Last night I went out for my first outing with my single parents meetup group. There were 7 of us single moms all sharing our stories.
One was fresh out of a quick divorce with a 17 month old son.
One was 2 years past her divorce. A divorce that took 3 years to complete!
Others had similar stories... ex-husbands who didn't work, ex-husbands who were uninvolved... The word "loser" was thrown around quite a bit.
I found myself sinking lower into my chair when it was time for me to speak up.
I am very fortunate. My ex is wonderful, supportive, loving, helpful, responsible. As I told them my story, they all looked at me and said,
"Ok, can we hate you now?"
This morning, I read a blog post at Irascible Crayons about a discussion in the comments at Ms. Single Mama. Apparently a few commenters are saying that women who receive child support and are able to have every other weekend free are not true single parents.
As I read the comments and the blog post, I was reminded of how the ex and I picked on each other while we were married. When either of us was sick or tired, one of us would always emphasize how we were more sick or more tired than the other one. It was quite humorous. I would frequently notice it and say,
"Why does it have to be a competition of who has it worse?"
I have always assumed the definition of "single parent" was one who was a parent and also single. I've even written a post about how the term seems like such an oxymoron, but alas it is how we define ourselves.
I know mothers who haven't seen their child's father since they were pregnant.
I know mothers who haven't seen their child's father since the baby was very small.
I know mothers who chose to be single parents, with no man involved at all.
I know divorced parents who hate each other.
I know divorced parents who do what they can to work together, despite their mutual dislike of each other.
I know divorced parents who respect each other and work to share custody of their children.
I know divorced parents who have sole custody and struggle to make ends meet.
I know married parents who feel like single parents because their spouses are deployed (thanks for the reminder Niki!), physically or emotionally unavailable.
I have a great ex-husband who is actually becoming a better father with every passing year. We'd be happy to share weeks with our children but he travels every week with work. Ironically, he'd probably spend the same amount of time with the girls if we did stay married. The fortunate thing, however, is that the time he does spend with them is one-on-one focused time without me in the middle. He's had to step up. And he most certainly has. He is by no means perfect but I know that I don't have it so bad.
The one thing all of us have in common is that we are parents. We have to give so much to our children. Whether that's 1/2 weeks and every other weekend off, or every day save 4 weekend days a month, or every single waking moment, we are still parents.
But we are also single or in some ways, on our own. We all still struggle with the loneliness and overwhelming feeling of loss. We all still want someone to listen to us and understand. We all still miss intimacy and sex. We all still long for that loving acceptance that a true partner can bring to our lives.
We are all the same, despite some order of difficulty in our lives or our parenting.
We are all doing our best with whatever situation we find ourselves in. And we all still long for love.