends do.

  • Kodi

    2013/09/05 at 9:41 pm

    I have no children, but I come from divorced parents. I spent most of my time with my mom and dreaded time with my father, crying the entire car ride to meet him sometimes, being too young to understand that my crying made my mom cry all the way home.

    I don’t know if she was ever lonely if she ever missed me, I’ll have to ask her that, but I guess my point is it may be helpful to keep in mind how much your girls love their dad, and how much they love you. To miss them has to be better than missing them while knowing they’re unhappy and don’t want to be away from you.

    And I know, knowing someone else has felt your pain but worse doesn’t help for very long, if it helps at all, but I hope you can find peace in the wonderful relationship your girls are able to have with their father, because you’re able to let them go.

  • Marlene

    2013/09/05 at 9:54 pm

    Been there, done that, HATED every minute. At the beginning, I would just lay in bed and sob. Eventually, I was at least able to function when my child was with his father. It never got easier for me, but I did become better able to cope with the ache.

  • andrea

    2013/09/05 at 10:31 pm

    You are doing the best you can. And sometimes, that is enough. In love, Andrea

  • sara

    2013/09/05 at 10:52 pm

    all I can say is that I can relate. it’s the most pain, the loneliest I’ve ever felt. I’m over two years into it, the kids being gone 3 nights per week. the first few months were amazing, a freedom i hadn’t experienced since my son was born 10 years ago. now, some days are just empty without them…

  • Rebecca

    2013/09/05 at 11:30 pm

    Dear Heather,

    I’ve read your website for years now and have never posted, but tonight I just want you to know that even though this is just the internet, this big open expanse of open space, I hear you. I don’t ever read your work and think that you’re perfect or that your life is perfect – I see you as a perfectly imperfect person doing the best she can do with what she knows, evolving, changing, loving, breaking, healing. No one expects you to do it perfectly- we love you for trying and for keeping on keeping on. We love you for your fierce devotion to those girls who we now love through you. I don’t think life ever gets easier – it just gets different-er. They say, “this too shall pass” and it will, but not goddamn fast enough in many cases.

    Rumi said: “Do not surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you, as few human or even divine ingredients can.” And maybe some nights there is room for this emptiness and maybe some nights it’s better to call good friends to come over and sit on your porch (or stoop/or lawn) and just be together and hold that sadness in actual human hands. I hope you are able to get both what you need to progress and what you need for your heart. I honor your loneliness and your ache and hold you and your little family in my heart. Thank you for allowing me a spot on your mental stoop – I am happy to be here.

  • Raquel Penzo

    2013/09/06 at 12:05 am

    I feel for you but do not understand your plight. When I got a divorce and my kids started leaving every other weekend and half the summer to be with their dad it was like a spa vacation that cost me nothing. There was no one to cook for–I would eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner like a BOSS! No one to discipline. I didn’t have to censor what I watched or how I spoke. Basically it was like returning to my pre-mom days and, oh, the bliss.

    I think because you work inside the home and are used to seeing them and being in the nurturing role it’s hard for you. I’ve always worked outside the home and really cherish my child-free moments. Divorce was the icing on the cake!

    You’ll probably always feel a little tinge of sadness or loneliness when they’re gone with their dad or to camp, but you’ll get used to it, and you’ll learn to fill your days with other things. Especially once they’re older and you become the last person they want to be around 24/7 lol!

  • Jennifer Campisano

    2013/09/06 at 12:16 am

    I don’t know about divorce, but I have stage four breast cancer and it devastates me that I have to put my son in daycare a few days a week because I don’t have the energy to get off the couch, let alone keep up with him. Your words about the work of it often obstructing the joy hit so close to home. I don’t have any advice for you, just wanted you to know you’re not alone in these feelings of sadness when it comes to not enough time with your children.

  • Erin

    2013/09/06 at 1:42 am

    Maybe you’re still in love with and wish to be back with Jon. You used to write about how you loved Jon so. I can’t relate to you or your life anymore now that you’re divorced. I feel like most of the time you’re REALLY reaching for content. So, sadly I rarely come to your site anymore. I used to love to read everyday. I’d be interested to know if or how your readership has changed since the divorce?

  • theboldsoul

    2013/09/06 at 2:15 am

    Windy, I think you and I and our husbands should get together for a drink because it seems we share a similar experience. It’s not easy falling in love with someone who is still raising kids, but I also love my 3 step-kids and although I love having the break and the time alone with my husband when they’re all away, I do miss them and enjoy that there is more energy and life in the house when they’re gone. Mostly I love that the man I love is so loving to his 3 children. I didn’t get that with my own father and that was a damn shame.

