We’ve had the same routine of dropping off and picking my daughter up after spending the weekend with her dad for about three years now.

She clearly loves her dad. She is always so excited to see him when he comes to pick her up. It low-key hurt my feelings at first, because I could barely get a hug and goodbye kiss. They would drive off and I wouldn’t see her again until…D-Day.

Drop Off Day.

The initial awkward feeling of the whole situation has worn off, but the guilt is still there.

The guilt that I feel is not because I chose to leave my marriage; I worry about the long term effects of my baby girl growing up in a household without her dad.

I am literally the physical embodiment of a ‘Daddy’s Girl’. When I was younger, I would’ve shouted it from rooftops, if given the opportunity. The phrase is stitched on the back of my high school letterman jacket.

The fact that my daughter will probably never have the type of relationship I had with my daddy growing up, simply because of the circumstances, makes me terribly sad. There’s only so much bonding you can do a few days out of every month.

The very thought has kept me up some nights. The saying “silence can seem so loud” is an understatement.

I couldn’t stand to be alone while she was gone. I found ways to occupy my time from sun up to sun down. Shopping. Sleeping. Eating. Sex. Visiting friends for hours at a time was my favorite. Pretty sure eating came in close second.

As long as I wasn’t alone.

I stayed busy right up until Drop Off Day.

Every time I packed my little girl in the car and pulled off, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure as she cried and yelled for her dad from the back seat. The first two or three times I cried right along with her.

About eight months into this routine I had created for myself, no one was free to keep me entertained on a particular weekend. Not one single person. How Sway?

I spent the weekend in bed and literally cried until my tear ducts were completely depleted. I allowed myself to fall apart and face the full range of emotions I avoided with ease while on mom duty and during my newly developed extracurricular activities.

I felt lighter. I felt recharged. Shockingly, solitude didn’t seem like such a bad thing.

The time away from my daughter became less about being entertained and more about healing.

I allowed myself to be angry. Ashamed. Hurt. To miss companionship. Feeling relieved that my marriage was over. I felt guilty about that at times. I also accepted responsibility for the ways in which I contributed to my marriage ending in divorce.

She doesn’t get so overcome with emotion on Drop Off Day now.

Thankfully, I don’t either.

Once I dealt with the emotional baggage I was holding on to, I focused my energy on doing more of the things I loved and whatever felt good at the time, while my daughter was with her dad.

I quickly became a connoisseur of budget-friendly wine. Watched Sex in the City marathons on several occasions. I read. A lot. Mainly novels, but one blog in particular helped me make it through the toughest of days.

Visiting friends for hours at a time is still my favorite.

The difference now is that I’m in a space to offer meaningful friendship back as opposed to always being on the receiving end. Eating still comes in close second with a few other things trailing right behind.

I think it is essential for all mothers to find a way to make time for themselves.

While raising a child is the most rewarding job a woman could ever have, being a single mother is a begrudgingly lonely experience.

This time away from my daughter I used to loathe has become a necessity for my well-being. I am more self-aware and self-reflective. I am a better mother because of the time I am able to spend on my own.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a two-parent home. I really hate that I couldn’t make that happen for her. However, I realized that in order for me to do my job as a mother to the best of my ability, I had to stop punishing myself for my decision.

I want my daughter to be confident but kind, self-assured but compassionate, seek happiness from within and, most importantly, love and see herself the way God does.

At 30, I am still working on all of those things myself, especially that very last part.

Married or not, the best way for me to instill these characteristics in my daughter is to exude and exhibit them myself. My prayer is that God orders my steps in raising my little woman and that He keeps her covered as she experiences her own peaks and valleys in life.

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Alicia Hughes
Alicia Hughes is an aspiring writer with a passion for inspiring women to become the best version of themselves. The self-proclaimed extroverted-introvert is a lover of most things hip-hop and makeup/skincare junkie. Hughes is a devoted Beyhiver and besties (in her head) with the hosts of BuzzFeed’s Another Round. IG:@aliciainhouston