So, my ex got a new dog. I am so excited for my kids, and my ex. (And the dog, who is a rescue) Genuinely excited. For real.
(That is the simple and very rational, “just the facts, ma’am” version.)
What’s going on in my head is this:
I am the one who left our marriage. I am the one who moved out of the house that we brought the kids home from the hospital to. With the yard. In the neighborhood they know. With their stuff.
And now there is a dog there. A new dog. That my son and daughter got to pick out at the humane society. He has a crate. The crate is in my son’s room. He is getting neutered, and goes home with them today, which is Wednesday.
Friday is the day we do “the switch” as us divorced couples with shared custody call it. Friday is the day they come here, to be with me until the following Friday.
Where there is no new dog.
So I did what my gut told me was the right thing, called my ex and said, “Hey, I know y’all are bringing “Apollo” home today, and the next few days are going to be new and fun. When Friday rolls around, they may not want to leave the new dog to come here, so let’s let the kids decide what they want to do, okay?”
He agreed. How and if it was presented to them is beyond my control, but I can’t stop the thoughts and worry.
I am worried they won’t want to come here, because there is no new dog over here, and I am feeling that guilt all over again that they have to go back and forth each week, which was my fault, because I was the one who moved out. I am also worried that by saying the kids can stay there if they want to will send a signal that I don’t want them here, which is 100% untrue.
“Overthinker, party of one, your table is ready”
The dog isn’t the issue. The residual guilt from getting divorced and splitting up their home is. The dog just triggered it.
Divorced parents who share custody of your kids, I am certain there are things that trigger you as well. The weirdest shit can make you feel less than. You sometimes feel the the need to compete. The sadness you feel when you pack their bag each week, and make sure they have everything they need “over there”. It sucks. It’s not constant, and it lessens, but it sucks.
My ex and I have a great co-parenting relationship compared to some I have heard. We are flexible. We both show up to events and present a united front, along with my husband, who is a great stepdad. This isn’t a new arrangement, and everyone gets along really well. The kids know they are loved in both places. We don’t shit talk each other in front of the kids, which wasn’t always the case when we were married.
It comes in waves, the guilt. And it hit me hard today, that’s all. It’s perfectly normal to feel these things, even though when I spoke to my coach earlier, I felt silly saying it out loud. Isn’t that usually the case though? When you think stuff in your head and twist yourself into an anxious state, it seems overwhelming. But when you talk it out with someone it seems very silly and not as big anymore, so you feel a little better.
If you can relate to the feelings surrounding co-parenting, and shared custody agreements, or have stories of your own, I’d love to hear them, please comment below. I promise, you’re not alone. Divorce doesn’t end when the judge signs the papers.