Co-Parenting: Confessions of a Part-Time Mom

Jackson and Angela picking out pumpkins fall of 2013

by Angela Noel

August 31, 2017

It happens every time. Jackson waves good-bye to me and walks with his dad into the car or into his dad’s house. I drive away or close the door and get on with my day. Then, about an hour or two later, I feel it. A physical pang, like hunger mixed with loss, strikes me. The twinge lasts only a few seconds, but I’ve come to know it well: I miss him.

Being a part-time mom can be delicious.  When I began dating again after the split with my ex five years ago, having a few days a week when I could have adult time meant I stayed social. I met new people, did new things, and explored what it meant to be in my late-thirties and single. I also had yet to finish the first draft of my novel and the story still burned within me. Having Sundays to myself meant I had time to write.

On top of all this, the split happened the week before I began a new job. So, along with figuring myself out, caring for the emotional and physical needs of a little person, and trying to finish a novel, I had a new job to learn.  A few days off a week was a godsend. Though I missed my little son then, I was preoccupied with what a new life after twelve years with my ex would mean for me socially and creatively.

Except for a six-month period when I had Jackson full time, my ex and I have split parenting time roughly equally. We’ve had a few ups and downs, but for the most part we enjoy a better-than-average co-parenting relationship.

Co-parenting time Jackson in a float plane
Jackson in a float plane exploring the Tongass National Forest on my family’s trip to Alaska this past June.

But that’s the practical side of things. None of what’s good about being a part-time mom assuages that feeling of loss. This vague sense permeates my days. I live with a hole in my body that I cannot touch or see, a corporeal thing that has no name, but exists all the same.

Sucked into this hole are the smiles I won’t see. The giggles I miss. The farts I won’t smell (okay, those his dad can keep). The bedtime kisses and early morning cuddles I won’t get. The homework I won’t review. The new discoveries I won’t see. The lost teeth. The skinned knees. Sniffles. Monkey-bar crossings and zip-line races. Birthday parties and vacations. These all live in the hole in my body, the blackhole place where he lives a life outside of the life he shares with me.

Every parent has a child move away. That’s what they do. We raise them to be independent, to make their own way, to be productive members of society. But part-time moms and dads have a preview of this event. We watch our child or children leave us over and over. It doesn’t get easier. I celebrate that he has a life outside of my world. I want him to be with his dad, to gain all the benefits of his father’s love and the experiences he can have with him that he’d never get with me. But I want that with my head.

Camping trip photo of a co-parent
Jackson and I on a recent camping trip. He’s changed so much in five years. But apparently, I really like that green hat.

My heart wants to cuddle his little body close to me every day. It wants to know he’s safe in his bed and if I say his name out loud he’ll answer. I want to feel his soft cheek against mine every night at bedtime, and to hear his slightly-lisping voice read yet another Star Wars book before we shut off the light. I’d even put up with the farts if I could have his blond head bobbing next to me every day when we take the dog for a walk. But I put all those thoughts in the blackhole too.

Life isn’t perfect for full-time moms or dads either. And most of the time, I relish the moments, like right now, when I have a quiet house with only the sounds of my dog licking the side of the refrigerator to disturb me. But, the hole opens up and swallows me sometimes. And I feel the absence of my little boy like a spectral something waiting to devour me.

The hole is as essential to me as anti-matter is to matter. It reminds me to relish the sweetness of life. The moments like when Jackson’s running across a grassy field with a plastic sword slaying clumps of mowed grass. A nothing moment. An everything moment. The hole reminds me to take notice.

Gratitude for the life I have today, with all the peaks and valleys, gives me peace. That, and the sure knowledge that no one way is THE right way to raise a child. Start with love. End with love.

Loving him is why I feel his absence as I do. The presence of pain isn’t always a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes, it’s a sign that something is right. Love asks us to do not the simple, the easy, or the selfish thing, but the right, the beautiful, and the courageous thing. Watching the receding back of my little boy as he walks away breaks my heart, but it also helps it grow.

Your turn: Are you a part-time parent or know someone who is? Have you experienced having your child leave home?



Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

174 thoughts on “Co-Parenting: Confessions of a Part-Time Mom”

  1. Oh darling this a wonderful & candid post. I can only imagine what you go through every time he goes to his Dad’s. You describe it so well. I was bereft enough when mine went to her grandparent’s for the week (whilst equally enjoying the peace & quiet). I have so much respect for you Angela. It sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job of co-parenting with your ex. As you so perfectly put it, there’s no right way to raise a child. Love is the most important thing & no doubt Jackson feels that in abundance x

    1. Thank you! It means so much to me that you think so. I don’t know that I’m doing it “right” but I’m trying to do it with purpose and care. I think that’s all any of us can do, right?

  2. All so very well put and put so very well on target. I shared equally in my daughter’s life after the split. She was 12 then so some of her milestones we both experienced. But as she entered teen-dom, well, the time might have been equal but those next milestones were more often shared with her mother. I sometimes became more of the confirmation that all was well rather than a participant. But it worked better than I had imagined. Now that she is 28 and has been on her own for almost 10 years I still see her coming to me for “confirmation” and still is a big part of her life.
    You never get over missing them but children have a way if knowing when to show up just when the missing seems to peak. I know yours will be among those who do too.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. The fact that your daughter trusts you with something like the final sign-off is a powerful testament to your relationship.
      I foresee my son may gravitate towards his father for various reasons–one being he gets to play video games more often at his house–but your story gives me hope that, not matter what, the love and relationship endures.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes because… I can’t imagine. But when I try, I can see that I would feel exactly as you do. I’m so happy you have a healthy relationship with J’s father. This will mean the world to J, and I’m sure it’s already impacting him in so many positive ways. You’re a great mother and your little boy is lucky to have you (and his father).

