It’s Wednesday night and I am getting ready to go out to dinner with a friend. I didn’t call a babysitter, and I’m not navigating around sticky fingers or Legos. In fact, it’s quite easy to get ready to go out when you’re not also juggling a 4-year-old who is mad that you gave her a pink plate, when she really wanted the blue one.
My friend asks, “Don’t you feel selfish for enjoying your time away from her?”
Um, no, I fucking don’t.
This is my life now. I get ready with ease, I come home at whatever time I want, and I can take a trip to L.A. with a few days’ notice. It’s the life of a weekend mom, or at least, it is in my case.
I had never heard the term “weekend mom” before I became one of them, but it’s the term for a mother who has visitation, instead of full custody. From the time that my daughter’s father and I decided that she would live with him and visit me, I got “weekend mom” backlash from every corner.
“But … you were such a good mom. What happened?”
“It’s sad that you can’t handle your child.”
“Oh, did the drugs get you?”
“Not everyone is cut out to be a mom.”
Oh, and my personal favorite: “I wish I could be that selfish. I love my kids way too much to do that though.”
First of all, I would like to say “fuck you” to the people who think that saying something like that is even remotely appropriate. Then, I would like to add “but I forgive you,” because it’s not entirely their fault that we live in a society that places such a heavy burden of perfection on mothers.
Here’s the reality of the situation: letting my daughter go was the hardest, and also best, decision I could have ever made for her.
I made this choice – with my ex-husband – for a lot of reasons. Some were about our daughter – we wanted her to go to a better school, to have more opportunities for sports, to grow up with her sister, and to have two parents in her household. Some reasons were about me – I wanted to stop working a corporate job and work for myself (which I am now able to do), to have financial flexibility, and to have some time to work on myself.
Selfish! Bad mom! Alert! Alert!
That is what I imagine to be happening in most people’s minds when they say nasty things about me because of how I choose to parent.
The biggest and most destructive stigma of being a weekend mom is that you are told you aren’t as much, as good, as present, or as loving of a mom because of it.
I’m no less of a mom because I don’t see my daughter every day.
In fact, in our situation, I’m a much better mom because of this. Since I’m not the only one who feeds, bathes, clothes, rocks, reads to, and provides for her, I’m able to give her so much more of myself when I am with her during our visits than I ever was when I saw her every day.
To come to this kind of choice with your child is one of the hardest things in the world – and it’s not a decision I took lightly. That being said, I’m not going to mope around and feel guilty or ashamed about it. Yes, sometimes I think my heart is going to break wide open from missing her so much, and yes, I don’t spend as much time with my mom friends as I used to.
But despite the sad parts, there is a lot of joy that comes from knowing how happy she is and being able to have some freedom in my life to breathe a little – something I didn’t do for the entire four years (plus pregnancy) that she was with me full-time.
The social taboo associated with this doesn’t serve any purpose except to perpetuate the stereotype that women who don’t parent full-time are bad and that dads are only the primary parent if the mother really fucks up.
The best way to beat this ignominy is to address it head-on.
I don’t feel guilty for enjoying my time without my daughter. I do miss her, every day. I don’t regret my decision, but I do worry about my baby all the time. I’m a good mom and I love her very much. You’re also a good mom, and I know you love your child. I know you don’t think you could ever do what I did. I also know that you never really know until it happens to you.
So, fuck you for judging me and also, I forgive you.