Looks can be deceiving. While things may seem easier for others, take a closer look, and maybe you will find some compassion.
“You have it so much easier because you only have your kids half the time.” He made this statement a couple of times during our conversation. The first time it fell out of his mouth I felt like a victim of Little Bunny Foo Foo hopping through the forest being bopped on the head. It didn’t sting so much as shock my system. The next time he said it, the normally dormant lava bubbles in my gut started to boil as anger crept up my spine. These words were uttered by a dear friend of mine who has seen some of the good, bad, and ugly of my single mom days.
Maybe I make it look easy.
I generally write for our blog in the hopes of being a contribution to anyone who is considering, going through, or having survived divorce. My aim is always to speak honestly about what the divorce experience may mean. I do not believe that divorce ruins children. I do not believe that divorce makes you a failure or a bad person. I believe divorce is an opportunity to correct a path when you have been derailed from your authentic self and you are stuck in hopeless unhappiness or as a chance to reinvent yourself when married life is taken away. I typically write from a place of finding each and every possible silver lining.
But being a single parent is not easy.
Being a single parent means that despite “only having my kids 50% of the time” that I am 100% of the time doing all of the laundry, all of the grocery shopping, all of the meal preparation, all of the house cleaning, all of the yard work, all of the bill paying, all of the transportation on my days. So when my Sophia has dance class from 5:45-6:45 and Anna has ice skating from 6:15-7:15, I am 100% driving for a solid hour and a half doing the drop off at 5:45 and 6:15 and then the circular pick up at 6:45 and 7:15 because there is no one but me to do it.
Being a single mom means picking up my children from activities, making their meals, signing their school papers, and doing their bedtime routine while I am running a fever and throwing up in between. There is no one but me to do it. Being a single parent means when my little one is up all through the night and my older one is getting distressed by it, I am the one managing it all. Being a single parent means that when I have an after-work event and the hosting organization didn’t take it upon themselves when scheduling the event to consult with me and my parenting schedule and it lands on a night I have my girls, then I have my girls 1 night during the entire work week instead of 2. I can assure you – there is nothing easy about that.
Being a single parent means that when my daughters ask me hard questions like “Why did you get divorced?” or “What does having your period mean?” or “Why did someone shoot kids in a school?” I am the only one with answers. I am left feeling lonely without any emotional support in the hard parenting moments when no one has my back.
Parenting in separate households also means that I don’t have the luxury that married parents have to just disagree with the other parent. I am 100% of the time on the tight rope of diplomacy. I am constantly picking and choosing the moments that I stand up for consistency between households and when I let things go. I have to be more mindful on a daily basis of my communication with my co-parent and work hard at it.
But mostly, being a parent of divorce means that I don’t have my kids 100% of the time. And that is the hardest part of all.
And how do I make it through the not-so-easy? I have the benefit of a pile of wisdom shared by my clients over the last 16 years. As one client succinctly stated:
“Maybe I never should have allowed joint …, but I had to believe my son was better off having both of us in his life, come what may. This doesn’t mean I don’t lack feeling about this, I am incredibly sad that this is what it is, but I know in my heart my son is better off with me 100% strong 50% of the time, versus the person I was in the marriage and what he would have been subject to had we stayed together.”
I, and all the divorced parents out there, have to remind ourselves over and over: that we are not “less-than” parents; that we are not failures; that we did not let our children down. And it isn’t easy. But when I talk myself down from these thoughts, or feel overwhelmed by all that is on my parenting plate, I am easily reminded that it is so worth it.