    1. I had tears in my eyes as I wrote it. πŸ™‚ No one enters a marriage and says, “Gosh, I hope we get divorced one day.” But if it happens, there are ways to thrive.
      Whatever the adversity, divorce, illness, financial issues– we’ll have to decide if we choose the path of least resistance or the path of greatest love. I KNOW you’d pick the love path. I read it in your posts all the time. πŸ™‚

  4. This is… a world it seems I am going to enter soon. I know it’s hard and painful and lonely, and even though you crave alone time when your kids are there, when they’re gone, you really miss them. I know that. My kids are older, and they’ve reached that independent age where they just want peace for themselves. I think that they’ll be fine, but I worry that they won’t. Each of them has a gift, and an issue. All of them have had lives full of… animosity is the kindest word I can use.
    So, lots of things to, well, ‘look forward to’ is not a good phrase here, but that. I have tried everything, and it’s time to stop.

    I felt all the pain in your post. The longing, and the remorse that things couldn’t have been different for him, let alone for you. I wish that for you too. I think your son sees his mother happy, and sees her giving him love and attention and care from the depths of her heart. Thank you for writing such a vulnerable post, and know that I appreciate you so much for sharing this. Because I also felt all the love in your post. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you for reading the post and taking the time to add your thoughts.
      Perhaps because your kids have had adversity to deal with they’ll be even better equipped than others to deal with independence and all that comes with that. I think you show such awareness and sensitivity to what your children are feeling now. You recognize they seek peace, but don’t take it personally. It’s not necessarily, “I want to get away FROM YOU.” But rather, “I just want to be away.” But maybe I’m reading too far into your words. . . you tell me. The movie, Out of Africa, speaks a bit to the same theme. It’s not that Redford’s character wants to be away from Streep’s, it’s just that he wants to be away.
      I hope (and do think) your right on my son’s experience. He does see a happy mom. And a happy dad, too. Some people, when I’d tell them I was divorcing would say, “I’m sorry.” And I would say, “Don’t be. It’s a good thing.” Though that time was filled with pain, I also knew I was making the right decision for us all. I see the end of my marriage not as the end of a relationship, but as the beginning of a new one. It’s not as “easy” for lots of divorced couples for many, many reasons. I’m grateful that wasn’t my experience. But you’re absolutely right, there was an inevitable longing for what couldn’t be.
      Thank you again for your very insightful comment. I truly appreciate it.

      1. I hope that I’ve given my kids the tools to be independent regardless of my relationship. They are independent, yes, because they don’t want to hang out with Dad, but i know they secretly love it. I read something that said a very sad day is the day that you no longer pick up your kids (because they’re too heavy). Just this past June, when school ended, I stopped reading my sons bedtime stories. They turned 14 shortly thereafter – yes, a bit old for reading stories, maybe, but one son has autism, so i did it for him.. but I sort of never picked it up again. That was the same as literally picking them up. Bittersweet.
        I try to do more with them, because I know what’s coming, but they’re at the age they want to do less with me.
        In my case, however happy I may be, I don’t think they’ll ever see a happy mother. I can’t keep trying. I’ve tried everything.

        I’m very happy your situation worked out so well, ultimately. That makes me smile. You are very wise and have such love and clarity in your life. You give me hope.

        1. Thank you! Shall I call you Ward? I’m thinking that isn’t your real name.
          I do think it’s hard when you can’t help the other half of the parenting equation. And I don’t know that there’s a way to make up for it. Sometimes I get down on the fact that my child won’t have a “perfect’ childhood–but who am I to say? I like to think he “chose” me and this life with all the hard things he has to negotiate. That means my job is to help him deal with them, not prevent them from happening, necessarily. (Of course, I don’t mean letting him run off a roof or anything)
          For what it’s worth, I agree with you. You can’t keep trying. That’s not your job. Your job, and it sounds like you’re doing it well, is to help them see the reality of what they’re experiencing with their mom and choose joy anyway. (Just my opinion–take the thought or leave it :))
          Thank you also for thinking I’m wise. I’m just happy I’m less asleep than I used to be.

          1. It’s not my real name. I’m Brian. πŸ™‚

            I made a decision right when my sons were born to stay, not really getting behind the ‘leaving an abusive relationship but the kids can stay’ idea. I still don’t know if it was the right one. Maybe they would have grown up just thinking separate Mom and (happy) Dad was absolutely normal. I don’t know what would have happened, though. Instead, they’ve grown up in stress and fighting, and who knows how THAT has shaped their lives.
            The thing is, there are some good moments. Maybe not enough. Maybe these moments are just toxic, manipulative, etc. I don’t know.

            It’s hard to navigate and hard to get over. The kids are the last ‘obstacle’. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care what other people think, like family, and her friends. I just want to be happy, and make everyone around me happy. Whoever I can. However I can.

            I’ve been Rip Van Winkle, practically. I’m waking up.

          2. Good for you, Brian. πŸ™‚ We can only make the best decisions we can with the information we’ve got.
            There really is no “one right way.”
            A friend recommended I listen to a series of You Tube videos recorded during a two-day retreat given in the 80s. For whatever reason, I found a lot of value in the message. I’m not religious, but the talks are given by psychologist and Jesuit priest, Father Anthony DeMello He references all kinds of philosophers, spiritual traditions and just plain common sense.
            This is the link to the series. It’s LONG. But he talks specifically–pt.19a–about happiness. And your comment reminded me of something he said. I listened to the whole talk over a series of multiple days while I worked out in the gym. πŸ™‚ Later, I bought the CDs of the talk.
            Anyway–if you happen to listen to it, and it’s of value to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  5. In a perfect world we’d get it right first time, It isn’t perfect and though i didn’t think I ever would want to … I found my perfect forever at 50, so never give up hope.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad you found your perfect forever! That makes me happy. In reading your recent post from your adventures and your husbands light-hearted support, I can tell there’s so much love!
      While I had those days without Jackson early on, I was able to have more time to get to know my co-worker, then friend, then boyfriend and now husband. He’s both a wonderful man, and a fantastic stepdad to Jackson. Love finds us, I think, if we give it directions.

