As someone who loves my kids more than life itself, I say this with all sincerity:
Single parenthood? … Dumb.
It doesn’t matter how good, responsible, and/or on-the-ball your kids are. Raising even one … and especially multiple … kids by yourself—and, in my case, choosing to do so—is dumb. And it’s dumb for a lot of dumb reasons.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a very, very long time, you probably are aware that the traditional model of “one mom + one dad raising some number of kids under the same roof” is an ever-shrinking family construct. Be that as it may, the reality is that most activities your kids are involved in still assume a two-parent structure. This plays itself out in a number of ways. Many of them involve timing and schedules:
- The 4-5pm practice that ends at 6, because, hey, mom’s home to make dinner and watch the other kids.
- The school event that goes to some ridiculous hour—on a school night—because, hey, if the little kids need to go home, parent 1 can take them while parent 2 stays to bring home the older ones.
- The endlessly shifting schedules for practices, competitions, events (I’m looking at you, skating). Same principle: Of course we can change the Friday practice—on Friday—to Saturday afternoon, because, hey, with all those spare parents lying around, who cares if skater child has siblings who might have other commitments? Spare parent is there—with spare car, of course!—to pick up the slack.
As you might have guessed, I’m pretty protective of my time. I’m happy—well OK, willing—to run around all day for either or both of my kids, as long as I have some warning—in advance—of when and where said running around needs to happen. The last-minute thing? Not so much.
Schedules and timing are only the most obvious of the external issues with single parenting. There are plenty of internal ones, as well. A friend of mine recently reminded me that being a parent in and of itself means that I am in “taking care of” mode all the time—it’s so consistent that it becomes second nature. And like many second-nature things, I often forget. I forget that my life is substantially different from my non-parent peers, which means I forget a lot of corresponding things: like how it’s not only OK, but healthy, and even necessary, to take as many breaks as possible. As many evenings and days off as possible. Heck, as many weeks off as possible. How that’s better not only for me, but for the kids as kids and for us as a family.
How it really, really takes a lot out of a person to be making all the decisions, all the time—especially when you try (with variable success) to base your decision on what’s right for the other person in question, not (always) what works for you. It’s like having a running “Who’s on First?” dialog in your head at all times, except there are three voices instead of two. One of them is your own, and the others are the voices you are imaging the other two people are contributing to the conversation, as you imagine what their owners might actually say. And somewhere in there, you need to figure out who actually is on third base.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Please understand that I know in theory—and know in practice folks who are examples of this—that being in a parent couple doesn’t necessarily make any of this easier. In fact, when two parents aren’t on the same page about a given parenting issue, the potential conflict can actually be worse—I’ve witnessed how some of those “Who’s on First?” routines play out, and it isn’t pretty. So this isn’t a “my pain’s worse than yours” argument—just that they are different, and unique.
Plus when you screw up as a single parent, even if you kick yourself out of the bedroom and sleep on the couch, it doesn’t give you quite the same sense of a break.
Next: Dating: Dad Division