One of the many very difficult aspects of being newly separated is dealing with child custody agreements, and not being able to see your kids every day. I can remember crying hysterically the first night my kids slept out of the house. Just 3 and 5 back then, I remember thinking, ‘There is something very wrong about this. How can a mother not spend every night with her young children?’ I felt guilty, sad, worried, and really really bad about myself, feeling selfish for getting divorced.
Fast forward to eight years later and when I see and don’t see my kids has become the way of life for us. Like anything else, I have learned to adjust to “the new normal.”
But there’s something else that is extremely difficult for newly separated men and women when it comes to child custody schedules. What if your ex’s night with the kids happens to fall on one of your child’s birthdays? Do you not get to see your child turn 9??? You have to wish him or her a happy birthday over the phone?? You don’t get to see him/her blow out the candles on his/her cake? You don’t get to have a birthday dinner? And you don’t get to tuck him/her in bed, kiss the forehead and say a prayer to God to keep him/her safe and happy??
Being newly separated and not spending a child’s birthday with him/her can be brutal for some divorced parents. It’s depressing and you feel like you’re missing out on a monumental day. It feels isolating and depressing and it makes you think about your divorce more.
I have to hope that newly separated parents can be amicable enough, that on birthdays and holidays, they are willing to deviate from the schedule and allow the other parent to have some time with the kids. I’ve even seen some parents have birthday dinners together with their kids and I think that is beautiful. I have also seen it written in divorce decrees that the parents split the child’s birthday, so that each can spend some time with him/her.
But let’s say that it’s your child’s birthday, it’s not “your day” with your kids, it’s not in your decree and your ex won’t budge. How do you cope?
Have your own birthday celebration on another day!
What’s wrong with having a birthday celebration with your kids a couple days before or after your child’s birthday? What I think is important to remember is, no one (including your children) will focus on the fact that it’s not the actual DAY, but rather that you went to a restaurant, or made a really nice dinner, and baked a cake and opened presents to celebrate your child’s birthday.
There is absolutely no reason to be depressed or sad on the actual day because you are eventually going to celebrate it (or you already did).
Another thing you can do is, when saying good-bye to your child the night before his/her birthday, tell them that you will be in their heart all day long, thinking of them on their special day. DO NOT act sad or cry or get emotional or say, “I’m sorry I can’t be with you on your birthday.” That will only make the child sad. Be happy and say, “I can’t believe you are going to be 9. I’m so proud of the person you are becoming. You are kind and smart and beautiful and I am so lucky that I am your mom (or dad.)”
The bottom line is, there is NOTHING to be sad about, even if you can’t be with your child on his/her birthday! NOTHING. Feel gratitude for your child’s health and happiness, and the fact that you are out of a marriage that wasn’t working.
By the way, all of this information applies to any holiday you might be without your children when you become newly separated. Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Easter. Anytime is a good time to celebrate something happy!