Friday, May 12, 2000
Thoughts from a Single Mom
Back when I was married I encouraged my husband to take our daughter to his mother's for Mother's Day weekend. Breakfast in bed was not enough; I wanted the whole weekend off. Mom needed down time. In a complete reversal, as a single parent, my Mother's Days are the few weekends when I have my daughter all to myself.
Being a single parent is like embarking on an adventure without a guidebook. It's taking on a life role without a role model. You make it up as you go along; a "can do" attitude really helps. If your children want a tree house, you build a tree house. You teach them to fish, to throw a ball, to fix a toilet. You teach them what they need to know even if you are only half a step up the learning curve. The definition of "mom" changes.
Your time is much more predictable. When you have the kids, you're the parent (and its precious time, it's Mother's Day). When your spouse has the kids, he's the parent. It is a clean, well-defined paradigm with a schedule laid out and written down a year in advance.
Many fathers may have more of an opportunity to spend quality time with their children after separation than before. Real time, total immersion time, true Father's Days; they are not just passing by at breakfast time before heading off to Home Depot.
When the kids are at dad's house you have to learn to turn off being a mother, and trust your spouse's parenting skill or you will drive yourself nuts. (Learning to trust the person you just divorced is a feat of mental gymnastics worthy of an Olympic gold medal.) You can't parent long distance or by remote control.
When your spouse has the children, a huge gaping hole yawns open in your soul. Your self-definition as "mom" is suddenly and totally without an object. For many folks this gaping hole is filled by a desperate struggle to keep the same roof over the children's head, to reduce further disruption in their lives. Keeping a house in Carlisle plus another residence elsewhere is no mean feat.
Some people fill that hole by rushing out to find a new spouse. Personally, I bought a canoe. As for love, get a dog. When it gets old and starts peeing on itself, the situation is a lot easier to deal with.
How do the kids fare in this parenting model? Probably better then they would have in a dysfunctional classic family situation. A child of divorced parents is not a child with a problem; that child has parents who are trying to solve a problem and get that child to a better healthier place.
Both parents struggle to resist the temptation to pack too many fun or necessary activities into the limited time that they have with the child: the "Disney Dad" phenomenon (although this mom has caught herself doing it too.) And the socks and bathing suits always seem to be at the wrong house at the wrong time.
All of the above assumes two parents, two actively involved, responsible, caring parents. My family is blessed with this situation. I cannot speak for those who are truly single parents, as in "the only one." They are "on" as the parent always. They are the champion be-all, do-all, all-the-time, mom.
Another de facto "single parent" model, very common in Carlisle, is the mom who is solo and in charge all week while the husband travels and then has to do a 180-degree turn to be a deferring spouse on the weekends. Talk about mental gymnastics. They are champion moms too.
Sometimes Mother's Day is when you have your kids. Sometimes it's when you don't. Like motherhood itself, the true meaning of Mother's Day changes with your situation. Celebrate it in all its meaning.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito