A Personal Experience: It's Time to Shift the Way We Talk About Moms Who Give Up Primary Custody
I got to the airport an hour early, my stomach filled with excitement and dread at the same time. I was picking up my son for our two-week Christmas visit. This was the longest I had ever gone without seeing him, and I missed him. But I hadn’t missed the chaos of my life when I saw him more often. I didn’t know how this visit would go.
His dad and I split up when he was an infant, so his whole life he has had four parents and two houses. Until this summer, though, we were in the same city. Now we are states apart. When his dad told me he got a promotion that would require moving to another state and he intended to take our son I briefly thought about fighting it, but that was brief. In the end we came to terms for visitation and signed all the papers without the need for lawyers. It was what I needed to do to heal.
Healing has been a journey, and frequently a pretty ugly one, but the worst of it was three years ago. Days after I turned 30 I checked myself into a crisis center. I was a wreck and desperately needed help. I knew deep in my heart that seeing my son every single day was hindering my healing. I could barely get out of bed; I had panic attacks every time my phone rang. I was useless as a wife, as a mother, as a person. But I had been told so many times that mothers fight for their kids, and good mothers have custody of their kids, and so I kept the custody schedule that was killing me.
Until I didn’t. When I checked myself in to the crisis center, I also made the decision to give primary custody of my son to his dad. I would be the every-other-weekend parent; his dad could make whatever decisions he wanted, and I would pay child support. And I got better. Not all the way better, but a little better.
And then this move happened. This move that society said I should fight, but I knew it was for the best. In the months since they have moved, since I have had the ability to not see my abuser in person for months and I haven’t had the fear of my every move being judged, I have made real progress in healing for the first time. And with this healing I have been able to enjoy the time my son is with us. That dread in the pit of my stomach just melted away, and I can handle his outbursts and meltdowns with a grace I didn’t have before.
I know I’m not a bad mom. I know I did what was best for all of us, and finally for the first time in my son’s life, I get to spend time with him that is filled with just excitement, and not dread too. And I would do it all over again, just for that.