Disclaimer: I am not writing this to say that children should not have to endure joint custody arrangements between their divorced parents…I firmly believe that when both parents are attentive, relatively healthy people who can and should be having a hands-on experience raising their children, then they should be. And of course, studies show that children are always better off having more contact with their biological parents, as many as may be living and available. That said…every time our children return to the nest after four days at mommy’s house, it’s like some sick sadist has pressed the mayhem button.
What comes next involves: hours of rapid-fire questions/demands for “stuff”, a lot of need for reassurance and hugs, a lot of NEED in general, easily agitated children with short fuses who frequently exact emotional warfare on one another and must be parented into positive behavior…over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…fights over tv shows, fights over food, fights over…everything you can possibly think of.
Part of it is excitement: we haven’t seen each other for days and naturally a return involves happy excitement.
Part of it is: there’s some different rules and realities at mommy’s house and daddy’s house (no judgement, just a fact) and they have to adjust to that.
Part of it is: they’re feeling unsettled because they’re on the move and have to reacquaint themselves with the home, and make sure everything’s still “the same”.
Generally this is only Day One and that’s understandable.
As an adult with ADHD and anxiety, there’s a lot about this that sets me on edge. It’s a LOT to juggle, period. And unfortunately, because it’s so predictable, I often experience a high degree of anxiety leading into it, which I then have to juggle appropriately on top of the juggling of the children. I am always glad to see them when they come back but it’s coupled with a sense of anxious anticipation that is not allayed when of course, that anxiety is confirmed to be somewhat justified.
It is genuinely stressful having these elements land in your home, no matter where they are coming from or who is creating them.
Because the needs of the children must be prioritized, it’s important to me to make sure that a few things happen. Let’s lay this out, shall we:
1) I try to always make sure that I am home that first evening that they return. Both Sonny and I have a lot of work-related evening obligations, and we both make an effort to make being home that first night a priority, when the kids REALLY need reassurance and welcoming. When framed with my anxiety of course, this feels like the exact opposite of what I should be doing. My anxiety tells me to run. My logical parenting brain tells me I must be present. The logical parenting brain wins, but what do I do about the anxious voice that won’t go away?
2) I remind myself that in our home, this is “normal”. Again…this feels backwards, but it IS normal.
But will it ever feel “ok”? Will it ever not stress me out?
Lately I see with clarity how people turn to religion, drugs and alcohol to cope with life. I know that none of those are apt or appropriate choices for me, but I wish I could find a mental framework that would soothe me through these transitions.