I was at a school function. It was already obvious to me that although I was acquainted with most of the parents there, I had no real friends. People said hi but no one stayed to talk to me, I changed locations three times to try to either strike up a conversation or make it less obvious that I had no one to talk to. Then when I finally settled on a spot, I overheard a mother talking really loudly, stating,
“It is so much harder to be a married mother than a single mother. I don’t get three nights off a week. I have to run the kids around by myself every day! He’s never around!”
Two other women nodded in agreement, a little uncomfortably.
One kind mother who also overheard this statement and who obviously knows my marital status, turned to me and said quietly,
“Do you find it easier to be a single mom?”
Gotta love her for recognizing my discomfort among the Stepford Wives in my community. (I’m not suggesting that all married women are Stepford Wives, this is a description of the particular women who offended me ). The kind soul who recognized my discomfort is a psychiatrist and one of the moms in an interracial lesbian relationship. So she has probably felt like she doesn’t fit in either. But at least she had her partner with her. I was alone. It was so insensitive for that other mouthy mother (fucker) to be talking like that, that loudly. Didn’t she think that one of those supposedly breezy single mothers might be in her midst? She’s entitled to her opinion, but geesh. It hurt a little; it hurt a lot. It felt like hearing a religious or racial slur from a person you wouldn’t expect it from.
Let the record reflect that I was once married. And I was married with children for eight years. And I’d like to say that I’ve known this woman since our oldest kids were in kindergarten. She was married then and she’s still married now. I was married then, I am not married now. So out of the two of us, I am infinitely more qualified to make the comparison between married with kids and single with kids. I’m the one who has been on both sides.
I say this because I know a married woman’s desire, the fantasy of a having her husband say, “I’m taking the kids for the weekend.” You do whatever you want, or “you go –I got this.” And I recognize that most married women never get a weekend for themselves, unless it is some preplanned girls’ weekend that only happens very infrequently and she has to “pay back” her husband for the privilege somehow. So I get it. My husband never took the kids, I was never completely “off duty.” I completely understand when I hear still married women envy single moms and their traditional every other weekend off. (Which, I might add is not a law, it doesn’t come with the divorce.) I get it. And I get that when my kids are on their (half weekend) visitations, I have absolutely no responsibility for them. I can go out, I can entertain at home. I can sleep in, I can walk around naked and listen to inappropriate music and watch R rated movies or porn —- in the family room! I get it. In its purist simplest sense visitation time is guaranteed time away from the kids that married women do not get. And I get that married women have parental responsibilities that are not necessarily shared with their husband and plus, they are maintaining a relationship. I get it. So I don’t take anything away from married women with children. Did I say that I get it? Because I do. I’ve been there.
However, for many single women with children, the myth of the carefree weekends off is just that — a myth.
First of all, single mothers do not always have one whole weekend off every other week. In my case it is not a whole weekend. It is one night every two weeks. (And I’m not complaining about that, it’s just what it is.) Second, my kids do not “summer” with anyone but me. (And I’m not complaining about that either). Some fathers don’t take their kids at all. Some take them out of spite or to reduce child support payments. Some parents have the best intentions but the children are carted back and forth according to an elaborate schedule based on percentages and someone else’s norm — an attempt to literally “split the baby.” Nothing breezy about it.
Second, and more, importantly, the time that the children are away is by court order. So this is not time for me, on a day good for me and/or that fits my friends’ schedules or the schedules of my favorite hobby. It is not a time where someone who loves me says that he will take care of everything that needs to be done in order for me to have some fun or relaxation in appreciation for all that I do. No, it is a time I am required to present my children to someone who, in my case, has shown complete disrespect for me. It is HIS time with the kids during which he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. It doesn’t matter whether I’d rather have the kids at home or whether I wanted to do something with them, I’m not allowed to have my kids home on designated days. For me, the guaranteed time away from my children is not a good feeling. For me, it often involves tears, Xanax, excessive cleaning, excessive sleep or hardly any sleep at all.
I once explained it this way.
Imagine your child having a minor medical procedure which required a hospital stay. It is something that needs to be done, but you’ve put off. It is something that is not life-threatening and you know your child will not intentionally be harmed but he or she will experience some discomfort. You spent all week preparing your child for this but really, you wish he/she didn’t have to go. You are not permitted to stay in the hospital with your child, you are not permitted to call. But in the long run, it has to be done. Plus, you have no choice.
Now, under this scenario you have a guaranteed free evening, right? Child-free!! Woo-Hoo! Feel much like going out? Would you arrange for a girls night out or a date with someone you met online for the very night you knew your kid was going to be in the hospital, simply because you knew it was one night where you wouldn’t have to get a sitter? Really?
My point is, not every child-free night is a blessing . . . or fun.
Here’s another example:
I remember after giving birth to my first. They kept him in the hospital one day longer than me because they needed to monitor his heart as a precaution (he’d had a pre-natal heart murmur). They told me to go home and get sleep and come back in the morning. I went home. I was up and standing by the bed fully dressed at 6am, still dripping and stitched from giving birth. My husband was fast asleep. (I think it scared him a little when he awoke and I was standing over him. bwahahaha. ) I don’t know how he could sleep. I hadn’t even known this kid for more than two days. I was physically more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life, but the idea of using my baby’s hospital stay to catch up on sleep was completely ridiculous.
Fast forward. Post divorce.
A friend of mine was hosting a school of rock type performance at her house. Kids playing real instruments in a band. I would have loved to have taken my kids. But, it wasn’t my day. The event was at 4:00pm, I had presented the kids for visitation at 2:00pm. I went anyway in support of other people’s kids. I had to fight back tears. My friend noticed my sadness. She has four kids of her own, is married and a stay at home mom. Probably never gets a real break.
She said, “It must be weird not to have your kids here.”
“Yeah, it is. ” I quickly added, “I don’t like it.” She nodded in silence.
Back to the school function and the mouthy lady.
I didn’t say anything to the lady. I’m sick of my circumstance and marital status and don’t feel like defending, explaining or even addressing it. I just wanted to see my kids’ event and possibly enjoy it with other parents. Well, at least I saw my kids. I enjoyed it alone, albeit a bit uncomfortably. Regardless of her right to her opinion, that woman’s behavior was rude, and without regard for the feelings of others.
For the record, I sometimes get sick of the single mom hype, too. I tire of the label. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I hate that. I don’t want pity. I hate that, too. But envy? Envy for a situation you know nothing about? I hate that most of all.
The myth of the weekends off — well, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be, it’s not the same as a married woman’s weekend off– if she ever gets one, it’s not the same for every single mother. My personal experience has been horrendous, despite my court-ordered night “off” and often because of it.
And that mouthy woman? I doubt we’ll ever be friends.
Just Me With . . . my children . . . at home tonight. Thank God.
Great analogy — except I’d have more trust in the nurses at the hospital.
You got that right.
Oh honey, you rang the bell on this one.
So been there. The worst, for me, was when a rich friend with an often-traveling husband told me she knew how I felt because she and I (struggling-to-make-ends-meet-single-mother) were in the same position.
Loved this post! Totally with you on this one. Someone once gave me the “I envy you” line because, in their eyes, I get a “mini vacation” every other weekend. She doesn’t see me crying myself to sleep and waking up still crying with absolutely no motivation to get out of bed. And she obviously has never had her day turned upside down by those cruel emails and text messages. Envy my ass!
Yes, there is an emotional component I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
Wonderful post. I’m married to a great guy who is a fully engaged dad. We have no idea how single parents do it alone. You may not put yourself on a pedestal, but we will!
Thanks, you are a kind soul.
I am sorry for your pain. I know none of us wished for this non sense or could have even saw it coming. What I hate to hear is married women, especially the ones who do not have jobs whining about being single parents. I want to ask them if I can borrow their husbands pay checks or live rent free in their houses to know how hard their lives must be. ggrrrr
Other than that thankfully I have very little anxiety. I have full custody and my x has never taken me to court to try and undo that. I try to share and be fair and it seems to have worked. he has thrown his weight around a bit and altered our day to day but mostly with her consent and I know the father child relationship is important so I figure it is better to have his immature scared antics than an absent father so she wont wonder or idolize.
We’ve made it to her being almost 15 and the though she has a relationship with him where she loves him and even will try to defend him to me she is also old enough to look back and see through the film of my dad can do no wrong.
Take heart. I do not know anyone who grew up and remained hood winked by evil parents. That is perhaps the hardest thing to trust in during the moments of separation and pain but it is true.
Thank you. No, none of this was my life choice either. I never thought I would live like this, raise children like this. I’m glad you don’t have a lot of anxiety. I find your situation encouraging even though I’ve having a rough time of it.
As a former single mom, and now a military spouse (read: single married mom) I too feel the burden of either the pedestal or the mini-vacation. Many military spouses have suggested that we have it just as bad as single moms, I know this to be untrue for two very big reasons, 1) As a married woman I receive my husbands paycheck and if I am good at living within my means I do not even HAVE to work, 2) When my husband is deployed I don’t hear from him, I don’t get rude e-mails or have to send my children to see him. This difference is when he is here I am in a loving supportive relationship and when he’s gone, he is gone. I hated being a single mom, the struggle, the emotional battering, the loneliness. Your acquaintance is a moron, and though I hope she never really knows the difference, I hope that she finds some clarity in the near future.
Thank you so much for your insightful comment. You really understand that it is not just about the absence of a daily physical presence of a spouse. The “struggle, the emotional battering, the loneliness” — yeah, you get it. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.
I too have had both…when I was married, I was a “single married mom”. The ex did not help with anything… he did not change diapers, he did not get up in the middle of the night when they cried, granted I nursed all my kids so there was not a whole hell of a lot her could do there, but still. When running errands alone, he never took them with him, however, if I were running errands I had to take them with me ( I still take one with me on errands). I could go on and on.
When we got divorced he wanted every other weekend and one night a week… to this day (10 years later) this has never happened. He never built a relationship with his kids and now wonders why they do not really care to see him.
He shows up on Sundays for a few hours with nothing planned to do with them, the few times he takes them back to his house he leaves them to themselves while he is glued to the TV… no interaction.His loss… these kids are great.
You are absolutely right, his loss. Sounds like similar attitudes, though my Ex seems more concerned about appearances. It’s okay, though, because now I honestly think that more time and/or interaction would not be good for the kids, it would take them away from their own interests and pursuits which he does not share. Sigh.
[…] other misinformed comments, see: Weekends Off . Share this:TwitterEmailLike this:Like7 bloggers like […]
[…] This remark was icky and irksome to me for many reasons. First, he’s not my husband, no, he most definitely is not my husband. I have papers and forcibly spent $35,000 and counting in the process of making him not my husband. Second, the cutesy term of endearment “hubby” is antithetical to this man to whom I am decidedly not endeared and I no longer see as “cute.” Third, my “hubby’ wasn’t giving me a break, he was seeing his children pursuant to a court custody order and he was shopping at “my” store — most likely picking up food to take home to his new wife for her to prepare and serve to my kids. So, no, my hubby didn’t have the kids to give me a break. See Weekends Off. […]
[…] It is always stressful when the kids get home. They’d only been gone for twenty-eight hours but the whole process: getting them ready and out of the door when they’d rather not go, their behavior when they return, my guilt over how I choose spend my time when they are gone (not getting enough done, not having any fun) is always difficult. See Weekends Off. […]
Anxious sigh… Every time I go to a school function for my daughter I feel alone. I have not had the pleasure (*sarcasm) of hearing rude/ignorant comments though. Not at her school anyway. It still sucks to be lonely- the odd woman out, etc. Also you are so right about the court ordered “nights off.” Honestly, I wish my ex-husband would have left us alone and never wanted any visitation. It was never a matter of him actually wanting to spend time with her. It was always about how he could control us, manipulate us, and use any excuse to blow up at us. After six+ years of putting up with it and not knowing what to do about it she finally stopped going to see him. She is seventeen now and really cannot be forced to honor the visitation plan. This causes quite the reaction with him, but I was finally granted a restraining order that does not expire until my daughter graduates high school. I hope to never hear from him again.
I am so sorry and I am so glad that you’ve got some measure of freedom now. Yes, I understand the manipulation and control. Our schedule gives him time with the kids often for short periods of time. He cancels when he has or wants to and the kids don’t go if they have school activities but need his permission, but if I want to schedule something that interferes I also have to get his permission. So our first thoughts when trying to plan something or when the kids get invited to something is: “Wait, is it a Daddy day? How is Daddy going to react? I can’t go, can I?” etc. It’s very stressful. Well, more that stressful. It’s horrible and hurts the kids. They have less time for their schoolwork, friends, activities, sleep, etc. We’re all tired of it by this point. The visitations have turned out to be his option and our obligation.
Splitting the baby. Not good.
Hugs to you. I completely understand.
You are exactly right. His option and your obligation. It is usually more about getting what is ‘theirs’ than about actually wanting to spend time with their kids. In my case it quickly became obvious his main goal was just to get what he wanted. It wasn’t about spending time with her at all. Even if that meant she had to miss out on something that was important to her or our family.
I really love your blog and thank you for replying to so many of my comments. I wish you and your children all the best. Hugs back to you. You are a lovely, strong, intelligent woman and I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts here. I think you are helping women who have been in a similar situation feel not as alone. A lot of men could benefit from reading your blog also. It is a true window into a woman’s mind and they would surely benefit from the insight.
[…] or nothing special, followed by guilt and anger for the tears, chores or nothing special. See Weekends Off. I would have beaten myself up for not going out on the one of two nights a month when the kids […]
[…] First, what am I talking about. Some articles for reference, such as this one or this one. […]
[…] Weekends Off Fallacy […]