Parenting Alone

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July 18, 2018
Wendy Kaufman

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So now you are by yourself, but do you remember that time every evening while you were still married when you got into bed with your ex-spouse and rehashed recent events? Having a quiet conversation about your children’s daily accomplishments, failures and foibles was just part of your normal routine. After a divorce, you climb into an empty bed and conduct a silent internal dialogue while yearning to hear virtually any other viewpoint. You crave a response to your doubts, questions and concerns about the decisions to be made regarding your children. It’s lonely out there.

The life of a single parent is intense. Every morning you wake up and are responsible not only for yourself, but for every single need, wish or desire of your child. You probably have a job, but have to keep up with children’s school, their financial needs, the extra-curricular activities, doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and optometrist appointments. You are also the gatekeeper of their social life. Using coveted paid time off for a trip to your child’s orthodontist, to whom you pay a gajillion dollars, is like an all-expense paid trip to Yuckville, Population, 1. Your to-do list is endless. At the end of your work day you have dirty laundry, meals to prepare, dishwashers to empty, bills to pay and homework to supervise. And when you finally climb into bed at the end of a looong day, you have nobody to talk to but yourself. It’s like a mash-up of the movies Groundhog’s Day and The Curse of Chuckie.

Does it get better? Of course it does get better (and, sometimes “worser”) because life is a series of peaks and valleys. There is ultimately a finite limit to how much a single person can physically accomplish, so your children will learn to step up and do for themselves. The process is painful, but the result is that you will have children more readily equipped to handle the vagaries of daily life. They can learn to separate the darks from the lights when doing a load of laundry or risk having ten pairs of pink sox. They will acquire the knowledge that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is easy to make and delicious to eat. If their braces have a broken wire cutting into their cheek, they can call the orthodontist to make an appointment and let you know when to get them there. If they want a new Apple iPhone instead of your gently used, hand me down they can get a job, save their money and buy it. They will hear the word "no" much more often than they would like. I believe children of divorce learn to assume responsibilities at a far younger age than their counterparts who live in still-married households.

Being a single parent is not for the faint of heart. Nurture yourself along the way. Keep in mind the fact that you have a responsibility to yourself and don’t have to spend every cent you earn on your children. Kids do grow up and someday you will have the house to yourself and a life of your own. In the meanwhile, you are allowed to go for a walk, meditate, set aside money in your 401(K) account, read a good book, or binge watch a trashy show.  Remember to be kind to yourself and keep in mind that this, too, shall pass.