If you haven’t been in a particular role yourself, you might be unable to imagine what it’s like. How on Earth would you know what it’s like to be an astronaut? Or a brain surgeon. Or a circus performer. Or a single parent. In the four years I’ve spent in that role, which I consider to be as difficult as being a brain surgeon or as exhausting as being a circus performer, I’ve heard some pretty ridiculous things about co-parenting. Here are a few highlights:
1. “You’re so lucky to have child-free weekends!”
Yes, I am. When my kids are with their father, it’s like living in a spa. If being at a spa is the same as doing all the laundry and housework I didn’t have time to do during the week because I was too busy doing all the cleaning, all the school runs, all the homework supervision, all the bath times, all the bedtimes and all the things in the world involved in being responsible for two young children. When I’ve finished said laundry and housework, I might be lucky enough to pour myself a glass of wine before I fall asleep on the sofa at 8.30 p.m. because I haven’t had more than six hours of sleep for the last five nights and when I do stop I invariably fall into a comatose state.
2. “Are you good cop or bad cop?”
Are you serious? I’m both. Which is highly confusing for all parties. There is no other adult in our house — cop or non-cop — so I’m everything. Even when I feel like a child myself and just want to curl up on the floor with a blanket and have someone stroke my hair, I have to carry on adulting. That may involve entertaining, peacekeeping, advising, coercing or admonishing in the style of the biggest, baddest cop in the town.
3. “How do you handle the guilt?”
I was handling it just fine until you brought it up. Seriously though, single-parent guilt is a wasted emotion. It is what it is and it’s tough enough without being wracked with guilt. Guilt stops you from moving on, and when you end the relationship with your kids’ other parent, you have to move on. You have to trust in and own your decision, because what’s the alternative? Beating yourself up about something that was more than likely absolutely the right decision? No thanks.
4. “Your kids must love having two Christmases”
They probably do. Or at least, they don’t know anything different. They spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other, and it switches every year. It works for us, but it’s far from ideal. Both myself and their dad are missing out on a massive chunk of Christmas fun with our kids. The last thing on our minds when we split up was, “Hey, at least our kids will get two Christmases from now on!”
5. “Can you babysit my kids tonight?”
I’m all for moms helping each other out. And if I had another adult at home with me every night, I’d be delighted to watch your kids. But in my current single-mom position, that would mean bringing my own kids to your place, otherwise I’d need to get a babysitter for them so that I could babysit yours. And that’s just insane. So we’d all come over and my kids would probably keep your kids awake all night and because I hadn’t slept for more than six hours for the last five nights, I’d fall asleep on your sofa and the kids would run riot and trash your house. I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind.