Before I left my husband, back when I knew I was actually going to leave him, I was scared of divorce. What would that mean for me? How would I make it on my own? Could I really care for the kids without another adult as a back-up? It was a scary step to actually leave and venture out into the world alone. Even though I had been raising the kids anyway with very little help from him, it was a very different feeling to know that there was no one there. Thank God I had my family to lean on in this time as they took me in for the first few years. But eventually I did move out. There was no child support, no joint custody, nothing. There was just me and the kids, facing the world boldly with hopes that we wouldn’t be swallowed up too badly.
So before I continue, I want to put out there that I know what it feels like to not have the kids’ father around. I know what it’s like to not have that break, that you are mommy 24/7, no ifs, ands, or buts. If I wanted to go out, I had to beg my parents. And their schedule wasn’t exactly the most open. So that meant getting a sitter. And with my income, that really wasn’t an option. So it was either go to family friendly events, or stay home. And that was okay most of the time. But sometimes I felt like I would crawl out of my skin if I didn’t get a few hours to myself, or that I would die of jealousy as my friends went out to yet another function that I couldn’t attend.
That is why I am now eternally grateful for a thing called “joint custody”.
The Ex got his act together a few years back and has been taking the kids on the weekend. At first it was weird. I missed the kids. But eventually it became more normal. It allowed me to have that down time to get things done, or to just have time when I didn’t have to do anything. And it allowed Mr. W and me to have more quality time. We even get to go away on occasional weekends, as if we have no kids at all. And when I come back, I miss my kids and can’t wait to see them. I’m refreshed and rejuvenated, and kind of forget why my kids were stressing me out in the first place.
I have realized that being a single parent and sharing the kids even just 20% of the time with my ex, I have more free time now than I did when I was married.
I know there are single parents out there that are shooting daggers at me through these words. I get it. I really am fortunate that the kids’ dad is there to take them for a few days so I can regain my sanity. When you have rescued your kid one too many times from drinking the water out of the dog’s dish, stopped your kids from jumping on the couches, stepped on Lego landmines after you have just finished cleaning the living room, decided what’s for dinner when you’re too tired to think, cut gum out of your toddlers hair – again… I know you would give anything for a break. So I want to offer this advice to you. Make friends with other single parents in the same situation as you. And create a schedule between the two of you to take each other’s kids so that the other can enjoy a few hours (maybe even an overnight) of kid-free time. Before the Ex was on track, this is what saved me. One night a week I’d take my friend’s toddler, and one night a weekend, she’d take my two kids. It gave us both that freedom to know what it felt like to be kidless for a couple hours – to go to the store unchained, to sit and read a book, to go out to the bar with friends, or even just to clean the house and keep it clean. I cannot rave enough about creating a babysitting co-op with other parents to save money on babysitting and be able to have some time to unwind and be a good parent again.
Single or married, what do you do to create kid free time for yourself?
What do you do during your kid free time?