  6. Awww…this is a candid and sweet post. It makes me think of my boys when they were little and they’d cuddle up with me. Sniff. Now they’re older and it isn’t cool to hang with Mom so much anymore.

    1. Well, you’re still cool! I think Ward Clever alluded to this idea, too. It’s not that hanging out with you isn’t cool. Maybe it’s just that there are so many more options than mom when they’re older. But, you remind me–Jack JUST asked me to play with him and I told him to hold on. . . maybe I’d better go play! πŸ™‚

  7. This is a beautifully written post. Thanks for your candor on the realities good and bad, as well as your raw honesty on the turbulent emotions that go along with the reality of your existence. It DOES sound like you are doing a fabulous job, despite the challenges – you go, Mama!

    1. Thank you! I think all of us parents crave those words: “you are doing a fabulous job.” Just feeling the warm fuzzy I get when I read your words just now reminds me I need to say those things more often to other mothers. Thank you for reading and adding your insight!

  8. Here’s something else to be grateful for: sounds like you don’t have to worry about J’s safety when he goes to his dad’s. I’m step-mother to a couple of teenagers who live with us full time, and my husband and I fear for them every time they go to their mother’s house (which thankfully isn’t very often anymore). But aside from the fear, I’m just SO SAD for them. Everyone should get a decent mother. When they’re away from her, she should miss them like we do. They should be important to her, and it breaks my heart that they aren’t (and never have been).

    1. Also, my name is Angela Noel, as well (though Noel is my middle name). My guess is there aren’t very many of us!

        1. It’s funny: my mom always makes a point of saying that my name means “Christmas angel,” AND YET I WAS BORN IN MARCH. Maybe she just thought I was a gift. =)

    2. You’re absolutely right. I am so grateful for that. I’ve heard other stories from friends of mine who have stepchildren where the bio parent really is sort of terrible. Thank you for being the loving parent they need! It must be very hard to watch people you love so much suffer.
      I’m so glad you stopped by. And glad you shared your experience, too.

  9. I can feel your pain….the most rewarding thing in the world is to be a mom. Your post reminded me of the first (and only) time I dropped both kids off at a week-long camp. My hubby was on a business trip for a week, as well, so when I left camp, I drove to my parents’ house in NC. The minute I drove out off the campground, I started crying. I felt completely alone! I made it to my parents’ and was able to distract myself, but it was a terrible feeling! I’m nearing the empty nest now, and it still makes me a bit sad to lose that constant connection. Although, now, I’m able to appreciate more of that alone time – time to write, read, and simply be.

    1. Thank you for reading and adding your comment, Allison. (Though I really want to call you Dr. Brown for some reason. :))
      I do believe the greatest tool in the world for dealing with tough loss is eventually getting to the place of appreciating what we have, rather than what is missing.
      It’s much easier when our relationships are changing, not ending. Like I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to tell someone who just lost a loved one to, “think of all the spare time you’ll have.” or “at least you have the memories. . .” gross. I hope I never do that, ever. But death being the exception, when relationships shift and change, there are good things to be gained, I believe, just as you point out. But, it takes work to look for those positives sometimes. I’m glad you’re looking at the shift in your own relationships with your kids with an eye to what you’ll gain and a curiosity about how your relationships will evolve as they enter a new chapter.
      Thank you again for your insight! I was hoping you’d pop over and add your thoughts. πŸ™‚

  10. I was a full-time parent, but this post still spoke to me. You’re right, pain doesn’t always mean something is wrong. And love makes us so very vulnerable, but at the same time it is what keeps our hearts growing…..

  11. It must be very hard but it sounds like you are making the best of it. As a child of an ugly divorce, I was scared to even have kids but eventually did. Thankfully, I have been able to be a full time parent. One is in his junior year of college and one just started high school this morning.

    1. I’m so glad you made the leap to parenthood. Divorce can be really ugly and I wish it wasn’t. So many variables can change the dynamic between parents. I’m sorry your childhood experience was not so good, but you are an excellent example of overcoming the adversity of the past. WOW! First day of high school and another in college. That’s awesome and must be so exciting!

  12. Wonderfully written. I was raised with divorced parents at the age of one, although they both remarried few years later. It was never easy on my either one of my parents when growing up, having to send me off and say their goodbyes especially when both sets live states away from one another. But the times I’d spend with each of mine would cherish the time they had with me and soak up every second knowing that I’d be on my way again. So in a sense, I think one of the pros to being a part-time parent it that they value the little time they have, making every second count.

    1. I so agree. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you valued what some would call an “unconventional” childhood. You’ve reinforced my confidence that an untraditional family still creates wonderful humans. Thank you!

      1. I’m Glad I was able to be of help. I feel that a child has a broader, more open perspective when growing up in this type of dynamic, teaching them to learn how to deal with things others normaly wouldn’t be faced with. So, in a sense there is an upside when raising a child in an “untraditional” lifestyle. It’s all about making positive impact on them.

  13. This is such a well-written piece. I do believe that so many parents can relate to these feelings. I love how you ended it with the purest definition of a parent loving their child.

