One of the few perks of being a full-time single parent
Note: I wrote this article for Tulsa Kids back in January 1993, but I feel it’s still valid for single parents today. Having a weekend alone is one of the few perks of being a full time single parent, so enjoy!
A weekend alone, 36 hours without refereeing sibling battles, playing Candyland or reading Where the Wild Things Are over and over again. No soccer practice to drive to and no playdates to supervise. For most mothers of young children, the thought of having a weekend alone is akin to fitting in your high school cheerleading outfit. A nice thought, but clearly impossible. For divorced parents, it is usually a reality but one with mixed feelings. Being the only adult in the house 24 hours a day is a tiresome duty resulting in the desperate need for a break from round the clock demands. Nevertheless, when the moment comes for my children to leave, I rarely say goodbye without a hint of sadness.
When their father first moved out over two years ago, the melancholy, lost feeling lasted the entire weekend they were gone. My children were still practically babies, barely three and not quite two when we were separated. As a stay at home mom, I was accustomed to being with them constantly and the absence of them left a painful, almost tangible void. I missed their physical beings, I missed their sweet voices, I missed their hugs. They were so much a part of me, I even missed the messy dinners and the bedtime struggles.
Despite my faith in their father’s parenting capabilities, I needlessly plagued myself with thoughts of what I deemed “vital concerns.” Did Caroline have her special blankie, was Alexandra watching too much television, were they eating nutritiously, did they miss me terribly? Besides brooding about the absence of my children, the high points of those initial weekends alone were exciting activities such as cleaning closets, taking long baths and crying while pouring through their baby books.
Eventually I moved to the next stage of adjusting to my weekends without the kids. Although I still approached those weekends with some ambivalence, I was beginning to see the futility of my gloomy attitude. The kids were having great adventures with their Dad on the weekends and he was happy to have them. I was the only one that seemed to be suffering. Enough with the martyrdom! I resolved that I was going to turn a new page in my book, I was going to enjoy this little taste of freedom! By this time I had made friends with a few other single people and would occasionally venture out to see dinner and a movie. I was amazed to discover Hollywood was still making non-animated movies!
It was during this stage I learned that it was perfectly acceptable to indulge in a Saturday afternoon nap or waste a couple hours reading a trashy novel. I ate some of the junk food I didn’t normally keep around the house, rationalizing a little bit of indulgence could be seen as having medicinal purposes in the healing process of divorce. Obviously, I was beginning to enjoy these weekends sans kids. Nevertheless, by Sunday afternoon, I was still more than ready to hug their sweet little bodies, feel their warm breathed kisses and hear their excited recount of their escapades with their Dad.
The passage of time has brought adjustments for us all and a new outlook for me. I now eagerly anticipate the weekends my kids spend with their father. During particularly rough weeks you may even find countdown marks on my calendar. The actual moment of goodbye is still a little heart wrenching, but as I watch their car drive away I also breathe a sigh of relief. The weekend is here and my time is my own, I can do whatever I wish. Often my plans include nothing more exciting than cleaning the house, watching an old movie on television or meeting a friend for coffee but I have grown to relish the solitude, the simple pleasures afforded by the brief respite from responsibility.
In fact, my main concern is that I may be enjoying my every other weekend break a little too much. The 36 hours have sprouted wings and now fly by, never enough time to get everything done. I feel a tinge of guilt admitting this, but now when I hear those sweet little voices announcing, “Mom, we’re home,” I’m torn between rushing out to meet them and hiding out for just a few more minutes.