Yesterday I was in a meeting with two single moms. One of them said she had met a woman the night before who refuses to be called a single mom, but a co-parent. “Genius,” I thought.
When meeting someone and they learn that I am a “single mom” the look on their face is always the same. Their expression goes from engaged to worrisome and sympathetic. “Oh wow! It must be so hard to be a single mom!” I quickly interject that my sons’ father and I share custody and I am not doing this completely on my own. I don’t want to mislead anyone. A single parent has faces struggles that I don’t have. I don’t deserve that credit. But that doesn’t mean that what I do is easy.
The world has a cut and dry view of what single parent means. But in reality there are two basic categories of single parents. There is the quintessential single parent, the one who doesn’t have the other parent involved in any aspect. Then there is the co-parent, whose ex-partner is in the picture and contributes in every aspect of child raising. But there is a gray zone in between which houses the single parent who’s ex only contributes financially, the widowed single parent whose partner didn’t abandon his or her children by choice, and the single parent whose ex lives a long distance away and only sees their children seasonally. You can break it down even further to single parent who is remarried, and married parent who feels like a single parent.
Lately I have found myself in conversations that turn to this topic. I know many co-parents who have such a dislike for their ex that they wish he or she was not in the picture at all, and single parents who would do anything to get their ex involved. Always after these conversations I find myself thinking, “the grass is always greener…”
I am fortunate that my sons father is incredibly involved in our son’s life. We each have our son 50% of the time. Financially we each support our son when he is with us, and larger expenses (health insurance, birthday parties, medical bills) are split. My son has a consistent, positive male role model in his life, and even though his mom and dad don’t live together, he has a mom and his dad at his every beck and call who love and support him unconditionally. We both live our lives for this boy.
Being a co-parent isn’t always easier than being a single parent. While logically I know that this is what is best for our son, I have to admit that there are times when I envy single parents. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have to negotiate schedules when I am planning a trip, I wouldn’t have to consult his father when it came to choosing a school, or choosing a discipline method.
If I was single mom, I wouldn’t have to hold back the tears every other Friday morning when I drop off my son at school knowing I won’t see him for a week. That is the one thing that kills me on a regular basis. I miss half of my son’s life. If my son moves out of the house when he is 18, that means I had 10 years with him (his dad and I split when he was two.) 10 years with an 18 year old boy. That thought is absolutely heartbreaking.
I understand the jealousy that some single parents have towards me. I have time to do adult activities. I can go away for the weekend without worrying if there will be activities aimed for a child. I can come home from work and write without feeling guilty that I am neglecting my son. I have time for s social life. I can go out with friends without arranging childcare. I can sleep in on a Saturday if I want to.
I live a double life. One week I am mom, and one week I am a child-free woman with time to do as she pleases. But at the end of the day, no matter which week it is, as I lie in bed at night that little boy is in my heart and in my head. I can’t count how many times I have seen something or been doing something and thought, “Man I wish Christian was here! He would love this!” I may be single in the aspect that I am not in a relationship with my sons father, and I may be a parent even though it is every other week. But that doesn’t make me a single parent. I am a co-parent, which can be harder than being a single parent.
Like I said, the grass is always greener