This weekend my ex-wife is going to London. She’ll be staying overnight, so I’ll be staying overnight with the children. And while I know lots of it will be fun, if I’m being perfectly honest? I’m kind of, a bit, dreading it a bit.
Not because of the children, in fact it’ll feel good to be back in the SAHD-dle and in a role which I love. Daddy. A father. A whole chunk of ‘me and them time’ doing things that I haven’t done for a while. Can you believe I actually miss bathtimes, nappy changes, my son deciding he doesn’t want to eat THAT and wiping down a highchair that’s covered in yoghurt?
Nothing they could do could bring me down and it’s not because of them that I’m a bit dreading it, a bit.
It’s because of where I’ll be, and because this place I used to call my home now isn’t.
Some things are so familiar, in fact all of it is. But everything inside it reminds me that it isn’t my home any more. For me it’s almost the complete opposite to my home. An anti-home if you like. And it represents something in my head.
As I approach it on foot, when I first see the blue door, I always put my hand in my pocket for my keys. Always. Of course they’re not there. I don’t have any. Then I ring the doorbell, hear my children’s exuberant calls of ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and I don’t think any more about it.
But if I’m looking after them in the evening, when my ex-wife is out with friends or at her book group/fight club then I do think about it, and it feels strange being there. But some times, lots of times, and this weekend in particular this is how it will have to be. And some days in September and October. And November and January. I’ll have to stay for a few days as my ex-wife is leaving the country for work.
There’s no way round it. The children can’t stay with me as my flat is too small and all their toys are at the house. This is how it’s going to have to be and I’ve known this since we decided to divorce. This is not a surprise.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get my head around it, but get my headbox around it I must. Otherwise, in the evenings, when the children are asleep, I’ll look around me and the joint purchases, decisions we made about buying things, the presents and gifts and things that fill it will all join forces to smack me in the face and remind me that this didn’t work.
When I left didn’t feel I could take things that were joint presents or purchases, or even argue about who gets what. My ex-wife has a right to these things as much as me, and I thought it best that she keep them. That’s fair enough in my eyes and they look better in her home. Plus I thought taking too many things away would upset the children and they might question why certain things aren’t there any more. Their disappearance could upset them. So things were done discretely and I moved when no-one was looking, having gradually put things in boxes over some months.
Sometimes when I’m there I look around and feel sad. I sigh and tell myself to snap out of it but sometimes, being surrounded by things and enclosed in something that meant so much to me is too much. Claustrophobic. Too much.
When I’ll be looking after the children I’ll not think like this. They keep me occupied enough and so I won’t have time to think so much. But in then evening, when all the dinner plates have been put away in the usual place, and I’ll make myself something to eat with the pots and pans I cooked so many meals in, using plates and cutlery I’ve eaten with over many years, I fear something will hit me that may be tough to deal with.
I know other people go through this. Leaving somewhere they called home and have to return to in a different guise. When we grow up and leave our parents, when we move out, then the home that once was ceases to be that thing when we return. This is progress. Moving on and this is good but hard in many cases.
But I know this was different. And I know that, unless I view things in a different light, the days I stay at this house will be tough.
Perhaps I should think of it as the children’s home and respect the fact that my ex-wife has done so much to make it a loving home, where the children are happy and comfortable and thriving. I should feel proud of her and her achievements rather than navel gaze and think about what it all means to me. Perhaps I should just shut the fuck up and just get on. Don’t think, just enjoy this time with my children.
I don’t know what else to say. I know I should get the fuck over it and move forward, but sometimes moving on is very hard indeed. Especially after a few days of feeling blue.
Thanks for reading.