This article first appeared on Divorced Moms and has been republished with permission.
I hate it when people say to me, “You’re so lucky to have every other weekend to yourself!” The truth is when you are forced to be away from your child, it aches.
Separation from my son is still new to me. My son was a newborn when my ex and I were in divorce mediation. Part of our agreement was a transition of increased visitation over time. Now my son spends every other weekend with his Dad. To this day, I become increasingly sad as that weekend approaches. So, I’ve decided to change my mindset about the whole thing. What if I could learn to look forward to weekends he is with his Dad instead of dread them?
Here are five ways I’m learning to make my kid-free weekend count:
1. Sweet slumber:
Ah, sleep. Remember that? Being in control of your sleep schedule is by far the best part of a weekend off. While I lucked out with my son being a solid sleeper, it’s pretty awesome not having a video monitor on next to my bed. As Moms, we are always “on”. Even while we sleep! Knowing that our sleep time will not be interrupted allows us to relax completely and get our beauty rest.
Bonus: You can take naps too.
2. Getting things done...on my own schedule:
This is your chance to run errands without having to deal with car seats, spilled sippy cups or loud tantrums in the middle of stores. Since you don’t have to worry about getting back by nap time, you are on your schedule. Want to spend an hour walking around Target sipping a hot Starbucks latte? Go right ahead! You could also check off things on your never ending to do list. (We all have one.) Without the constant attention going to our little ones, we can be incredibly productive.
Bonus: Accomplishing these things during their weekend away allows us to be more present when they come back.
3. Reflect on my future:
When was the last time you thought about your happiness level and personal goals? We are so busy with routine and responsibilities that we don’t reflect on our innermost feelings. The first few months after my separation, I wrote in a journal, sometimes multiple times in a day. I was devastated by my ex-husband’s betrayal and the sudden end of my marriage. But I took comfort in my writing. I wrote down all of the things that used to make me happy (before my complacent marriage) and I vowed to bring them back into my life. I created new dreams for my future with my new son and enjoyed thinking about the fun, adventurous life I’d provide for him. Writing is my method of reflection, but there are other ways to connect with yourself such as walking outdoors, meditating, or taking a long, hot bath. By connecting to our true feelings, we have an internal compass that navigates us to the life we want to have.
Bonus: We can begin making decisions in our life that align with our goals because we know where we are, and most importantly, where we want to be.
4. Socialize without distractions:
For me, my time with friends is precious. It’s nearly impossible to have quality time with a friend when I’m in “Mommy” mode. I prefer to make plans with my best friends when I know my son will be with his Dad. This allows me to be in the moment, actually listen and experience my friend thoroughly without being distracted. It’s also nice knowing we can have a drink (or three) with dinner if we want to!
Bonus: I haven’t started dating yet, but these weekends will give us the opportunity to have a romantic life.
5. Feel grateful:
I realize feeling grateful sounds contradictory to this topic. But in reality, divorce causes mixed emotions for many of us. While it’s true that I am sad while separated from my son, I’m also incredibly thankful that he has a father who wants to love and care for him. My son didn’t ask for divorced parents, and he deserves to have both a Mom and a Dad that are there for him. It brings me comfort that he’s receiving his Dad’s care and making memories with him.
Bonus: We can also become grateful for this time to dedicate to our well-being. We happily give so much of ourselves to our kids every day, and we must remember that our needs and wants matter too.
There’s one thing I know for damn sure. It will never feel natural to be away from my son. When we're apart, it's hard not knowing the little details about his day. But I’m working on accepting our time apart and turning it into a positive for myself. I might even become a happier person and Mom for it.
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