Why I’m Jealous of Single Parents
Ah, spring. The birds are back. Grass is battling to get its green on. Women are frantically trying to get in beach shape and men are busting out the grill. It’s an awesome time of year. It’s just a little tainted with dread for solo parents as the two big National Reminders of having lost our spouses loom before us. Hello Mothers Day. So happy you’re back, Fathers Day. Sigh.
It’s tough being a single parent. No argument there. But I’m still jealous of some of you.
To be clear, I don’t know any single parent who does not struggle with the strains of that life. Their children’s lives, after all, must now be divided in half. I’ve seen my friends in tears, missing their kids when it’s not their weekend, or railing against the whims of a vindictive ex who uses the children as revenge pawns. Nothing enviable there, and my heart breaks for them.
The logistics, too, can be stressful as the two now-single parents must determine where to live; who gets the house? Where does the other one go? Maybe one parent moves the kids to a new school, thus compelling the other to move with them or pray their car gets good gas mileage as they will now be commuting to see their child. Toss in the ex dating or marrying someone else who will now become a part of your child’s life and I’ll be first to admit I am not jealous of that.
There is a particular type of single parent I envy -the rare breed that manages continuity in parenting even in the dying gasps of a marriage and straight into the land of lawyers and divorce proceedings. The parents who both set bitterness and broken hearts aside for the sake of their children.
You know who you are. Your ex may have decimated your heart, taken your dog and kept your friends, too. You may stew in bitterness and dwell in the land of broken dreams as you fantasize of all the karma you hope rains down upon him or her one day. Or maybe you’re the one who blew up the union. And yet somehow you’ve both managed to work together for the sake of the children.
Your kids are upset and saddened, or maybe they’re relieved to be out of a toxic environment. Yet because of some freakish strength and upstanding character, your child never loses the security of knowing he or she has two parents who love them. Two parents to hug on birthdays and tuck them in. Two parents to ring in each New Year with and two parents who champion them throughout their lives. Mother’s Day? Let’s make cards and get some flowers for mom. Father’s Day? Let’s break out the grill and play some catch.
Your child smiles the way mine used to before their dad died.
You may check “single” or “divorced” on legal forms but when your child gets in a fight at school, struggles with sports, or fails a test, you have a partner. A teammate to figure it out with. Dad can speed dial mom when Janie gets her period and mom can speed dial dad when Junior backs the car into a tree. And how about them weekends?
I already acknowledged the painful side of sharing custody. But if there is one skill I have developed, it is sniffing out the silver linings in adversity, no matter how elusive they may be. So don’t get salty with me, please. Because I get that it must suck to kiss them goodbye and hand them over to the ex who hurt you. But…. Can you then partake in any of the following: time with friends, sleeping in, weekend getaways, uninterrupted conversations and one of my personal favorites- alone time? Yes you can! Doctors, dentists, car pool, haircuts: Team, Team, Team. Divide and conquer. Please, take all those silver linings and wrap yourself up in them. I sure would.
I’m blessed to have healthy children who love me and inspire me to be a better person.
When I was tempted to give up on life, they were the reason I held on. I have phenomenal friends and family who support me and lift me up. I have my own health and a new love. I know I have it good. My kids do, too. How many children are in the foster system today, fantasizing about having one parent to love and care for them? If I was a better person I would rein in the self-pity here.
I’d do just about anything to be a team again. To have that other half to laugh about the fun stuff and commiserate with the bad. To be able to say “Dad will help you with that,” or to not dread the entire month of June, knowing Father’s Day looms before us. Because no matter how much I spin it for them, the fact is it is not exactly a fun day for kids who have lost a dad. The same goes for Mother’s Day and moms. But most of all, I’d kill to see them smile the way they used to.
I have a vivid memory of one of my son’s last true smiles. We were on a trip with a bunch of other kids, watching a surprisingly funny and talented musician. My son got to volunteer to participate and I can still see his eyes shimmering with joy even as some niggling sense of dread punched me in the gut; it was the day before my husband died. It was eight days before Father’s Day.
So as we enter two months of celebrating parents, I will be grateful my own parents are in good health and going strong. I will thank my husband’s parents for raising the man I will forever be grateful to have been loved by. And as for you, the single parents blessed to have sheltered your children from losing that security, know that even as I may be jealous of you, you rock.
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