How to let go

I’m Not The Fun Parent — And I’m Finally OK With That

I felt like it wasn’t fair he got to do all the fun things with the kids.

Originally Published: 
Father and son playing video games together at home.
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My ex-husband and I split amicably many years ago. When we split, I took on the role of the day-to-day organization of our family — keeping tabs on doctor’s appointments, fielding calls from school, you name it. Our kids are now teenagers but the one thing that grated on me for years is how I took on the role of the day-to-day organizer, from doctors' appointments to fielding calls from school. In other words, I became the default parent, which means my ex has gotten to be the fun parent. And I’ll be honest, I struggled with it — a lot.

My kids are with me 70% of the time. I am the one who makes most of their meals, takes them back-to-school shopping, pays for the high-protein snacks they want, and stays on top of the school schedules. Sometimes I have to tell them we don’t have the funds to do fun things they want to do.

Meanwhile, my kids go see their dad three nights a week around dinner time. He takes them to do stuff, from dinners out to going to the movies. My kids just got back from a long weekend with him in New York City. Next month, they are going to Seattle to spend a week with their cousins, and this summer, they’ll be spending weekends at his lake house.

When we first got a divorce I got upset and felt like it wasn’t fair he got to do all the fun things with the kids. Even now that they’re older, having them only on evenings a few nights a week means he’s not as tired as I am at the end of the day. He doesn’t worry much about all the tiny details because he knows I’m the one who makes all of their appointments and keeps on top of their schedules.

I had to let go of it, though. I realized I couldn’t go on feeling resentful; I couldn’t fault my ex for giving our kids things I couldn’t. Instead, I had to remember the things I can give them. One day I made brownies for my daughter. She’d texted me from her dad’s with a horrible period and wanted me to come to get her. On the way home she told me she was craving brownies, so I got her situated with her heating pad, and soup and then made her a batch. She came downstairs and told me, “The brownies smell so good. I’m so glad I’m home.”

After that, I stopped being angry about our situation. My ex and I both offer different, equally valuable experiences for our kids. Yes, he is the “fun” one who is able to take them to do more things than I can. They love him very much and have a great relationship and for that, we are all very lucky.

I am their home base, their safe space, and the one they come to when they are having friend or relationship troubles. I’m more organized so I keep their social calendars straight, and I’m their sounding board for sex and relationships stuff. My ex has actually told me several times he’s so thankful they have a mother who they can go to.

I have really had to learn, over time, that this is not a competition; it’s still very much a partnership and we both have the same goal. And that’s to give our kids the best we can.

Co-parenting isn’t easy on a good day. But after letting go of the anger I felt toward my ex it got a whole lot easier.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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