When my husband and I first separated, one of the first things I said to him is, "I don't want to be a single mom. This isn't what I signed up for!" Still, for a long time after our split, I referred to myself that way. At the time, I thought a single parent was someone who was, well, single and a parent, but I have since come to learn that a single parent is someone who is truly raising their child alone, without the help of a partner -- and this is not me.
I have a true partner in my ex-husband, who is a devoted and loving father. While I may sometimes rail against him for the way he handled our marital relationship, I have very few complaints when it comes to how he handles our co-parenting relationship. Of course, this partnership is not without its hiccups, misunderstandings, and frustrations, but I feel fortunate to have an ex-husband who is as interested in and dedicated to our son as I am, who never shirks his financial responsibilities, and who will discuss any parenting issue with me until we come to a comfortable resolution.
My ex-husband and I have joint custody of our son, who is usually with me four nights a week and with his dad for three, though we're both very accommodating when it comes to vacation schedules, holidays and visits with grandparents. We attend most doctor appointments and school events together and have monthly dinners as a trio. We know it's a treat for our son to be with both of his parents at the same time, and it's nice for us to be able to discuss things in person, rather than through our usual texts and emails. This year, for the first time since his first birthday, we're co-hosting a small birthday party for our son at my home. I'm glad our soon-to-be 4-year-old won't remember birthday parties at which one of his parents was missing.
Because of our custody agreement, I have the luxury of getting more me-time than do most parents of toddlers. Three nights a week, I'm free to take a class, go to the gym, or have dinner with friend. The best part is, I'm not worried about my son when he's with his dad. I know he is being cared for and treated as well as if he were with me -- and that confidence is worth so much. Recently, his dad was on a vacation for 10 nights, and while I loved having so much concentrated time with our son, I have to admit, I was anxious for a reprieve -- one that truly single parents seldom get.
For many of my separated and divorced friends, attempts to co-parent are nightmarish. Some have been in and out of court, arguing over custody, money, or property. I know of mothers and fathers who get no financial support from their former spouses or whose exes continually disappoint their children by not showing up for scheduled visitations. And then there are the parents who have been single from the beginning of their child's life and have done all the parenting on their own. My heart truly goes out to these solo parents, unsung heroes who do their best at caring for their children all on their own, and many under financial duress. And, again, I feel fortunate that mine is a different story.
For all the pain I have felt through our separation and divorce, I believe my son has felt little if any of it because he has always been surrounded by love, security, and family -- even if we are in two separate homes.
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