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I left for the first time

My kids are both tucked into their beds, sweaty hairs on the pillow, small warm bodies snuggled into fresh sheets with their overhead fans whirring and white noise all around. Like most other days, I snuck out from my son’s room and closed his door (wondering yet again if it was a good idea to keep his shoes on – but he was so asleep!), and into my daughter’s room. I always love the feeling of my feet reaching her brightly-colored shag carpet to see what story she picked out for us to read together before her nap. We put on her Pull-up together, tucked in side by side, and I delightfully breathed in the smell of a good day at school. She smells like a child who loves life, who had a good day with her friends, who plays hard and wraps herself up in pure fun.

But today was also different than every other Friday’s nap routine. Today is the first day I will tuck them in and leave. Because today is the first day that my husband and I are treating our separation like a real separation. I will leave for the weekend.

I did all I know what to do these days: cry a little bit, pull myself together with my hand over my heart like a good meditation disciple, and take a nap. And by “take” I mean fall into. Like a deep, drooly, sweaty, delicious nap, like I’m a kid again. Or like what my kids appear to be doing when I check their black and white cherub images on the monitor. These days, too, I often answer the insatiable pull to my phone to check Instagram for a laugh or a bite of inspiration, or just a reminder that I should be doing something else. Then I’ll text a few best girlfriends a self-deprecating prayer request. Something maybe like, The fan can’t even handle the shit anymore. Will y’all pray for me? And I’ll throw in some praying hands and a double-crying emoji just for flavor and sass. A girl’s got to keep her sense of humor.

Oh, and then I’ll go do what I’m doing right now: get a big iced coffee with a whole cow’s worth of cream and sit down and write.

My husband and I are separating. And it’s hard, and it’s awkward and we don’t know quite how to do it “right.” Even the “we” is complicated because we are trying to “un-we” and yet we have to make these decisions together. That’s like asking opposing Olympic swimmers to hold hands under their lane dividers and finish their race. Is there a right way to do a separation that is ultimately leading to a divorce? I really don’t know, but I sometimes wish someone would just tell me. Here’s what’s hard: I have some idea in my head of how it’s supposed to be (which is based on my feelings and what I’ve read in limited books and blogs), and as it turns out, my husband has his own strong ideas, based on the same stuff. But, perhaps indicative of the reasons we are splitting up, they are not aligning. So I want to figure out what we should do with our kids, and I know that one of us should be living somewhere else, but I’m scared of dividing things up or having someone commit to another house. Like I want a real separation, with limits. He wants to have all the weekends with our kids and divide all our money. (DID YOU HEAR ME SAY ALLLLL THE WEEKENDS?) This seems brash and mean to me, but I think he probably thinks the same about me. But I’m sure you understand: I’m the nice one.

One of the most painful spaces to be in is to figure out what’s best for the kids. This is a statement that a lot of people throw around, divorced and no, but now it means something very different to me. But really, everything makes me wonder if I’m being a good mom. All of it. My therapist asked me the other day, “Who are you trying to prove it to?” And it’s a good question. I don’t think it’s to myself. My family thinks I’m doing a great job, as do my girlfriends. So is it my husband? My kids I need to prove it to? I don’t think so, not really. And what, exactly, am I trying to prove to the unidentified party: that I’m a good mom, even though I leave? Especially when I leave? That I’m a good mom when I hang out in a relationship that’s not working for too long? Does it make you a good mom if you’re a martyr or a saint? Or if you’re honest? I think I’m trying to prove most, if not all, of what I’m going through to myself. And I certainly want it to be because I am living an honest life.


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