  • theboldsoul

    2013/09/06 at 2:29 am

    Windy, I think you and I and our husbands should get together for a
    drink because it seems we share a similar experience. It’s not easy
    falling in love with someone who is still raising kids, because you’re signing up for co-parenting and for giving up even more of your time, energy and privacy, but I also love
    my 3 step-kids and although I like having the breaks and the time alone
    with my husband when they’re away, I do miss them when they’re gone and enjoy that
    there is more energy and life in the house when they’re at home with us. This summer has brought special challenges as his oldest son and the son’s girlfriend have been camped on our couch while they search for an apartment (and we have a VERY small apartment, not at all comfortable for 2 couples plus a 12-year-old. Just last night my husband and I joked that we might never, ever, be alone in our own house again (if he’s honest about it, he enjoys a little break from parenting now and then, too). Then this morning his son got a thumbs-up on an apartment they applied for, so looks like we WILL get some more alone time in the near future after all. Plus, we learned (because he said so to his father) that the kids really LOVE being at our home because it’s relaxed and fun and they always feel welcome; what could be bad about that? We must be doing something right if they want to keep coming back. 😉

    Mostly I
    love that the man I love is so loving to his 3 children. I didn’t get
    that sort of time and attention with my own father after my parents divorced, and that was a damn shame. My husband also took on a lot of responsibility with his kids before I came along, and now I like to think that part of the way I show him my love is to support him in being the best father he can be. If that means I end up being the one looking after the youngest when he gets home from school, or putting up with the older ones having their stuff all over my house because they don’t have their own place to live yet, then I suck it up and do it gladly… it makes my husband happy.

  • theboldsoul

    2013/09/06 at 2:31 am

    So not helpful. But then, Heather’s blog is supposed to be all about making YOU happy, right?

  • theboldsoul

    2013/09/06 at 2:44 am

    So many good suggestions in the comments about how to cope with missing your kids! I have noticed that my husband and his ex have very different ways of dealing with long absences from their 12-year-old son, which used to be just 2-3 days but now it’s a week at a time, not counting the longer school/summer holidays. My husband has me around for company, so I’m sure that helps, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss his kids (there are 2 college age ones who live on their own) — he lights up like a Christmas tree whenever he finds out one or more of them is coming at the same time! And my God, on those increasingly rare times when all 3 of them are here at once? He nearly bursts with happiness!

    When the youngest is with his mom, my husband don’t call or email very often because he feels like that’s THEIR time together and he doesn’t want to intrude on that. But ex, who is a single mom and who to my knowledge isn’t involved with anyone at the moment, will sometimes call during the school week to talk to her son, and during summer vacations when we have him for 3-4 weeks at a stretch (she gets the same) she sends him hand-written letters nearly every day or at least every other day — he LOVES getting those letters from his mom and I even got him a special box to save them in, because this is clearly a special “thing” between them. So maybe you could start a new tradition between you and the girls, when they’re going to be with their dad, maybe you could put little notes in their suitcases that they can find (Leta can read to Marlo) and it could be a fun way that you can feel connected to them, even when they’re not with you, imagining their reaction to whatever you’ve written.

  • Lynn

    2013/09/06 at 5:45 am

    In discussions like this I can’t help but wonder: if it is this hard on the adults, how can we possibly to this to kids.

  • Amy

    2013/09/06 at 6:27 am

    I feel the same…I separated in February. My girls (10 and 7) are with their Dad 2 nights a week and every other weekend. Those nights and days I have to force myself not to just crawl into bed.

  • Beth Rich

    2013/09/06 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for that comment. I needed to hear it just as much as Heather did. Just now getting used to being without my son, much less appreciating the opportunities it presents.

  • Marcy

    2013/09/06 at 6:36 am

    Divorced mom here, coming up on eight years and as many others have said it does get easier. You find the things you like to do alone (or with friends) and do them and you realize it gives you time to take care of things that take your attention away from the kids so you can have more quality time together later. Also try to remind yourself that while you are suffering, they are not. Their dad loves them and treats them well. They are cared for and wanting for nothing. I think a bit of this emotion, for most of us, is tinged with guilt – guilt that things didn’t work with their dad and now they come from a “broken” home, guilt that they have to go back and forth, guilt that you have this potential time to enjoy and you’re wasting it feeling sad…so much guilt! I am here to tell you the guilt fades when you realize they are doing just fine and that one day in the future you (and perhaps your new partner) are going to make excellent use of kid-less time. I am remarried to someone wonderful and we sometimes joke that if we had to do it all over again and we’d met first we’d time-share our kids with a nice lesbian couple so we could have every other weekend to make out and drink wine. 🙂

  • Sarah

    2013/09/06 at 6:55 am

    Bravo to you for having the courage to admit that you’re hurting. Too many people suffer in silence.

  • Nicole Johns

    2013/09/06 at 6:58 am

    Thank you for the book recommendation and the bourbon comment. Both made me feel better.

