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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Not just mommy wars anymore

While I sit here on hold with the Crank of Humerica, listening to some rather cheesy classical music, I got to thinking about a conversation I had over the weekend with another single mom. She was rather ticked (and that's putting it lightly) with a casual friend's comment about how she "understood" how hard single parenting is because her husband was away on a business trip for a week and she was doing all the parenting by herself.

Ever want to REALLY piss off a single parent? That's how. Believe me, one week of solo parenting does not, nor will it EVER equal single parenting. I mean, you have a partner that picks up some of the slack when he's home. It might not be a lot of slack, and for some moms, it might be a little too much slack, but you're not doing it alone day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. You're just not. So, if you're in a partnership and your partner goes away for a few days, never, but never tell your single parent friends that you get how hard it is.

The same goes for divorced single parents who split custody versus either single parents by choice or abandonment. There is a HUGE, I repeat, HUGE difference between a single divorced parent who gets to dump her kids off at the spouses house every other weekend, and one who never gets a break. Even those people that choose single parenting never really get what it means to be on call 24/7 without any help, ever. Ever. Every sick day is your responsibility. Every field trip is your turn. Every school function is you at the helm. It's you all the time. Every meal, every wiped butt, every phone call from the school nurse, it doesn't matter what the situation is, it's all yours.

At first, it seems daunting, but the all new parents are daunted by how hard it is to handle a newborn. The days pass slowly. The other moms in your Mommy and Me group start going on cruises and taking vacations. You can't do those things. They're too expensive and to difficult to arrange for child care. No weekends away. No time off. It's you, you, and more you. There is no ex-spouse who will pick up little Jeremy from school because he's barfed all over the rug. There is no sister-in-law who will watch Jeremy and Judy with her kids while you go to an all day work function. It's just you.

When divorced parents start complaining to me about how hard it is, I really honestly don't give a crap. I don't care how hard it is to deal with a conniving ex. If that ex takes your child out of your house, even if it's once a year, it's easier than being on every single day. There is just no comparison.

I didn't particularly choose to parent these children alone. It just happened. And I've done it for fifteen long hard years. Years that never offered me a break. Never a weekend off. Not once. Never a day off. Not once. I'm always on.

I love my children, and frankly I don't even know what I'd do if they were gone often. The first time they were both in camp for a month, I have an itty bitty nervous breakdown. I cried incessently I missed them so much. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping, I just missed them with such a broken heart I couldn't function. Of course, that ended up being the ONLY summer when they were both gone at the same time, and since that summer so long ago they don't leave at all. But that doesn't, for one second, negate the fact that there are times when I badly need a break, a break that is never going to come.

Mothers have a hard time imagining any life outside their own. Mothers are human, and we all get into our own little psychodrama called life. But really, the difference between a mom whose husband is gone on business for a few days and my life is so extreme, I just can't believe that people would be so careless to make that comparison. And the same goes for the divorced parent. You're sharing childcare, you're sharing expenses, you have someone to discuss problems with, you have someone to bounce ideas off of, even if your ex is a uncooperative moron. There is someone else out there that cares as much about your children as you do. There is another parent.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are the only adult in your child's world. You make every decision alone. You do it all by yourself. You do it because you love your children and you want to make their lives good. It's not complaining, it's just a fact. It's all up to one single person, and that person doesn't need to be compared to anyone. They're just doing what they need to do to survive.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Daisy said...

When one parent is on a business trip or otherwise absent, the moral support is still there, too, not to mention the financial. It's not the same.

4/2/08 8:19 PM  
Blogger therapydoc said...

A GREAT rant. And a 100% true.

5/2/08 12:51 AM  

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