When I stumbled across “Why I Cry in My Car Every Wednesday at 6:45am” by Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., my first thought was that she was headed to a job she hated. But then I learned her devastation was caused by honoring a shared custody agreement. I was indignant, angry even, that she would catch a case of the boo-hoo-hoo’s because her girls were headed to daddy’s house for a few days. Many women, myself included, don’t have the luxury of a healthy co-parenting relationship. I know far too many single mothers who have had to wipe away her child’s tears because daddy stood them up--again. Or worse yet, had to field questions about why they never see daddy--ever.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say my first impulse was to tell Lauren to cry me a freaking river, but then again, I don’t know her whole story. She could still be grieving her divorce, she may have drifted away from her girlfriends so she is lonely when the children aren’t around. I simply didn’t have any context to be nasty to her. Instead I did comment that she’s lucky to have an ex who wants to be an active father and she should consider that as she’s questioning her parenting choices.
To be honest, I feel like periods without the children around are ideal opportunities for single mothers to get in touch with who they are as individuals. We all had lives, activities, and interests before our mini-me’s entered the picture. Time apart can help you reconnect with friends, pick up hobbies and causes to become passionate about, or even date! Trying to navigate a social life around an always-on parenting calendar is no small feat. Enjoy your golden opportunities. And speaking of enjoyment, consider all of the stories of mommy guilt about sneaking away for a pedicure just to have a little time alone. Well, if the kids are with daddy, you don’t have to sneak. You can have a whole spa day if you so chose, because you’re on your own time, now. And, if you want to have popcorn and wine for dinner, you can. And you can watch House of Cards before bed instead of Frozen. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Embracing your child-free days is an exercise I encourage for a few reasons, particularly because the kids are extra happy to see you when they return home and they may behave a little better than usual. Also, kids do eventually grow up and reduce your role from the center of the universe to ATM machine. Having a life outside of mommy duty will ultimately prepare you for when they move away and there’s really cause for tears.
Quia Querisma is a single mother who lives in Dallas with her 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son .
More from parenting