    I live with a dark hole within me because I choose a different path with my oldest child, but it was the right one for her at the time. It was/is the hardest decision I ever made in my life.

    It warms my heart to hear that you and your ex are choosing to do what is best for your son. I hope that you can continue with this style parenting until he does move out on his own.

    1. Thank you for reading the post. It means a lot to me that you were touched by it. Parenting is full of trade-offs. None are harder than those decisions we know are right, but hurt like hell. I hope for you, what I hope for myself: that our children know we did our very best to put love first. Thank you so much for sharing some of your experience with me.

  14. Beautiful piece, Angela. I can’t relate since I’m not a parent, but I feel the emotions tugging at my heart as I think about the people I don’t get to physically see every day. I live in a different state than most of my family, and your piece spoke to that hole I feel every time we part ways. I actually just saw my brother this past week and I find myself quite down since he left a couple days ago. It does make the heart grow fonder I think!

    1. I’m so glad the piece spoke to you. You’re right, anyone we love, child, brother, mother, friend, etc–when we really feel that connection they leave a person-sized hole behind. But, like you say it helps us appreciate the moments we do have. Thank you so much for reading, and adding your thoughts.

  15. Susie sent me! I don’t have children. I’m happy about that. Love reading your story. I have a neice that I love more than frosting! I really love frosting. I had to adjust to the loss of all her early childhood stages. Realizing once the stage was gone…it was gone forever. But now that she is 17, the essence from babyhood is still intact. She may drive now with her crawling days are long behind her but the focus to learn and grow and experience what awaits is still there. As is the moments of fear and frustration before she makes the breakthrough. How she lives has never changed. Thanks for sharing your experience. Might I suggest you write a post about how it feels when he returns from his dads. What is it like to see his face headed toward you instead of the drop off experience and seeing the back of his head. I wonder what beauty is there…
    I would love to guest blog if that makes sense for you. Here is my blog –

    1. Hi, Julia! Your frosting analogy is wonderful! Watching anyone we love grow up and out brings up all kinds of emotions. Thank you for sharing your love of your niece. If you’re interested in guest posting check out the section on my page–I look for three different types of posts, love letters, story skeletons (short narratives), or posts about a life lesson. If any of those ideas feel good to you, I’d love to hear more! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  16. Susie sent me! What a candid post on a feeling that lots of parents likely share. I’m bonus mom to three, and it’s the same feeling when they leave our house.

    1. I love that–“bonus mom.” My ex is dating a lovely woman who thinks to send me pictures of my son when she thinks I’d appreciate one. Love has so many different manifestations. I’m so glad your kids have the benefit of your love. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and add your comment. Susie’s blog hops always introduce me to some truly great people.

  17. A beautiful piece of writing that sums up the hurt that comes with being a parent. Love for a child is such a difficult thing and to open our hearts to someone else brings with it the certainty of pain. It must be especially difficult for a part-time parent. I only know that is doesn’t get easier. My daughter has just gone off to university this week, aged twenty, and that black hole is eating away at me.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing what you’re experiencing with your daughter off to university. You must be close to feel her absence so keenly. What a gift to have such a beautiful relationship with her! I only hope my son and I remain as close when he’s twenty. I know the pain when he leaves home for the last time will be tremendous, but I’ll take the pain for all the dividends of joy we parents get. I agree though, it’s never going to be easy. I bet your daughter is a wonderful woman. I look forward to reading more of your writing. Even your comment has a writer’s soul.

  18. It doesn’t get any easier! I’m flying out to see my son today! It’s hard when your family is apart. As my children get older, the time we have together diminishes. But my son plans to move back some day. *fingers crossed*

    Thanks for bringing this to the party, Angela!

    1. I’ve been “away” from home for fifteen years now–about 3,000 miles distant from my mom and dad. Only now, as a mother, do I really “get” how hard it must have been for my parents to hear that I was moving so far. Your son, I believe, is in my home state. But, it must be hard to be away from those gorgeous Colorado mountains. Thank you for reading–I love your blog parties.

  19. Such a beautiful post! I always admire your bravery in sharing your feelings in such a real way. I am not a mother so I have no idea what it is like to love someone so very much it hurts. But it makes me look forward to having that connection in the future. There is no other bond like a mother and child.

    1. Thank you for reading! I never expected the kind of love I felt when Jack was born. For me, seeing his little face that first moment felt like instantaneous, ever-expanding love. Never felt anything like it before. If I hadn’t already been lying down, I might have fallen right over in surprise at the force of it. You have much to look forward to!

  20. Coming from a society where co-parenting is an almost non-existent concept, I must say your article was a great read. Kudos to raising your son with so much love! I want to be able to have the same connection with my kids. Great article!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. I’m sure your own children will feel your love–the intention to offer it almost guarantees that result. Again, thank you for reading!

  21. Thank you for sharing this. I am a full-time mom and realized after reading this how much I should treasure this brief childhood phase of my daughter.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, and for taking the time to see that no matter how we parent, part time or full time, these moments are so fleeting. We can all use the reminder now and again–particularly when someone spills a juice or talks back. Even those moments, I try and remind myself are “the good times” in a way. Again–thank you.

  22. Great story and its nice to hear about a good situation for your son. Being involved in youth sports I have seen some very bad co-parenting situations.

    1. I hope, for the sake of the kiddos the parents work it out. But anger is such a mask for deep pain. I am grateful for the good relationships and all the love my son has around him. We can’t always choose the circumstances, but we can choose our response, right?

  23. awesome post i can relate as i co parent as well, you may think it gets easier,but it doesn’t my son is well into in teens and i feel that whole you describe in your post still

    1. Hi, Lilly. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience. I’m both sorry and not that the hole sticks around. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it, but it does help me to know how much I care and that I can’t take anything for granted. Have you found that to be true as well?

