Parenting and Non-Parenting Days: Dream Vs. Reality

cooking for one solo alone meals ramen noodles diet dr pepper gourmet dream vs reality 2

Friends, family and people who newly hear I’m a divorced mom often ask, “What do you do with all of your time when you don’t have the kids?”

I suppose from the outside it might look like a luxury vacation to be without my kids half the time. These inquiring folks might imagine my house becomes spotless the minute the kids leave, that I treat myself to pedicures and long hours of reading books in the bathtub and that I’m whooping it up on the weekends like some carefree suburban socialite.

I could lie and tell you a glamorous tale about how I’m so well-rested and full of energy when the kids are with their dad that I glow like a sunbeam and smell as fresh as dew, but the truth is, my child-free time is usually completely consumed by work, and I don’t even have time or desire to wash my hair every day. I’m self-employed (about 25-40 hours a week) and have a part time job (about 20-25 hours a week) and I try to cram most of the self-employment hours into the days when the kids are away. My house becomes a pit of endless paperwork and clutter and discarded clothes on my non-parenting days because I’m home for about 15 minutes of every 24-hour period and have no time to pick up after myself because I need to focus on showering, making myself look somewhat presentable and locating my wallet and keys under said papers.

I do sometimes whoop it up on the weekends, though. But not socialite- style. More like, “How much fun can I fit into the hours between 9pm and 2am? Because I’m not getting another chance for adult recreation until two weeks from now.” That kind of outing led to my first date after my divorce, which may or may not be a good thing.

A few things that are different than what I expected when I first started having to share custody of my kids with my ex:

From the blog.

The Dream: I will cook healthy dinners each night so I can enjoy the foods I love without the kids telling me they hate what I’ve made.
The Reality: I will almost never be home at dinner time, and on the rare instances I am, I’ll be so tired and unprepared I will eat ramen noodles, oatmeal or eggs chased with Diet Dr. Pepper and followed by a dessert of a scant handful of chocolate chips.

The Dream: I will have time to clean the house from top to bottom when the kids are with their dad.
The Reality: I will have less time to clean than when the kids are home, plus no children to help me pick up their toys and I will make a huge mess because of massive time crunches, which I will have to clean up before the kids return.

The Dream: With all my free time, I’ll be able to exercise and will shed those pesky 10 pounds I’ve gained since last year.
The Reality: I will exercise more, because I can actually jog outside for 30 minutes without the kids to worry about, but won’t lose any weight because I’m eating out and drinking more alcohol.

The Dream: Crafts will be crafted, books will be read and I’ll write that book that’s been in my head for two years.
The Reality: See above – I won’t be home long enough to do anything.  I’ll be so sleep-deprived that my favorite forms of entertainment will be 30 minute naps between jobs and the five lives of Candy Crush I waste right before I fall asleep on my iPad.

The Dream: My friends and I will go out for glasses of good wine at fine establishments with mature, stable men engaging us in witty and interesting conversation.
The Reality: My one divorced friend and I will go out dancing at a places with, yes, valet parking but also sometimes body guards who subject us to metal detector wands, we will drink cheap rum and Cokes that still cost $8 and we’ll meet men who are rampant flirts who will ask for any woman’s phone number within 2.9 seconds of meeting her, no conversation needed.

What have you found to be different than you expected after your divorce?

Images gathered from Flickr, used under creative commons license from these members: Afroswede, nathanmac87, siska maria eviline, Rubbermaid Products, SIUE Campus Recreation, Zdenko Zivkovic, David Boyle, Venturist, and David Guo’s Master.

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2 thoughts on “Parenting and Non-Parenting Days: Dream Vs. Reality

  1. Ummmmmm, yeah, totally true. I’m on the other end (married a divorced dad, stepmom to three kids and we had twins three years ago, which (yes) totals five kids). Everyone thinks we’re so chill and lax on the weekends we only have the toddlers…but the truth is it’s easier when all five are home. The “big kids” LOVE their little siblings and they play together like crazy. Plus, they help out with the work. Just last night, my ten year-old stepson was going up to take a shower and yelled down, “Hey babies, wanna take a shower with me?” I sat on my bed, read an e-book, and listened to him patiently help the toddlers scrub up. All I had to do was have towels ready for sparkling-clean three year-olds.

    And, yeah, you totally do the work you need doing when the kids are away so you can be more “present” when they’re home. Plus, you’re flying solo when they’re home, so there’s a million things that get left “for later” that pile up to be finished at midnight when everyone’s sleeping.

    You’re amazing, though. Try to remember that in the middle of everything…

    • Thanks for your kind comment! I’m in awe of families who have children and half siblings in the mix – I feel like my life is already complicated without that extra dynamic. I imagine it’s hard on your twins for them to be without their big siblings part of the time. I know what you mean about it being easier when all the kids are there, I felt that way when my older kids were at school last year and the littlest was home with me. He got bored with me!

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