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On a Jet Plane

I believe it was January of this year, while I was still in Cedar with all 4 of my kids, that Emma said to me one night, "Mom, I want to go live with dad."

And there it was.

That statement that every custodial parent of a divorce dreads to hear; that statement that my therapist said would come eventually from one, if not more, of my children.

Regardless of what the circumstances were that led Emma to want to leave my home and go to her dad's, I had to detach as much as possible.  I couldn't take it personally.  Even if it was personal.

Emma wanted a different experience.  Emma needed her dad.  Emma needed to have a sense of power over her life.  She needed to feel like she was in control of something. 

How could I begrudge her that?  She'd lost her idea of family.  She'd lost her childhood home. She'd lost her dad to another state.  She'd lost her mom for a scary time while I was a depressed blob of flesh.

So, when she said this, I don't know if she noticed any sign of my being taken aback, because I was, even though I'd attempted to be prepared for the eventuality. But I didn't skip a beat.  I said, "Okay.  Why?"


"Because why?"

"I don't know."

"Well, that's not good enough, Em.  This is a huge deal."

Then she was able to relate that it basically came down to her really missing her dad.  I told her that I respected that and understood.  I told her, "Let's wait and give it a few weeks and see if you still want this."

She did.  And where Hana had to go live with her dad, Emma went to her dad's purely through her choice.  And the 2 of them left for California at the end of February of this year.

Fast forward to me and the other 2 kids coming to California 5 months later.  I'd always known, upon my split with Matt, that there was no reason we couldn't be as much a family as possible even if he left Utah.

So here we are in Cali.

Granted, all 6 of us living in cramped quarters/under the same roof is not the long term plan nor was it ever, but it is the reality right now.

A couple of weeks ago, Emma said to me, "Mom, I wanna go live with Lou." Lou is her best friend in Cedar City.

She had to say this a few times over a couple of days for me to really hear it.  When I finally gave her a legitimate response, it was, "Why? I thought you were glad to get away from Cedar City.  And you detest the snow!"

"But Lou is my best friend and I don't want to be here anymore and her mom said it's okay!"

I was listening.  I didn't know how to respond. She said it again.  "Really?" I asked.  "Her mom said it's okay?"

Now I wasn't surprised.  Lou's mom had been there for me- A LOT.  She'd told me once that as someone who'd been in my shoes and experienced 'dark, dark days', she knew that I would need help from time to time and was finally in a place in her life to give it.

I remember during my post-Boy depression 2 Christmases ago, she kept the kids for me for a night so I could go see Wagamama in Vegas.  When I came back to Cedar the next evening, I felt a sense of doom as I walked into Lou's house to collect the kids.  I was afraid to go home.  Before we walked out the front door to go to our house, I was already crying.

When I was driving home from work at the library several months ago, I knew that if I went home to my 4 kids and the mess and the utter sense of inadequacy I felt when I walked through the door -one more time- I would hurt myself or one of the children.  I called Lou's mom and asked her if she would pick up the kids, because I need to check myself into the ER.

Then when we were leaving Cedar this August, I dropped off one of my cats with Lou and her family. Lou's mom told me in no uncertain terms that she considered every one of us family.

My Emma needs something different right now.  She needs a place to breathe.  She can do that at Lou's house.  Could she suck it up and stay here?  If we told her that's what she had to do, then she wouldn't have a choice.  But that is what I am trying to give her- a choice.  Power.  Control.

It will hurt her dad and me chasms more than it will hurt Emma to be away.  But after days of talking through this and looking at it from many angles, we agree this will be good for her, if even only for the sense of control it will give her.

She will be with people we trust implicitly.  She will have plenty of room to breathe, unlike here in this tiny house with her divorced parents.

I am hoping she'll miss me so much by the 3 month mark that she'll ask to come back.  Can I tell you how much I would love to hear Emma say that she misses me?  Do you have any idea?

My heart has been breaking repeatedly the past few days.  Emma leaves tonight.


  1. I hear you. Being divorced and having custody of all the kids, I do fear those words that they will want to go live with their father. I think it must be something about being a mother that makes us feel inadequite, because none of us are perfect. But she needs you. Even if she can't say it. Keep in close touch and always tell her you love her and someday, maybe when she is a grown woman and can see things more clearly, she will be able to articulate how much she needs you.

  2. Ashley, you inspire me to write. Please forgive me, because sadly I have been too busy with wedding plans, work and self development (personal therapy) that has kept me from reading your blog for a couple months now. And, I seriously miss reading your blog. I believe we have so much in common, yet I am just a few years of single mom experience ahead of you. But, I believe that I can comment in a place with no judgment and just love. Hope and reassurance.

    Trying to hold a family together and feeling the complete burden of “just feeding the kids” can be so overwhelming …ANY woman in her right state of mind would go crazy! It’s hard. It sucks. And, today I am having a huge overwhelming experience of – Was it all really worth it? Of course it was. But, challenges continue. I hope this passes. Because I too, love all three of my daughters with my entire being.

    As a mother we go through unbelievable constant microscope of challenges – that seem to never end, even after the children are grown. I can only hope that 10 years from now my girls will someday realize – Mom’s decisions were never perfect, but she gave all that she could.

    After raising Danielle for 14 years and raising the other two to adult ages, they seem to all have the despising outlook at of “How dare Mom leave us to pursue her life.” Danielle chose to be with her father after I had made a career change out of state. I believe and still believe this was the best choice she/we made. However, today I still pay the price. I allowed her to stay with friends, school, family, community, stability and she loves her father. I also, believe her father is as much a parent as I am and it was time for them to develop a relationship. However, the pain being is, I am being treated as if those 14 years of hard, sweat and labor never existed and only today exists – which is: I’m not there.

    I guess what I am trying to say is: Stay strong. Continue your personal growth and your responsibilities (as you are). I support you decision in letting Emma find herself. And, if you have a close friend (as you expressed in this post) trust her – this sound like that you have always been able to count on her and she has shown up for you and your family with unconditional love and support – reach your hand out and accept. These beautiful friends/people are few and far between. Treasure them and don’t take them for granted.

    My love goes out to you as you continue one day at a time being a mother, a woman, a provider, a house cleaner, a cook, a chauffeur, an actor, a writer, a friend, a lover, a sister, daughter and sister in law …could I go on and on! All the many many roles a single mother plays. May the angels bless your soul and bring you peace.

    Much love. –Gina

    1. Gina, wow! Thank you! It's amazing that even adult children can only register Today. We see our cumulative effort. And how can we not?! We give and give and give. And I don't know that any group of people but MOTHERS understand what it is that we give, how much of our core selves that we give. Even the father's don't understand that as mothers we are constantly trying to emotionally recover even if it's just trying to recover from getting the kids off to school. Sadly, I think a lot of us are undervalued. But we go and go and go, because we have to and because we love in a way that no one else can. Then one day we hit a wall, because we have given so much, without replenishing or gratitude, and we are empty. And even THEN we are expected to do to ALL.
      You are inspiring, Gina. Thank you for being in my life.


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