My kids have always loved taunting me about how all their friends have this, that, the other thing, and how they have “nothing.” They often dabble in the game of “let’s see if we can persuade Mom to do this, or buy us that, by making her feel worthless because we are the only people in the world who have to go without it.”
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but probably not. I legitimately think that is how they think about things sometimes — especially after my divorce.
They are young kids, and I’ve heard around the block that mine aren’t the only ones who compare and contrast their lives to others. So why I didn’t expect, while going through my divorce, that they’d compare their life with their dad to their life with me is beyond me. I should have known that would be the case.
They spend a few nights a week at their Dad’s house. He lives about ten miles away in a condo that is within walking distance to all the kid hot spots — McDonald’s, the local mall and movie theater, gas stations (they have the most amazing snacks!), the list goes on. There are sidewalks, street lights, and many of their friends live nearby. You can have food delivered and they never have to do yard work because the condo association does it for all the residents living there. So instead of getting outside and raking leaves, like they do at my house, they get to sit on their father’s sectional and play video games while someone else does the yard work.
I, on the other hand, live in a small town where the sidewalks are scarce and no friends live within walking distance. We have one blinking street light and there has never been any type of delivery service here, ever. They can’t walk into the pizza joint and hang with their friends, and really, life is utterly boring here for them these days.
This is where they’ve lived their whole life, yes, but they now have two homes. I know it has been a hard transition for them. I mean, how can it not be?
I genuinely thought it would be better for our kids to be able to stay in the home that they knew, but they now want me to sell their childhood home and buy a condo next to their father because that is place to be. Fuck childhood memories like sledding in the backyard, bonfires, family barbecues, and nice yard to play in. It’s all dead to them, and they want to give it all up so we can get takeout and hang with their squad every spare second.
I know they are kids and these are the things that are important to them, but I’m not going to alter my parenting philosophy because they find life in their dad’s condo more “fun.” They’ve always had chores to do, and divorce transitions notwithstanding, that isn’t about to change. I’m not about to compete with the fun time they have at their father’s house. They won’t be relieved of their chores around here, just because they don’t do the same at their dad’s house.
I understand that because their dad doesn’t see them as much as I do, he works long hours, and he wants to spend quality time with them, he doesn’t want to be a stickler for things like “chores.” I want my kids to enjoy their time with their dad — really I do — and not only because it means I can lie in the starfish position and recuperate from solo-parenting, or go out with my girlfriends and come home as late as I want.
But that can’t come at the expense of my own feelings. I’m not going to let the easy-breezy time they have with their dad make me feel guilty, or like I am doing something wrong, or they like their father is better — because it’s just not true. I’ll admit that felt that way at first, but then I came to my senses. Because it’s not about outdoing their father; it’s about their father and me parenting the best way we can. That looks different for both of us, and that is all right.
After all, I’ve always been pegged as the strict parent. I pick them up everyday after school, I see their lunches get packed, their homework gets done, permission slips get signed and their appointments are made. It can be stressful, which is why I run a tight ship. I know this translates as me being the “bad guy,” the un-fun parent, but it was the way I played before my divorce and I sure as hell am not going to stop now; I’m too good at it.
Their father isn’t doing anything wrong. I am not doing anything wrong, and those kids aren’t the boss of us. Once I realized that, I was all right with myself. But I’d be lying if take-out and a man coming to do yard word doesn’t sound pretty damn amazing. Just don’t tell my kids I said that.