  • Danialle

    2013/09/06 at 7:19 am

    I needed to read this so much. I have been divorced for 3+ years with a 4 year old daughter. Her father is great, but I still to this day on the nights she is gone wander around the house and think “What in the hell do I do now?” I even have a new love and we go on great adventures, but it still isn’t the same. So I’m sorry and I think you are brave and fabulous for putting this out there and we are in this together. xoxo

  • debra

    2013/09/06 at 7:31 am

    My opinion is that content is as real as ever; sometimes heartbreakingly so, sometimes uplifting-ly so. Kind of like life.

    Maybe readership is like life also, where when a relationship breaks, or illness happens, or any number of other life changes we weather, you weed through all the crap and find the people that will still be loyal friends, versus the ones that were only in it for themselves and what they got out of it.

    I live my life trying as hard as I can to surround myself with supportive uplifting people. That’s probably why I started reading this blog many, many years ago. Well, that, and she’s so effing funny. And when she announced their separation, I took it hard, but realized it was not without a great deal of contemplation.

    And now there are equal parts of funny and sadness/grief (sometimes only recognizable in the things she does NOT say) but to me, when the sadness happens, it’s an opportunity to be nice; to be uplifting in comments, in return for all the times she gave me the laugh I needed when I was at the end of the rope and out of the edge.

  • kaybunny78

    2013/09/06 at 7:41 am

    Much love to you. I’m sorry you’re going through this. You’re so lucky to have two such wonderful children and I completely understand why you would miss them. I think this will get better, as things tend to do. That’s little comfort now, I know. But they’re lucky to have such a brave mama. XO.

  • mac jordan

    2013/09/06 at 7:44 am

    Wow. That’s a really helpful comment.

  • Meredith

    2013/09/06 at 7:46 am

    I don’t have any experience with this, but my heart goes out to you. You’ve had to go through so many huge changes in such a short amount of time. Good luck!

  • RGZ

    2013/09/06 at 7:51 am

    oh! good. 🙂

  • alex d

    2013/09/06 at 7:54 am

    I agree with Kim, you are awesome.

  • Kate

    2013/09/06 at 8:12 am

    Thank you for writing this post, which can’t have been easy.

    I’m going on 2 years divorced, with girls aged 6 + 7, share custody 50/50 with their Dad.
    I have no magic answer or solution to offer…I can only say you are not alone. I can still remember exactly how I felt the first few weekends the girls were away from me – like my world had been ripped out from under me. It IS a little easier with time…I jam pack as much work, cleaning, grocery shopping, workouts etc as possible into the days the girls are away. For me the nights are worst, wandering down the hallway and seeing empty beds 🙁 Basically I try to exhaust myself during the days so that by the time I crawl into bed I’m too tired to do anything but sleep.
    You are doing your best…that’s all you can do. Until you can learn to enjoy the silence (I’m certainly not there yet) keep yourself busy, do what you can to ease up time when the girls are home. And when they are home, just love them. That’s what they will remember.

  • Hannah

    2013/09/06 at 9:02 am

    Don’t forget – it’s September. You wrote a very moving post a while ago about being careful in September, because it’s often a trigger for depression. So take care of yourself, cut yourself some slack, and have a glass of wine (or chocolate milk, or beer, or, you know, vodka) after they’ve gone to bed.

  • adelfa

    2013/09/06 at 9:14 am

    I’m so sorry. If I can offer up any useful tidbits, they might be to:
    1. Write letters to the girls while they are gone. You can then either mail them a day or two before the next time they are away, so they arrive at Jon’s while the girls are there (if you both agree that this will not make the girls sad). He can do the same and mail letters to the girls at your place. You don’t have to write a lot, maybe just a note, or a silly joke, or something. Or, you can save them for when the girls get home to you. They can open up all their mail from you. That’s fun for kids!

    2. If you are rattling around without children during Jon’s visits, I would suggest volunteering. There’s a local long-term shelter for pregnant/parenting teens near my home that needs babysitters three times per week every week, so I imagine similar things are about in your area. Even taking 2 hours to make someone’s life better lifts depression. It’s proven that helping others lights up all the “reward” centers in our brains, just like exercise, sex, chocolate, and drugs.
    3. I echo other commenters–get stuff done while they are gone so you don’t have to while they are there. Pre-make up lunch sacks with all the non-perishable snacks/sides for the week to reduce lunch making time. Do all the laundry, change the sheets, get the groceries, do your errands, get your hair cut, exercise extra long (so that on their days with you, your workouts might be shorter). Pre-make (or plan, or buy frozen) dinners. Get as much “work” work done as you can so that you can take a few hours more off when they are home. Tell yourself “Every hour that I get extra work/housework done is another hour I can play with the girls when they are home.”
    4. Hire a nanny from,, etc, to watch the girls at home instead of sending them to after care after school/day care, etc., or to be there with you to help with all the logistical nonsense of having kids to allow you to focus on the meaningful stuff. I have had a lot of good luck with hiring mother’s helpers/nannies/sitters this way. When they were little, I hired a nanny to help me stay at home with my 3 while I was recovering from very bad PPD/A. She was a lovely woman and it was pleasant to be with her and the children all day. It really helped pull me out of the hole. Now that I work and they are all in school, I have a cleaning lady who also does grocery shopping and errands for me so I can spend the after school time with my kids.
    good luck. I do not think missing the kids gets easier, but you will cope with it better.

