Benefits to Being a Single Parent

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I get every other weekend to myself. I almost hate to bring this up -- because if everyone really understood the magnitude of this benefit, even happily married women might be tempted to race to the lawyer's office. Until I started sharing custody of the kids, I never knew the bliss of an uninterrupted afternoon -- never mind a whole weekend -- alone in my apartment. Just imagine: every other weekend on your own, in your own house. If you clean, it stays clean. Nothing moves that hasn't been moved by you. You don't have to cook. You don't even have to get out of bed if you don't want to -- except, of course, to replenish that supply of Snickers.

The kids are all right. Contrary to the predictions of some know-it-alls, my children have made it thus far without stealing hubcaps, selling crack cocaine, or joining a cult -- and there is every indication that they will reach adulthood without any such problems. In fact, I'm guessing that the kids are better off than if they had spent these years listening to Mom and Dad exchanging angry words or, worse, engulfed by icy silence or crackling resentment. I won't kid you -- or myself -- by saying divorce is easy on them, but perhaps the experience has taught them some valuable life lessons. I've noticed that my kids are more competent, more observant, and kinder than many of their friends who live in two-parent households. One reason for this, I believe, is that they have more responsibility -- for themselves, for each other, for the household. They help out with chores and errands. They look out for each other. They understand when I'm tired. They realize that if they want more than the meager allowance I supply them, they need to arrange baby-sitting or dog-walking jobs to earn extra money. Sure, they have their share of problems, but the point is, they don't have more than their share. By the way, all my kids are honor students.

I can break the rules. I am already different by virtue of being a single mom, so what do I risk by not conforming to relatively unimportant traditions? For example, I can look you straight in the eye and say, "Yes, after dinner, I bathe them and dress them in their sweats for the next day and put them to bed. When they get up, all I have to do is put shoes and socks on them. You got a problem with that?" Is my living room untidy? I'm a single mom; I have better things to do. Ask me what I cooked for dinner last night and I'm likely to say cereal. Am I late for church? Well, you know -- I have to get three kids ready, all on my own.

I like their father again. This one took some work, but now that we're not engaged in hand-to-hand combat, I can remember all the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place. He's smart, he's funny, and he doesn't have a mean bone in his body -- thoughtless, yes, and sometimes maddening, but never mean. And I think I couldn't do better than to convey to our children that their dad is a terrific person.

5/02

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the May 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

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