  24. Honesty is always so beautiful and refreshing. I think you could literally feel the sighs of “yeah, me, too” coming through the magic of the Wi-fi that connects us all so well, magically. Sounds like you have a very blessed son.

    I remember my mom being honest enough to actually apologize (with words) every so often, when she would maybe jump to a conclusion and blame one of us kids prematurely for something, or Yell–when she could have used her “inside voice” (who knew what that was in the ’70s’..haha). But I was secure in her love–because she cared for me and my brothers deeply, and used both words and actions to let us know it. And no, she was not a single mom, or part-time mom–she had a committed husband and he was a good dad. But it was the honesty that made such a great connection–something we all can give no matter our living arrangement. THAT is a gift you are already giving to your son.

    1. What an absolutely beautiful comment. Thank you for sharing your story and supporting mine. I think your mom had it right, we are humans first and foremost and we’re not going to get it “right” all the time. I love that you called out honesty as such a key element to parenting. Thank you so much.

  25. Angela, you are a clever good looking lady… life may give you some more huge surprises!
    Each loss, is difficoult to cope with, but Jackson won’t forget you and for sure one day he will get back to you.
    I think it is sad that kids Always have to suffer ’cause of the grown’s up splitting or divorcing…
    But (the kids) they are clever and very sensible beings, he will rimember you for sure! :-)c

  26. Congratulations on being picked for WordPress Discover. Great read, an honest, heartfelt perspective of part-time parenting.

  27. Wow you really hit the nail on the head a bunch of times in this post. I share in your heartbreak and can completely relate to your story, because I live this life too. My son’s Dad and I split when he was newly 4 years old. He’s almost 9 years old now. And while I have learned to create some space for myself in the days that he is absent from my house, the pain of not having him around me every day is still so breathtaking. And it’s not as if I think of it every second as I work many of the days he’s gone. But it shows itself in simple times, like when I wake up on Friday morning with the strong sense in my gut that something is really wrong, only to realize that he’s not here. In all of these years, I have woken up with that feeling more times than I haven’t. You would think it would get easier. What I am finding is that it’s almost getting worse, because he’s growing up so much these days. We don’t connect as easily now as we did when he was little. He gets embarrassed by me. This year, he told me that I can’t volunteer in his classroom, something that I have done every year. He’s all about sports now, something I know little about. So I try my best to be a good Mom. I seek to find things we can do together that will connect us. And I work to move past the Mom guilt I still tend to get when I do something fun without him. Thanks for posting this. I’m here too.

    1. Your comment had me in tears. I’m sorry that anyone feels that “blackhole” feeling, but it’s good to know I’m not alone too. Your story is beautiful, too. I remember my mom hugging me so tight. And as a child I didn’t know why I was so important to her. But now I get it. We moms hold these babies in our hearts all the time. Your son knows you love him so–even if they push us away to find their own way, they need and know our love. THANK YOU for your gorgeous comment. It means a lot to me.

  28. You are happy, that you found the right way for you and your son. Separating after longtime and with children is a tough situation, and you think twice if you really want to have this situation. But after all you have to find a solution, the problem is r to know what the right way is!

  29. Great post! I too am a part-time mom. It was very hard at first but we’ve all come to adjust, and I admit to enjoying my “days off”. Thankfully my ex and I have been able to co-parent well, which is important.

    1. That’s excellent, Julie. I’m so glad to hear it. When possible, having a love that expands, even if a marriage or relationship breaks, can be kind of wonderful.

  30. It’s not an easy task to describe pain in such a beautiful way. This is perfection. Excellent work.

  31. A bit late to the game but still easy to relate to. This time last year my husband and I went through our separation. In the beginning I too was excited. Newfound freedom to do things I wanted to do. Also write that novel… I did make progress. But every night after I got off work and went home alone, a part of my cried. Sure I’d see my daughter first thing in the morning, but I was the one she called out for in the middle of the night. Always.

    It was hard. The constant shuttling back and forth. And for the first few months it seemed as if the only time I didn’t have her was when I was at work in the evenings. Unfortunately the first few months were not as peaceful as one hopes in this situation.

    As luck or fate would have it, around the time I started her in preschool as to adjust my schedule (which fell through) my husband had a change of heart. He came around and realized that our issues were not solely my fault [and my chronic illness] & he proposed us working it out.

    It’s still been a hard adjustment. And I’m glad for our daughter’s sake as we could tell the toll it was taking on her. But there are some days I do long for the kid-free day again. I guess when she has a life outside of home as well.

    Hang in there! πŸ™‚

    1. Every story has it’s own version of a happy ending and it sounds like you’re working toward yours. I definitely think there are lots of ups and downs in this thing called life. I am grateful to know others, like you, are out there and we can support each other. Thank you!

  32. Such an honest and frank post. It must be heart-wrenching having to wave your son off when he stays at his Dad’s, something that is hard to get used to.

  33. Your post made me really think about a family member of mine. It really sheds some light on honest true feelings of co-parenting. I also love “start with love, end with love” you’re right there is no right way when it comes to parenting. Love is the most important.

  34. Beautifully written. It’s so hard sharing ones children. I don’t think it gets any easier as time passes. Perhaps we learn to use our time alone better, but I miss mine … always. Even though they exhaust me, I always want them, need them, love them.

  35. beautiful insight, full of feeling and emotion, thank you for opening your heart up and sharing those things so dear to you. DAF (Cathi)

    1. Thank you, Cathi. I still cry when I read it. Or I shouldn’t say, “cry” exactly. It’s more like “well up.” My heart is full. And I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with me.