  • debra

    2013/09/06 at 9:34 am

    Excellent post, Hannah.

  • LDB

    2013/09/06 at 10:03 am

    I can’t begin to imagine how you feel. I am married to my son’s father and so the idea of giving him up every other weekend or more is like a hypothetical “what if”. But I can relate to the other side, I have a teenage step daughter that we have been getting every other weekend/2 weeks in the summer since she was 14 months old. Since in the beginning her parents could not breathe the same air as each other without world war III, I volunteered to pick her up and drop her off to her mother. This went well for many pick up and drop offs, but one pick up when she was almost two was not good. She was sitting outside of her house with her mom like normal waiting for me to pick her up, dressed in the most adorable pair of pink overalls you have ever seen, hair in pig tails, swinging her favorite Disney princess purse. I pulled up and she waived and laughed, but then as her mother was putting her in the car (we decided from the beginning that she would be the one to put her in the car and take her out – that was the mother’s choice for reasons I still don’t know) she stiffened up and started to whimper. We were both surprised but not overly concerned as she did not seem that bad. Well as I started driving down their very long dirt driveway she began crying louder and louder (nothing I could say would calm her). She was arching up in her car seat trying to turn her head to look out the back window and see her mom. She was crying hysterically and saying in her little voice, “pease, my mommy, pease, my mommy, I go, I go”. By the time we got to the end of the road we were both crying. I felt like the worse human begin on earth. I stopped the car and got out to call her mother, I told her, she is crying so hard for you, what do you want me to do. She said, keep going she will calm down, it will only make it worse if you come back. Me not having any children at the time thought wow that’s pretty hard core. Now I realize the strength it took for her to say that, and what an incredible sacrifice that must have been. I recently asked her mother if she remember that day so long ago – she said it was the worst day of her life. Even though I had gotten out of the car to call her, she could still hear her crying in the background. I asked her how did you find the strength to tell me to keep going – she said I honestly don’t know. She then told me that she sat on the porch for hours staring down the dirt road crying silent tears until she could not cry anymore. We still get her every other weekend and in the summer, but as a teenager she is not crying anymore (and never did again after the one time) and her mother admitted that the peace of not have a moody teenager can be very welcoming, but she would not want a steady diet of it.

  • JennC

    2013/09/06 at 10:15 am

    Hang in there Heather. I don’t think it gets easier, but it does become more “normal”. Let the grief wash over you, cry until there are no tears left if you need to, and at some point something else will begin to beckon to you (hopefully not laundry). Feel your feelings – they are a testament to how much you love your girls. ((hugs))

  • Sara Carling

    2013/09/06 at 10:16 am

    It gets easier. I remember the pain of an empty household. How I filled my free time with work & finally a new social circle that matched my new single Mom life. I grew to live two lives. One without my kids & one with them. I grew to appreciate my free time & how I was able to work long hours without feeling like I was neglecting my kids. So that when they were home, I made sure to be done with work by the time they were home from school. This allowed much more quality time & a much less stressed out Mom. I let go of the small things. If the laundry didn’t get folded that night, it was ok. It mattered more that I cuddled up on the couch with my babies or took them on random mini adventures. Remember to take time for self care, because if you don’t take care of yourself & your needs, you’ll be no good to your kids when they’re home. That’s what I used my free days for. So that i was less overwhelmed when I had them on my own 5 days a week. I found balance. And you will too. It gets better.

  • kate

    2013/09/06 at 10:26 am

    I liken it to amputation, my daughter’s being away at her dad’s. It literally feels as if part of my body is missing, and I guess in a way it is. But I will tell you, it DOES get easier.

    Find what fills YOU up, outside of your children, whether it’s reading, hiking, riding your bike, watching movies that you never got to see because it’s been nothing but Dora and iCarly, spending time with friends and family, or whatever. Because our job as parents is to raise them to leave us, and those of us who have practice will be so much better prepared when it’s time for them to go off into the world on their own, and so will they.

    I can honestly say that now, after 8 years of this, I welcome the Fridays that she goes off to her dad’s ALMOST as much as I love the Fridays she comes “home” to me. I hope that for you. xo

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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