Something I want to cover is people's understandings of what solo parents feel (or at least my feelings as a solo parent).
As I stated before I feel really lucky that I have 50/50…I hate this word really but will use it because I don’t know what else to use…custody of my boys with their dad.
It was something we mentioned literally 2 days after we separated and it’s been that way for 8 years.
It works for us and it works for our boys and for our extended families.
I have them Monday afternoon-the following Monday morning, dropping them off at school and then not seeing them again until the following Monday afternoon after school.
It didn’t really hit me until 2 years ago that since 2015, and for the remainder of the time the boys live at home, I only spend 50% of the year with them. And reflecting on that is really hard because I feel like that’s already 50% of the last 8 years I have missed out on. So I’m really trying to embrace the time I do have with them now.
I’m really lucky that my boys seem to enjoy spending time with me. They’ll have time in their rooms playing on their consoles or building Lego but more often than not when they know I’m in the lounge they’ll come down and will sit with me. Which is a lovely feeling.
Things I feel:
Guilt - On rare occasions I will ask my mum to have the boys if there is a work event or some kind of event (theatre show, gig etc) I don’t want to miss out on. I pick and choose these events carefully because they do eat into my precious time. I feel guilty for sending the boys away when I’m going to be enjoying myself but I do have to remind myself that they enjoy spending time with my mum and she always says it's a privilege for her to be able to spend time with them. It just doesn’t make it easier.
I already feel a huge amount of guilt at not having enough time with my children and hate to add to that.
I also feel guilty at not always being able to help them. When they’re at their dads they’ll message me and I have to say “you’re at your dads, he needs to deal with that” and it’s hard but it’s a rule I have to put in place to make sure I’m not invading his time, space or his parenting style.
Hassle/Not a team player - If work in person meetings or events fall on a week I have my children I have to make the decision if I can/want to go. I base this on, as I said, if I can go - this will be due to my mum's availability, and if i want to go - if the boys have gone to my mums already in the past month then I don’t like to then send them off again and make it a regular thing, or if I just feel like I don’t want to miss out on time with them. I then worry that this makes me seem like I’m not a team player or let the team down.
I worry that I come across as being difficult and being a brat.
This is when the work/life balance comes into play and I have to make decisions based on my family and what is best for us and most of the time with things like this, my children will come before work.
I hate that I have to say “This doesn’t work for me because I have the boys” and potentially for dates needing to be reworked around me, but I have always been clear of my situation and it’s not something I’m ashamed about. It’s not as simple as “Get a sitter” or "Ask their dad to have them" because there are the emotional factors that come with it too.
Pressure - As I said in a previous post, I look after the school uniform buying, any school trips, any school issues etc and it can be a lot to do on your own. Not just financially (although their dad does help with some of the financial stuff but then along with that comes the awkward message asking for money).
The boys also have more of an emotional, open relationship with me than they do with their dad so even when they are with him I am the one they will come to (via phone) with any issues they are having and feeling. Which is absolutely fine and I love that I am their go to person for that, but it can then be hard not being with them whilst they are going through something and when all I really want to do is give them a cuddle.
Long distance parenting isn’t easy all the time, it’s really hard to switch off.
Pride - Although these are material things I look at the pile of birthday or Christmas presents and can’t help feeling proud that I was able to make my children happy and provide them with these things on my own.
Also pride in the things they say and do that I know has come from things they learn living with me.
And pride in how they cope with living in two different houses, with two people who parent and live differently. They are incredible boys and have coped so well since the beginning.