It is a comment I have received at least a dozen times since my divorce became more widespread knowledge.
“I mean, you’re lucky. At least you get a break half of the time.”
“I wish I only had to deal with my kids fifty percent of the time.”
…Or some variation or another of this same sentence.
And you know what? Plain and simple, it sucks. Not only is it rude, but it is assumptive and cold-hearted.
Our divorce was born from my need to end a very toxic cycle and promote a peaceful environment for our children. Our kids deserve better than all the arguments their father and I had. And despite trying very hard to learn helpful tools in therapy, we eventually realized we were not meant to be together. So, we ended things as amicably as we could (which was not that amicably at all). And we continue to co-parent as kindly as we can (which is not very kindly all the time either). But we are trying. And it is incredibly hard.
I have done hard things in my life, and co-parenting may be the hardest.
But beyond the difficulty of co-parenting with someone who I do not see eye-to-eye with on just about anything, there are additional heartaches that made our decision nearly impossible. I mean, let’s be real: the world was just hit with a relatively unknown virus and consequent massive pandemic. Our divorce was legally finalized about ten days before the globe shut down due to COVID. I went from being a full-time mom to a mom who only gets to see her babies half of the time in a pandemic.
So, within that fifty percent I don’t see my children?
I get to worry about what they’re doing with their father, who I generally almost never align with. Parents who split their time also have the fun, added gift of anxiety over the fact that their kiddos could contract a potentially fatal disease.
Oh, and in that fifty percent single parents also have to work. In fact, I am a single mother working hard to make ends meet. So, to be real, I am not lucky I have my kids half of the time, because the other portion of this agreement (I never really wanted) is that I have no partner to share in the workload running and maintaining my home. And most of us don’t have help help at many points in our journey. So, our child-free time is taken up by making a living. For me, that entails running my three companies and maintaining my household. My “child-free fifty percent” is about .09% glamour and 99.91% work.
The truth is, I am as burnt the eff out as the next mom who has her kids one hundred percent of the time. And to be (more) blunt, as a former homeschool teacher, I would much rather be burnt out on play time than burnt out on bill-paying. I’d also much rather be around my kids every chance possible than not be able to have contact for half of their time. Most parents in my boat feel the same way. Sure, from the perspective of other single parents lacking the support of a co-parent we may seem lucky. But two differing truths can exist at the same time, even if they seem opposing in nature.
But even if we have the support we need (which is rare in all types of parenthood), and our time isn’t swallowed whole by labor (which is also rare in parenthood), we aren’t lucky. Divorce can be messy, grief-inducing, and heart-breaking, especially when children are involved. There is no blessing in being able to see our children on a restricted schedule. It is heartbreaking. So please keep your comments to yourself.