Every summer my daughter visits her dad “Jake” in his home a few states away. We alternate who has her for the 4th of July; this year she was with me, leaving a few weeks later. Next year, he’ll have her for the 4th as part of her visitation with him. As per our divorce and custody agreement, “Jake” has to fly here by himself, then fly with “Em” back to his house. When the visitation is over, he flies with her here, then returns alone. Until she is old enough to fly by herself (which I’m still not sure I want to do when the time comes; you never know what kind of people are on that plane), this is how it works, unless “Jake” wants to drive out here and drive back with “Em.” But who wants to be driving for 18+ hours, let alone with a 4-year-old. So about 2-3 months before her visitation, I start looking at flight schedules and prices. About a month later we buy their “together” tickets; “Jake” buys his tickets for his flight with “Em” and I buy her tickets. “Jake” is then responsible for buying his own “alone” tickets. The majority of the time, “Jake” flies in the night before his “together” flight with “Em” so as to avoid any problems with delayed flights. He’ll fly in, I pick him up at the airport, and he stays the night at our house. Then I drive them both to the airport the next day. Last year, we tried having “Jake” fly in the morning of their “together” flight, scheduled for early evening. What a disaster. To make a long story short, his flight was canceled, we had to change “Em’s” departing airport and flight time, and she and I ended up running through the terminal (barefoot, since we’d taken our shoes off for the security portion) and I practically threw her and her belongings at “Jake” since their plane was waiting for them to board. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her, and I cried the whole way home.
This year, “Jake” is flying in the day before. I still don’t know which airport he’s flying into, or when he arrives. For all I know, he’s coming in on a flight that lands while I’m at work. He has either neglected or forgotten to share this information with me. Cuz, you know, I’m so hospitable and conforming, I’ll just “work my life” around him. Whatever. Anyway, “Em” and I have things we have to do the morning and early afternoon of her flight, and I don’t want to drive her around town then pick up “Jake” at my house and take them to the airport. I would rather not have “Jake” with us, as this is my last day with “Em” and it’s special “Mommy/Daughter” time. So I left “Jake” a voicemail telling him that he’ll need to get a hotel room for the night. I don’t know if the airport he’s coming into is the same as the one he and “Em” leave out of the next day. He may have to get a shuttle from his hotel to the appropriate airport. I don’t know. But, even though I’ve put him up in our house in the past, there’s nothing in our custody agreement that says I’m responsible for providing him a place to stay if he comes in the day before they fly out together. I’m not trying to be mean, and I’m sure he thinks I’m a (insert word for female dog here), but this is what happens when you don’t share your plans with people and just expect them to be accommodating.
And I’m not exactly in the right mood to put up with him right now. “Jake” just finally started a job after being unemployed for almost a year. Therefore, child support payments have been few and far between. I can’t legally prevent him from his visitation with “Em” until he pays me the 5 months of owed support, but it just doesn’t seem fair. He chose not to work. In the beginning it was because of a pre-existing injury that was stressed by his previous job, but to not work at all while going to school one day a week seems just lazy to me. Why he couldn’t get a job at McDonald’s or a retail location? If you can’t find the job you want, you get something to tide you over until you find it. Anyway… So he’s been living off his V.A. partial-disability payments this whole time, which means he doesn’t have money saved up in case of emergency. If something happens to “Em” while she’s up there, he can’t pay for medical services.
I’m excited that I get 5 weeks to be childless, but at the same time, I know I’ll miss her. My friends ask me what I do when she’s gone: party, shopping, date, vacation? My answer: sleep. For some reason, even if I get the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, being a mom seems to sap all my energy away. So I recover for 5 weeks. Other friends, mostly parents, say “Wow, 5 weeks, that’s a long time! Won’t you miss her?” My answer: nope. I really will miss her, but I don’t go crazy. Most “nuclear” families have a trade-off. Mom goes out with the girlfriends while Dad stays at home with the kids. Dad goes out with the guys, Mom stays at home. I don’t get that. So these 5 weeks, in theory, are all of those trade-offs combined. But, my daily life changes little while she’s away. When “Em” is here with me, she goes to preschool a few blocks from my work. So we get to carpool in the morning and evenings; a 20 minute drive-time versus 50+ minutes. But, when she’s with her dad, I either have to fight traffic to get to work on time or convince my boss to let me do my morning work from home and get there at 10:00 after traffic has died down. But I can’t get any overtime right now, so staying later at work to avoid rush-hour traffic is not feasible. I think I might start going to my gym, also a few blocks from work, until 6:30 or so. A little exercise won’t kill me. But that puts me at home around 7, and by then there’s no energy left to put into going out for the night. I am having a small party one Saturday while “Em” (and my folks remarkably) are gone, but the rest looks to be like my normal life, except with no child. And though 5 weeks is long for a child, it’s short for me. It seems like just a few weeks ago “Em” turned 4; that was actually in April. And looking ahead, Halloween seems just around the corner; I’ve already turned in my request to my boss to leave early that day to avoid the mass of people trying to get home before dark. When “Em” and “Jake” take off from the airport, inside I’ll sigh and say to myself, “Five whole weeks…what’ll I do with myself.” But before you know it, there’s only a week left, and I haven’t done anything different than what I’d normally do with “Em” here.
Ah, such is the life of a parent.