I had been debating it for a long time. Every single day, for years on end, I made lists, weighed the pros and cons, and thoroughly examined all of the options.
Then one day I did it. I left him.
Honestly, I thought he would be relieved that we were leaving. I thought he would help me pack and hold the door for us on the way out. It’s hardly how it went down. But that story, I suppose, will have to wait for another time.
In the beginning, it was pretty black and white. I was awarded custody. Even his initial minimal visitation seemed like a marked increase from the amount of time he spent with them when we were all living under the same roof. Dropping them off with him and driving away was guttural and painful in a way I can’t even begin to describe. Even when visitation was supervised, I was worried sick. And it broke my heart. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I was a mess.
I was reassured by EVERYONE that he wouldn’t be able to keep up it up. That by the time the divorce was final, I’d still have full custody and no more messy, emotional exchanges. No more drama. Just last month, it was settled. We were able to reach an agreement—which included a carve-out for him to have more custody. Well, earn more custody, really.
I was relieved, but exhausted. I had been in survival mode. I could stop paddling away from the sinking Titanic in my teeny tiny row boat with my teeny tiny girls. And when I stopped frantically paddling, that’s when the fog set in.
It was a deep, dark, heavy sadness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It hit me a couple weeks ago when the girls were with him. I had come home from work and walked into a completely quiet and motionless house. Silence had never been so loud. And unbearable.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to step up and be a part of their lives. It had never been that way, so I never even factored this in as a possibility. It wasn’t on my radar. It had snuck up on me.
Then another crushing blow: I realized that when I left him, part of me left them, too. As a working mom, my evenings and weekends with them are precious. And in the blink of an eye, that critical time had been taken from me. I was angry and very, very sad.
It was an unintended consequence of my decision to leave him. I had made the ultimate sacrifice without even knowing it. Time with my daughters—the loves of my life, my whole entire world.
The truth is that I am really proud of my ex and great strides he’s making toward being the dad he promised me he would be. The best thing for my girls is for him to be an active part of their life, to be a loving and caring father—to the kind of involved father that my dad was (and is still is) to me. Although it’s much too late to save the marriage, it’s not too late for him to have a meaningful, life-long relationship with the girls.
But even when they aren’t here, I’m constantly stepping over sippy cups, stuffed animals and crayons. Or I’m finding one of Ellie’s signature piles of torn-up paper in one of my shoes. I’m surrounded by painful reminders of the way it SHOULD be, but isn’t.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that there would be so many nights that I didn’t tuck them in bed. That there would be so many things they would learn how to do when I wasn’t there.
But now I’m here, alone in an empty house. In mourning. Grieving the loss of my family, of the mom I thought I’d be. Trying to ignore the deafening silence.