  36. This was a very heartwearming read! It feels so authentic like I can almost understand your situation… But not quite as I’m now in your shoes. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. It makes me happy that you could feel the emotion–even though it isn’t your own. That’s what empathy is all about, I think. Thank you for reading–love the name of your blog btw. πŸ™‚

  37. As if the Sun shone on only one planet at a time. I know the feeling all too well. Trying to get my mind off my son and I came across this article. I’m bawling. Perhaps I should be writing more instead of sulking. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well, I can’t say I’m glad my story made you tear up. But, I am glad you read it and can give voice to your feelings. I hope you do write your own “love story” about your son and what you learn in his absence. I wrote this on a day when I just couldn’t stand it and the feeling welled up and I couldn’t stop it. It makes my heart happy to know another parent is out there loving his son so much and not afraid to say it.

  38. A very poignant post but your son knows you love him and the quality time you spend with him is just as valuable to his wellbeing….So enjoy the time and yes you will have sad moments but also very joyful moments which you will bith remember with love πŸ™‚ x

  39. There is tears in my eyes as I read your post. I feel the pain of having a child go away, missing them ,wanting to cuddle and not being able to. I love how you say
    ;There is no one way that is THE right way to raise a child.
    Love asks us to do not the simple, the easy, or the selfish thing, but the right, the beautiful, and the courageous thing.
    My 8 year old daughter is away in boarding school. It’s just the 1st month and I miss her everyday.

    1. Oh my! I’m sure your daughter is having some amazing experiences, but I can just imagine how it feels to miss her so much this first month. Thank you for reading and save up some good cuddles. I’m sure she’s missing you too. But, equally looking forward to a big cuddle when she comes home. My thoughts are with you. Thank you for reading!

  40. Although I am only young, I found this really heartfelt and inspriring as I can imagine how hard it would be to handle things under the circumstances and co-parenting would not come off as an easy thing so good on you for sharing your story x

    Maddison |

    1. Hi, Maddison. Thank you so much for reading. It isn’t easy, but sometimes the very best things in life aren’t. I appreciate your comment and am looking forward to what you learn in your own journey.

  41. My daughter is twenty and lives on campus in Melbourne. I live in Melbourne about 15 minutes away. Semester breaks and she goes home to her mother about two hours away. And I get that hole in my heart and have to ring her as say I miss her. It never stops.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I think sometimes it’s easy to assume that when our kids move away we’ll be ready, but that’s not true is it? And it’s extra hard when it feels like a child is choosing one parent over another. My son sometimes says he likes his dad’s house better (more video games!) But, like you, that doesn’t stop me from missing him and wanting him to know he is loved. You sound like a good dad.

  42. All the things individuals not going through an experience don’t consider. Two blogs today I read that took me out of my bubble and made me step back. Yeah, right so many other sides I just take for granted. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Amelia. Thank you for reading! Even seeking out blogs from people with experiences different from your own is a radical act of empathy–and then to allow them to impact you, well that’s just awesome. I’m glad my story gave you a little twinkle of something new.

  43. Well said. I had full custody and my three kids saw their father very other weekend. The first night, initially I was relaxed. I too would go out and socialize. What I began to realize, is for about 6 years every time the kids were at their dads I could not be home. It made me sad. So I kept overly busy. I would here other parents Day , at least you get a break, my answer always, not the break I want.

    1. I am coming to realize, as I read comments like yours, just how much we parents feel when our kids aren’t with us. Of course, I knew how I felt. But, learning from so many others how we all feel so similarly, and love our kiddos so much–and yet deal with the “black hole” absence in different ways is enlightening and fills my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me.

  44. I’m not a part time mom, I’m a full time mom. But my husband and I don’t always have the best relationship. We have thought about going our separate ways. You voiced my greatest fear that some day in the future I will have a black hole. Some times I think that is all that keeps us together is that neither of us want that black hole. You gave me that extra reminder to enjoy every moment I can with my kids. Thank you.

    Please check out our blog,

    1. Hi, Sarah. I can’t say what’s right for any couple as far as stay together for the kids, or split and find the way to a different love framework. I didn’t know how much I’d miss my son on the days when I didn’t have him, I only knew that I couldn’t live the life we’d been living and so accepted whatever the future might bring because it HAD to be better than what I was experiencing at the time. But these are such personal decisions and truly have no one right answer. I wish you and your family all the best as you continue to love and figure things out.

  45. I don’t have words to tell you how much this touched me, but I will tell you something, Jackson will grow up someday. πŸ™‚

  46. You described perfectly how I feel dropping my two kids to school every Thursday (or to the childminders if I’ve to be in work early) knowing I won’t see them until Sat morning or Monday afternoon depending on what week we’re on. This has been my life for over 4 years now and sometimes the black hole is too much to deal with but sometimes I relish my alone/adult/non-parenting time. And then there’s the adjustment when you’re back to being a mum and their fresh from their dad’s and have obviously become accustomed to his style of parenting and then have to get used to mine. And you’re right back in mum-mode. It’s not perfect but it’s life as I know it and I just have to get on with it I suppose. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I’m so glad you stopped by to read the post and share your thoughts. No, it isn’t perfect. And there is that extra component of settling in when environments at dad’s are different from mom’s. I have seen though, an increase in my sons ability to adapt to situations. My sister, a practitioner in psychology, calls it “code switching.” Essentially, knowing how to apply what rules when is a valuable life skill for kids. So I try and appreciate that my son’s experience is uniquely his own, and because of our circumstances is actually learning things he might not have learned otherwise because of it. It’s definitely hard, the emotional toll on loving parents especially so, but I think we’re (you, me, other parents) doing a lot of things right. Thank you again for the comment–it means a lot to me.

