A day or so ago, someone shared a blog post called "Summer Vacations and the Divorced Family" with me, and I found the piece very moving. Written by Donna Ferber, a psychotherapist whose practice specializes in life transitions such as divorce, the post recounts a very personal narrative from "Julie," a recently divorced mom whose two sons went on summer vacation with their father and his new girlfriend.
As I watched my children wait at the window for their father to arrive, I couldn’t believe the flood of feelings I experienced. Their father is taking them to New York with his girlfriend. Her parents own a large summer house in the Adirondacks. She has six brother and sisters, all married with children. They are all coming this week for a family reunion. As an only child raised in a large city, I never had this kind of experience. I am excited for my children that they can have all these new people in their lives. They will get the experience of a large family. I find myself wishing that I could give them such an experience. I wonder if they will love this new family more than they love me. Of course, I know this is not the case. But sometimes, I feel so insecure.
That first post-divorce summer vacation -- and every one thereafter, really -- can be an emotional minefield for the unwary custodial parent, accustomed to spending every day with the kids. Suddenly turning them loose to embark on a life experience that the custodial parent will not be sharing can trigger many conflicting emotions, as Julie's story demonstrates.
I'm certainly not a therapist, but it seems to me that working through these emotions requires a three-step process:
Your new post-divorce life will have a lot of firsts, and some of them will be good ones, while some will trigger some difficult feelings. Have faith in yourself that you can cope and emerge an even stronger, better role model for your children.