What Married Parents Need To Know About Single Parents

So I’m annoyed. An old friend shared this post from the Humans of New York Facebook page today:

“I was worried the divorce was going to destroy my relationship with my children, but it actually ended up improving it. Before the divorce, I was a working father. Work always took priority. I knew that if I had to skip a soccer game for a work meeting, my wife would be able to take the kids to the game. After the divorce, I only got to see my kids every Tuesday night, every other Monday, and every other weekend. It completely changed my mindset– I went from being a working father to being a parent. If there was a work obligation during my time with the kids, I had to change it. I couldn’t spend weekend mornings at the gym anymore, because that would cut into my time. I began cooking dinner on my nights so we could all eat together. The time restraints that the divorce put on me caused me to completely realign my priorities.”

This quote does not annoy me. Nor does my friend’s comment discussing her interest in the difference in mindsets between married vs. single parents and how to prioritize a child’s needs. What annoyed me was a few women (who I do not know) who commented on feeling “jealous” of the freedom afforded us single parents on our nights off from our kids. This completely dumbfounded me.

I realize we all have our own unique situations. And my situation may be one of the most unique. I actually get along with my son’s father. In fact, we get along so well, dare I say, we are best friends. We have been able to peacefully and happily co-parent Max in the healthiest of ways. He is the priority. We have never made him a pawn in a game. We have never made him feel like he comes from a broken home. In fact, he comes from two very whole homes. But, we have sacrificed a lot.

As Max has aged, so have we. Our careers have changed. Our schedules have changed. When Max was younger, there was a much more equal distribution of responsibilities. But, almost all nights have always been mine. So, from the time Max was school aged, I have been the primary parent. Stephen has always worked weekends. He has been sure to see Max in the mornings but his job required him to spend his nights and weekends at work. (Side note: Anyone who knows me, knows I think Stephen is one of the greatest parents ever.)  Recently, Stephen opened a business, which has consumed even more time. I am in 100% support of his decision to do this. But, the sacrifice on both of our parts has become even larger. He sees less of Max. I have more time with Max. This isn’t easy on either of us. We do it for Max, as much as for each other.

Being a single parent is hard. Being any kind of parent is hard. But, the biggest difference is (and I can speak with authority on this because I have been both types) when you parent as a couple, you have a level of support that a single parent will never have. You can hand your child off when the other parent walks in the door on a daily basis and say, “I need a break” and lock yourself in the bathroom. You can close the bedroom door at the end of the night and vent about how hard it is to be a parent. On the other hand, when you are a single parent, there is no hand off. It’s just you. And your child. And their needs. All the time. On those days you get “off”, you are picking up the pieces. And you are still being a parent.

A bit of the comments on the Facebook post focused on the social freedom of single parents. And for the non-primary parent, probably some of this is true. In my case, my social life is carefully planned, complete with imposing on the kindness of others, feelings of guilt, and often spending time with married women who live a life I know very little about. I struggle with the idea of dating. Men with kids want to prioritize their children (and should). Men without children don’t understand the responsibility that comes with dating a single parent. At the end of the day, sometimes it’s just easier to spend my “alone time” alone.

I will not be so insensitive to say that I envy married parents because I know enough about people to know that marriage does not equal happiness, just as being single doesn’t mean you are free. Just please understand this, married parents, single parenthood isn’t what any of us wish. It’s what we have. And it’s what we do.

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