  47. I enjoyed reading this, I feel your pain, sounds silly but my daughter is at a sleep over at her grandparents tonight and when I got home shortly after 1am from work I felt the quietness of the house and miss her, merely just from one night, it must be hard I don’t know how you do it

    1. Thank you for reading! Some days, I don’t know how I do it either. But, just like with your daughter, I know the experiences she’s having without me are as important to my son’s life as the experiences she’s having with me. It doesn’t change the “missing” part–my heart still twinges and aches. But, my brain knows it’s a good thing. I’m right there with you though, the quietness of the house is almost a spectral thing.
      I’m sure you’re looking forward to the next day’s hug though! πŸ™‚

  48. Mother’s love knows no bounds!

    Thanks for sharing. I am a mother too…of a 20-year old son. I work far from where he studies at. And I miss him each day.

    I trust in the Lord that he will be alright ..

    Keep blogging, Angela!

    1. Thank you so much, Jan! I sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement. I think it says a lot about you (and parents of older children) that even when our kids are “adults” we still miss their daily presence. I still marvel at it. Love is so big and wide and deep–truly, as you say, boundless.

  49. I feel it the other way around when my parents miss me, for example when I went on holiday with some friends and my mom called me twice a day to check if I am save, but now I understand the other side of the story. Thanks for opening my mind up!

    1. I’m so glad you can see it better from your parent’s point of view. We really miss our kids, but it’s hard to understand when you’re the kid and not the parent. Thank you for stopping by and adding your point of view.

  50. I’m not a part-time mom, but I am a full time mom and when my daughter’s father does come and spend time with her I find it difficult watching her leave. I know she’ll be back soon and I definitely know that I could use the down time. But it’s just as you said we miss them so much because we love so much. I’m new to blogging so reading your post is definitely helpful and informative, but also hits close to home. Thank you!

    1. Welcome to blogging! Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts here. It’s hard to “downshift” from parenting mode to adulting mode sometimes, I’ve noticed. It can take a day or two for me. I’ll be following your journey. πŸ™‚

  51. Beautifully candid post, I totally empathise with every word you’ve written having been in a very similar situation. Thank you for writing so honestly and frankly, I’m sure there are also many others out there who have read this and realise that they’re not on their own in their feelings.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment. I am so grateful for the chance to hear from you and others who can relate to all the love (and the loss) that comes from the privilege of parenting–no matter what form it takes.

  52. I completely agree and understand that feeling and no it doesn’t seem to get easier, I’ve only been a single parent for 1 year and our daughter is nearly 4years old. Unfortunately it’s painful to see my daughter cry and hold out her hands for me as her dad carries her away (mediation encouraged her to sleep over when she didn’t want to) fortunately now, I fought for her to see her dad but not sleep as it was too upsetting for her but that period of her asking not to go was so upsetting and hard to explain that a lady she didn’t know was encouraging this. I hope it gets easier and thank you for being so open as I don’t know any single parent to understand that situation and explain it. Thank you x

    1. Oh my that sounds so hard. I can’t imagine how that felt to watch your daughter cry and reach for you. Honestly, I felt a bit of a kick in the gut when I read that. I think it will get easier. I always repeat to myself, “stay grounded in love” and I think it guides my way. You are doing great. I’m five years down the road. It isn’t “easy” today, but it’s not the razors-edge either. Thank you for reading. I’d like to know how things go for you as your journey continues.

  53. I love that you shared how untimely this separation is. We loose a lot in the process but we savor more and cherish more and take our job/role as a mom even more importantly than we would’ve ever and more than most for sure. Love to you

  54. Such a moving article. I’m not a mother but the hole you depict here is real and can be felt even my non-mothers. I do know part-time moms, though, and it’s not easy for them to let go of their kids. However, they acknowledge the time they can have for themselves, silence included.
    To be a mother must be so overwhelming, a roller-coaster where your feelings, as universal they may be, feel yours only and unique. A journey where parents only can decide the course parenthood should take for them.
    Beautiful words, again!

    1. What a thoughtful comment– but I suppose I should expect that from the author of “this is an insight.” πŸ™‚ I think you summed it up perfectly. We are the same, but different. Both are true at the exact same time.
      You’re right that loss of anyone we love, whether temporary or permanent can feel like that blackhole. Love offers so much. And without loss, love couldn’t achieve it’s poignancy. So while it sucks, I’m grateful for it, too. Thank you so much for reading and adding your insight. I appreciate it.

  55. I love this post. I am a separated parent too, and completely get where you’re coming from. I think it makes you treasure the time you have with your children, and enriches your life as a whole person. No one would choose to parent this way, but it is so much easier for everyone if you accept and embrace it.
    I hate the term β€œbroken family”. Whilst there may be temporary pain, you can come out of it a better parent.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more–“broken family” is the worst way to describe the experience. I don’t feel broken (and I’m glad you don’t either). I remind myself that my little guy gets this one life–and it’s his. The experience he has with the family configuration around him can offer him just as many opportunities to grow and learn and love as a “traditional” family.
      Thank you so much for a very thoughtful comment. I’m looking forward to following your journey too.

  56. I m not married but I can see how tough when kid are not with their parent. But this is painful for both.

  57. It was very interesting hearing this perspective. I imagine my Mum felt a lot of what you described and some of it I suppose I’d thought into to an extent but a lot of it hadn’t occurred to me, although it made sense intuitively after I read your piece.

    1. I’m so glad you gained a new insight here. If you have the chance, you could ask your mum about how she felt. Love has some interesting twists and turns. I’m grateful that you read what I had to say and took the time to comment.

  58. This is beautiful. Thank you being vulnerable. It helps to know there are people out there that keep their heads high, despite. Thank you.

