When I first got divorced and was settling into my new normal of shared custody, I was suddenly confronted with having more free time than I ever had before. Every other weekend, I was “kidless” from Friday mornings until Tuesday afternoons, and I was solo every Sunday and Monday evening.
I am very lucky to have a strong support system and lots of family and friends to help handle the madness of three kids and a divorce. I have a core group of people I can turn to help cover me when I have to be in two or three places at once, and I know how lucky I am to have this in my life.
It dawned on me a few months after the divorce was final that the only time I would be truly “free” of my parenting responsibilities would be when my ex took the kids on vacation. It was the only time I could make my own plans without having to get coverage for my parenting responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, my ex is a wonderful, reliable, and capable father and we are all lucky to have him. But we are both always here to cover for one another if necessary, and our kids and their schedules and needs will always be our first priority. So really, the only time I’d feel completely free (especially of my guilt for having my own life) would be when my ex took the kids away on vacation.
My first opportunity to capitalize on this new freedom came during the summer, when my ex and the kids took a 4 day weekend away. As I live on the water in a beach resort town in New Jersey, I knew it was crazy to spend money to go away, when I live in a town where people pay to spend their summer vacations. I decided a staycation was what I needed.
I rallied my local friends and tried my best to get some partners in crime to enjoy this unprecedented opportunity. But it was way harder than I expected to recruit playmates. After all, everyone had their own jobs, families, custody arrangements, and priorities, and my staycation was planned somewhat last-minute. Although I gave it the old college try, I unexpectedly found myself alone with more time unplanned than planned over the span of my free long weekend. I was disappointed in myself for not capitalizing on every possible second of freedom, as I knew my next opportunity wouldn’t come along for quite some time. I relied on my friends and family to help entertain me, but didn’t take into account everyones’ demanding schedules. Looking back now, I realize I did everything I could to avoid spending my free time alone.
I came out of that long free weekend feeling I lost out on something, like I didn’t take enough advantage of my opportunity. I didn’t dwell on those missed opportunities for too long, but instead made a pact with myself that whenever my ex planned more vacation time away with the kids, come hell or high water, I was going to suck the life out of my short-lived freedom and do something I wanted to do according to only my whims. If someone wanted to join me, they were more than welcome to come along for the ride, but it would be according to my schedule and my desires.
I realized this meant I had to plan to spend some, if not all, of my vacation time alone. But I was determined and felt up to the challenge. It was intimidating and unsettling, but I knew it was time to put my big girl pants on and go after what I wanted, because I couldn’t rely on someone else to give it to me. It was time for me to exercise my new independence.
Thus began my selfish pact to seize every minute of my unexpected freedom. And what a journey it’s been so far. A post describing my first solo adventure is coming very soon, so check back to read all about it.