As common as it is to be a divorced parent today, it still feels like the undivorced folk often do not know the unspoken rules. On a semi-regular basis, I am bombarded with jerky behavior from those who are not living the life of shared custody and co-parenting. While I do not wish divorce and custody sharing on my worst enemy, I do wish people could have just a smidgen of insight regarding the life of a divorced mother with a small child. If I sound like I am coming off as bitter, perhaps I am, because frankly, I’m just done with people trying to mess up my already messy logistics. So hear me out, and maybe we can get on the same page.
When I was married to my ex, living with my child 24/7, I was OK getting a sitter for a girls’ night or birthday dinner. But now that my parenting time is split in half, unless I have a momentous occasion (I’m talking wedding or funeral), I choose to spend every second of that time with my child versus leaving her with a sitter or grandparents.
There are many times the girls are getting together and I miss out, and I’m good with that because I’m spending time with my kid. But what I am not OK with is the blatantly annoying comments that are thrown my way by people who just don’t get it.
They mostly come from people who have no children (so I guess maybe they just don’t get it yet, but one day they likely will), and from women who are fortunate to be with their kids every day but are clearly itching to get out and hook up to an IV of merlot and stare at some hot waiter eye candy for an hour (I get it!).
So, I’m going to help you out and give you some pointers. Let’s start with just five. Think of it as an addendum to Emily Post’s Etiquette, only with a little edge.
1. Don’t Ask Me to ‘Just Get a Sitter’
Unless you are getting married or dying, don’t ask me to give up time with my child so you can test out your new sequin leggings for a GNO. Not only do I have to pay for said sitter, but that means giving up a night (of which I only get a few a week) with my child. I’m sorry my mothering interferes with your happy hour plans, but have a heart, sister.
2. Don’t Ask Me to Switch Weekends With My Ex
I mean seriously?! You want me to rearrange not only my schedule, but my kid’s and my ex’s? Are you for real? Think about that for a minute before making a request that now impacts the schedules of at least three people.
3. Don’t Tell Me I’m So Lucky That I Get a ‘Break’
Listen, I try and maximize my time when I don’t have my child. I engage in the whole concept of “me” time and get to shop at Target without spending an extra $50ish bucks on toys to bribe my child to just get through a few more aisles without a meltdown. But I am most certainly not lucky that I don’t have her with me. This isn’t a bonus. It’s a reality that I make the best of.
4. Don’t Get Annoyed If I Have to Bail
No schedule is set in stone. We do out best to maintain a regular, consistent schedule. But sometimes shit happens and we have to regroup. And sometimes that does even require me to cancel. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a flake. So if I am canceling on you, it’s solely because I need to be a mother first.
5. Don’t Ask If My Husband Can Just Watch My Daughter
My husband is wonderful. He’s a borderline saint actually. And he has a wonderful relationship with my daughter. But he is her stepfather, not her father. It’s a new and complicated relationship that we are all still wrapping our heads around. It’s not your place to suggest he pick up kid duty. Period.
Being divorced and sharing custody is not always easy and unless you’re living it, I get that it’s not a concept that everyone comprehends. I’m beyond blessed that my core group of girlfriends totally get it. They never break any of the commandments above. But it’s a small group.
And don’t get me wrong—I’m not trying to paint the picture that I am an introvert sitting home binging on various Netflix shows every night of the week (although it does happen).
I do have my nights out with my husband, with my girlfriends and even solo time. But I make sure those nights are when my child is with her dad. I also don’t expect my friends to live by my schedule. But I do ask that if you expect or really want me to be a part of something, that you will maybe just take my logistics into consideration. One plus about the whole shared custody thing coupled with me being super Type A is that I usually have a schedule in place at least a month out, sometimes longer. Are there wrenches thrown around that require last minute changes? You bet! But for the most part, I can look at an entire month and tell you the nights I am available if you want me to be part of the plan.
There are many who disregard these things on the regular. Even if it’s not your reality, don’t get mad and have a tantrum. Try having some empathy instead before you whine about a friend not coming to your birthday party because she’s home with her kid. The truth is I would gladly give up every kidless trip to Target to have my child every day of every week.
Know this about the divorced mother trying to make everyone happy: She’d love to be there. She’d love to put on some clothes other than yoga pants, do her hair and makeup, and have some good old-fashioned lady debauchery. She’s not happy about missing it. Trust me. But she’s much more unhappy about missing precious time with her child and that’s what it comes down to. Her kid is going to beat you out every time. And I know firsthand because “she” is me.
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