  59. What a wonderful post. I’m not a part-time mom but my best friend is and I know how difficult it has been for her since the Dad doesn’t even try to make time for his own son. It’s a devastating situation to watch from the outside and not be able to help! I hope as the time goes on that black-hole slowly closes and doesn’t ache so much for you. You sound like your doing such a fantastic job and my Dad always says, the fact that your worried about the situation at all means your already doing the best you can πŸ™‚

    1. Oh gosh, I love your dad’s saying. It makes perfect sense. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop missing that little guy–even when he gets to be an adult. But, I think that’s all part of the experience. It makes me sad to read about your friend’s ex and his lack of engagement. Of course, there can be many reasons for this. But in my heart I always hope that a parent sees his or her way to putting the love of and for the child above anything else. I share your frustration at sitting on the sidelines when you wish you could help. But, following your dad’s advice–the fact that you’re worried about it means you’re a loving friend. Thank you for your comment and for connecting.

  60. I have been the same as you – late thirties and enjoying the freedoms that mean you form your own identity and carve a niche that is unique to you. I had a husband who didn’t appreciate that life is short and precious and took a lot for granted and as a consequence nearly lost our home. So I moved out with two under fives and have never regretted it. Your son will have a much clearer perspective of who you no th are, as individuals with of course faults but also qualities, and be able to develop a set of skills that mean he will love you both and interact with you differently and find unique ways to connect – simply because you are viewed as two separate beings. I agree that nothing can fill that hole of longing – but I think all parents feel the same whether together or not. My sons are now adults and very close to both myself and their father separately. They have homes careers and families of their own and I think are better negotiators and more tolerant because they have had the love of both their parents and a more stable upbringing that a lot of two parent families. What I always did and still do when I miss them, is plan something or buy them something for when I next see them so I am carrying on being a good and nurturing parent x you are a good mum, you care and it can be hard but while he is not with you he is growing in independence and confidence and aril loving you as much as he would be if he were with you.

    1. I read this with tears in my eyes. I love your idea of creating something tangible in those moments when “missing” hits. Now that you mention it, I realize I do that in some small ways, but I like the thought of it as a practice to help keep focus on all the good stuff and not on the sad parts.
      I’m so glad to hear your boys benefitted from the love of two separate parents. I believe this is where we’re headed too. It’s not easy. But, as I see in your example, so many good things can come of it. Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your story.

  61. I really enjoyed your post. I’m also a co-parent. Its nice to hear from someone going through the same things. I feel guilty when I enjoy my free time and selfish when I feel jealous of something he got to experience. My ex and I are still trying to figure this out. Good luck to you!

    1. Thank you for reading! It isn’t easy. But it sounds like you and your ex are both committed to figuring things out and that makes all the difference. Thank you for the good wishes–and I’ll be thinking of you and wishing the best for you and your journey too!

  62. This such a beautiful and poignant post. I have just started a blog about a mother and son. The mother is fighting a legal challenge to stop her son from being abducted by his father. She reported the UK to the UN and 3 weeks later her son was abducted and placed into state care and is suffering. It is a very sad story but you words resonated with myself and for this little boy and his mother. Thank you

  63. Sounds very similar to being a stepparent. I habe been married 25 years and raised one of my step daughters from age 6 until she graduated and the other daughter bounced from dad to mom a lot. I love those girls but sharing for their mother was certainly not easy. I wish i knew then what I know now because I wouldn’t have tried so hard to get the girls to “love me as a mom” and I would’ve tried harder to encourage the love from their mother to them.
    Part time parents and step parents… it’s rough!

    1. Dee, thank you for reading. I’m interested to hear more about your experience in step parenting. My husband is step dad to my son, he’s been in his life since he was four. They love each other–that much is clear. But I do worry that someday my son will be forced to choose between his bio dad and my husband. Did you ever have one of those moments as a step mom?

  64. Thank you for the post. I’m the mother of a 14 year old boy who has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and ADHD. His father and I have been seperated since before his birth. Nearly 2 years ago, he made the decision to go live with his father. It wasn’t easy for me, he is my first born and I am very protective of him. He rarely visits and doesn’t speak with me often. I raised him well to make his own choices and be independent. He is happy, and is succeeding in life, doing well in school and growing into the man I want him to be. It is the hardest thing I ever had to do, but he is better for it. His father is teaching him what I cannot. Others criticize me for my decision to let him go, but I stand by it. One day he will thank me for giving him the independence to make his own choices. It takes a brave woman to watch her child go. I miss him dearly and some days I feel a part of me missing.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Wow. You’re absolutely right, it takes a very big heart to let a child go where their own journey needs to lead. You’re my version of a mom-hero.

  65. Oh wow, I’m in tears reading this, because you have more or less captured my own feelings as myself and ex husband co-parented. My boys are grown up now, but I actually still feel guilt sometimes that we couldn’t make our marriage work in order to bring the boys up together as one family. Our boys are absolutely fine, they’re secure and happy young men now, but reading your post just brought back all the heartache I felt and I’m sure their dad did too, for many years. Such a powerful and fabulous post Angela, congratulations on writing it. I’ve read it a couple of times and no doubt will again.

    1. I’m so glad to hear your kids grew up strong and healthy. They’re really isn’t a “right way” but I definitely think if ego doesn’t get in the way we can offer that to our kids, regardless of the parenting landscape. It gives me so much joy to know there are others like you who found the way to love–it’s not easy, but it’s SO worth it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. He is a very food-motivated creature. And the truth is, there are a few crumbs or spills of juice inherent in having a young child that the dog likes to take advantage of whenever (and wherever) possible. He is not proud.

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