Moms, Dads and Babies Leaving Home
Letting go of a child is one of the hardest things a person could ever do. Now that I’m a parent, I understand this.
I don’t know that you can ever be prepared for your babies leaving home. One thing IS for sure, though–it’s something I have thought about ever since my daughter was a little infant.
I think I suffered from a bit of postpartum depression after I had Paloma. For weeks, I didn’t want to leave the house. Actually, it was more than just not wanting to leave. I was actually afraid to leave the house.
I was terrified that something might happen to the baby. I thought I might drop her. Or we might get into a car accident. Or I might not be able meet her needs which would lead to me being judged by strangers.
One day shortly after Paloma was born, James had had enough. He recognized he needed to push me out of the safety of my nest. It was going to need to happen at some point anyway, right?
That morning, he “woke” me up from my sleep-deprived zombie walk, opened the curtains with a “whoosh,” and told me to get in the shower, because we were going “out” to enjoy the spring day with our new baby. Because it was April in Phoenix, the weather was perfect, so we went to look around at the Tempe Marketplace. There were tons of ASU college kids everywhere.
While we were there, I started thinking about how when I left home to go to school at ASU, I cried every day for most of my freshman year because I missed my parents and brothers. I remembered seeing the tears in my Pop’s eyes as my family pulled away from my dorm in their Ford Ranger, leaving me standing there in the parking lot feeling lonely and small. I remembered missing the love and comfort of my mom and dad each and every single day during this pivotal time in my young life.
Suddenly, as I was thinking about all this, one of my worst fears came true.
Without any warning (or control), in the middle of eating my chicken walnut salad sandwich, I was sobbing in the middle of Paradise Bakery.
When he saw the tears, my very protective husband started looking around frantically.
Did someone say something to upset me? Was I bleeding? Was an armed robbery happening? WHAT?
As soon as he made sure we were safe and secure, he turned to me.
Him: “Honey, what is it?”
Me (still sobbing): “Nothing.”
Him: “It’s the sandwich, isn’t it? I told them no tomatoes!”
Me (still sobbing): “No, it’s nothing.”
Him: “Yet…you’re crying.”
Me (gasping for air): “I was just thinking.”
Him: “Uh oh, about what?”
Me (unable to catch my breath): “About the day that Paloma leaves to go to college.”
Him: “Ummm…she’s three weeks old!”
And I’ve been thinking about my baby leaving home ever since. Every time I think about it, my heart feels heavy. I don’t know how I will be able to manage when my sweet Paloma (her name means “dove” in Spanish) flies away.
I also don’t know how parents who are no longer together emotionally manage their babies leaving home so they can split time with the other parent. I understand the pain better now, although I have no way of experiencing what these parents are personally feeling. I see where the resistance comes from when I have to talk to them about the type of parenting plan they think would be best for their kids.
I agree with my clients every single time:
I don’t care what the psychiatrists, psychologists or judges say — NONE of those parenting plans are best for the children.
How do you go from hugging, kissing and snuggling with your child every morning and night to only doing it every other weekend? How do you make the heart understand when someone tells you that a week on/week off schedule would be in the best interests of the kids? How can it be that something that IS NOT good for you IS good for your children?
When relationships end, kids are forced to leave home before it is “natural.” Home is not necessarily a physical place of residence, but it is where the heart lives. The heart of a child lives with both of his or her parents.
It’s really hard.
It’s not fair.
It’s the harsh reality of a relationship ending.
I haven’t read the research, but I hear mental health professionals say all the time that “kids are resilient.” I believe this. I HAVE to believe this because that is the only way I could do this work and keep my sanity.
I also know lots of adults who are products of “broken homes.” You do, too. They are happy, functioning and successful. They adjusted as children when their parents broke up. These people, despite the split, still knew two parents. They flourished, even having two “homes.”
Although there might not be anything you can do about the “split,” there is something you can do to make it better for your children:
Let them love the other parent.
Without guilt. Without confusion. And with their whole hearts and souls.
If you love your kids enough to allow this to happen, you allow more love to flow into ALL of the relationships that need healing. Especially that relationship with your ex. Can it really be that bad if it means your children will be happier, more at peace and feel more love?
The last few days have been challenging for me. My cousin (who is also Paloma’s godmother) texted me last week, inviting me to go “home” to Bagdad for this year’s homecoming festivities. When she found out I couldn’t make it because of other commitments, she texted me again, asking if she could take Paloma with her to Bagdad from Friday to Sunday.
These are the thoughts that came immediately to mind when the text came through (in the words and voice of Paloma): “No! I don’t like it!”
I didn’t answer her text for several hours, because I didn’t want to think about it. My heart was sad. I had never spent more than 12 hours away from her.
Angela kept pushing me. More texts.
Time to get out of that nest again, momma.
I talked to James. He thought it would be OK. But my fears were starting to rear their ugly heads again.
When I asked Paloma if she wanted to go, there was drama and crying. But it wasn’t Paloma. It was me.
After lots of resistance on my part, I took a deep breath and texted Angela.
Paloma left Friday morning. Angela has been sending me pictures and videos of her ever since. My baby is laughing and smiling in all of them. She slept through the night without any issues.
She is OK.
James and I went to dinner and a movie last night. We watched an uninterrupted episode of “Breaking Bad.” We are getting some much needed bonding time together.
We are OK.
Despite my fears, I see that everything will be alright. My baby will be fine. I will be fine.
Coming from your someone who is a momma first and only a lawyer second…
If you are going through custody or parenting time issues, YOU will be fine, too.
Sending you wishes for a week during which you focus on the freedom (not the fear) that comes with your babies leaving home.
All my best,
P.S. Remember that change is important in all of our lives. The only way that you, me and our children can evolve is because of the change that comes with getting older. Arizona’s family law considers how change affects children as they grow and allows for modification in custody (legal-decision making) and parenting time because of this change. Read this week’s featured Hernandez Family Law post on “Children, Arizona Custody and ‘A Substantial and Continuing Change in Circumstances’” for more info!
P.P.S. Was it hard for you to leave home? How did you cope? Do you have ideas for helping kids (and parents) manage when it comes time for this to happen? Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts.