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This is the second of a trilogy of posts, telling the tale of Lyndsey, a non-resident mother, who had to come to terms with losing the custody of her two girls. In Part One, Lyndsey explained what happened in her life, to bring her to this point. In Part Three, we will hear how life has treated Lyndsey since, and how she is doing now.
How I Focused on the Weekends and Cried a Lot
I took my first steps out of my marriage and I rented a small flat that teetered on the edge of the motorway somewhere half way between work and the girls. Somewhere part way along the way to filtering through all the detritus in my head and sticking the old me back together.
We had arranged that I would collect my daughters from school on a Friday. Mainly because I was so desperate to see them and partly because I thought it would be a good idea to maintain my relationship with the teachers and the school gates.
The school gates were a battle in self-preservation every week. You can imagine. In my head the chatter of other mums and dads were them having a delicious gossip about me. I would stand in front of everyone so I didn’t have to make eye contact or conversation.
A couple of mums would come and chat with me occasionally, and one actively said that she would never make assumptions and never judge. They will never know what a lifeline that was as I stood waiting, my heart pounding and the bile rising in my throat.
I think that my ex- husband thought I would give up the hard slog, up the motorway and back again, in rush hour traffic. I never did.
I spent weeknights after work doing all the mundanities of life – laundry, and housework and even preparing meals for the weekend.
I spent weeknights crying, terrified of the future. I could only just afford the rent, my cost of living, and the money that was going to my ex-husband.
Once the girls and I were reunited on Friday, every second belonged to us. We spent hours at the table creating meadows out of magic maize, playing Who Knows Whose Nose, we read and went swimming.
Weekends were about making right those weekends that I had spent worrying about the state of the kitchen floor, or following my husband around while he took part in his hobbies.
Later, after I had met my current husband and moved into his home, I carried on my weekend routine. I continued using the time after work to keep on top of life’s necessities and Thursday evenings were spent in the kitchen preparing the meals for the weekend ahead. Fridays became Family Friday. We would all gather around the table and dive into a big dish of something that I had prepared, and flung in the oven.
We bought the girls a webcam and I arranged to Skype them during the week when they were at their father’s house.
He grumbled about it and complained that it meant he had to turn the computer on.
Friends would ask me if I Skyped with the girls. I would gloss over it because I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth. That I still let my ex-husband walk all over me.
If I caused fuss could he stop me seeing the girls?
So I didn’t cause a fuss.
I signed the solicitor’s papers that he sent me, continued to send him a significant part of my income, ensured that I did all the travelling to collect and return the girls at weekends, paid for half of all school costs and incidentals (in addition to the regular monthly payment.).
I took it. I took everything that he threw at me.
I was terrified of losing my girls entirely, and damaging them by dragging them through the courts.
I didn’t want to break my perfect daughters.
We muddled along. I continued my Friday trek to get them, and when I had another baby I bundled him in the car with a picnic high tea for everyone, ensuring that the journey fit around feed times and allowed for incidental poosplosions.
My husband would take over the majority of the baby care at the weekends so that I could pour over homework with the girls, chat with them or take them out. As time went on the baby became a toddler, and I would take them all out for the day, and then out for tea.
Weekends became about creating new memories.
By this time I was crying less. I started to grieve for my mum years after her death. Without knowing what he was doing, my husband was putting me back together. He cheered me on in becoming more independent he gave me the space to fling my arms out wide and be Me.
Despite this rebuilding of Me there was still a massive part of me that felt judged about being a Non Resident Mother. People who didn’t know my story, people who didn’t know about the part of my heart that was snapped off.