This weekend, I overheard a conversation between two ladies speaking of a woman they knew who was divorced. The ladies commented on how sad it was that this woman was not the parent she was when she was married. The woman (I’ll call her Sue just to give her a name) used to be “all about the kids.” Sue was a great mom who doted on her children. She was creative, fun, and an engaged parent. Now that Sue is divorced and dating, her life has changed a bit and her “poor, poor children” don’t understand why mom is not available 24/7. The ladies continued their observation with the shocking statement: Sue now wants to have her ex take the kids every other weekend so she can spend time with her new boyfriend instead of splitting every weekend with her ex.
As I eavesdropped on the conversation, I felt a surge of protection for Sue. I’ve BEEN there … I’ve DONE that! I wanted to jump in the conversation and give these ladies some perspective. I, too, am not the parent I once was. My divorced friends with children have admitted to the same. Although I was never the perfect parent, I always tried to be around my kids to have dinner at the table most nights; to make breakfast on the weekends and to have food in the refrigerator (a complaint I hear often now). I stayed home with my kids, planned parties, built fires outside, made cookies, played games, had fun family vacations, went shopping and had THE best holiday experiences.
I miss those times a lot and wish I could turn back the clock and make things work just to have that life back, but I can’t.
If I were to be brave enough to butt into that conversation, I would have spoken of how lonely being a single parent is … where you once had another adult to unwind with at day’s end, now you are a parent 24/7. Where you once had someone to share the load with … you are now exhausted. Being a single parent is hard because you are torn between parenting your child and wanting to build new relationships, and that takes time. It is such a tug-of-war.
Although some people would say that raising the children comes first (and I do agree in principle that it does), what happens when the kids leave and the parent is now alone? As a 40 year old woman that is a scary thought. Friends who are the same age feel the same. Do we really want to be 45 or 50 years old and THEN start looking for someone to build a relationship with … really?
Although I do realize that the totality of my life is not whether or not I have a man in my life, it sure is nice when you find that person. Life starts to feel a little “normal” again.
Dealing with the X factor is another difficult thing about being a single parent. Nevermind the typical miscommunications and differences of opinions, one of the hardest things for me to hear is, “Well, Dad said I could ….” Lordy, lordy, my temperature starts to rise, blood starts to boil and the kettle starts to sing. Suddenly, I feel as if I am in a competition with the X and he is winning (I so hate to lose). Now that my kids are older, it has gotten very difficult to refrain from spilling my guts over how I really feel about that and I am embarrassed to say that there are times that in the heat of parental competition, I have been too quick to point out the flaws of said father figure in order for myself to look better. It has backfired every time.
Truth be told, every time I hear those words, I am ushered back to the end of my marriage and the feelings of rejection that I felt. When my children say those things, I desperately want them to see me in that good light; to have me be their hero, to know how much I want to do the best thing for them, even if it isn’t the most popular. I want them to see how I struggle with being a good parent. How I agonize over every decision, how inexplicably tired I get (and therefore how grouchy I can be sometimes). But those things are hard to show your kids without sounding like a big nag and without sounding like a guilt trip.
Now that my kids are both adults, it has gotten even more difficult in some ways. They get to choose who they spend holidays, weekends and vacations with. Hearing, “I’m going to stay with Dad for my time off, or I’m going to spend Thanksgiving with Dad,” pierces my heart. Of COURSE I want them to spend time with the X as he needs holidays too and I understand in my mind that this is a good thing, but I want to be selfish and keep them all to myself. In truth, it is just hard.
So, I chickened out of my impulse to butt in to the conversation. Sue will continue to be the fallen star of the parent world, but I resolved to once again be transparent in a place where I would rather keep private and share (even in a small way) my own personal struggles hoping that it is an encouragement to those on this same journey. Being a single parent is hard!
Check out Becky’s blog at http://divorced-diva.blogspot.com.