Single moms – are you devastated when your kids go to their dad’s?

Moms are always complaining they have too much to do, and too little time. And you know us single moms. A bunch of whiners we are! We’ve got it the worst in the time-allotment department!

Or do we?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a visitation schedule with your ex, you may find you have too much time on your hands. It’s all about the whiplash – snapping abruptly from nonstop kid-work-sleep-house-etcetera to an eerily silent house.

This weekend I found myself being bolted awake in the middle of the night by phantom toddler footsteps that were not, in fact, padding to my bed for a drink of water. After all, my son was at his dad’s. I wasn’t sure what to do with my urge to coordinate an outing on this sunny, brisk fall day. Where were my morning kisses? How do I cook breakfast for one? It felt like an appendage had been severed.

Instead of being a mom, I spent a leisurely morning with a girlfriend – chatting over a greasy diner brunch, driving around the city running errands, gossiping and laughing as if time were abundant. The afternoon was a productive one, with a 3 mile jog, Ikea cabinet assembly that did not net homicidal sentiments, and a cover-to-cover reading of Vanity Fair. I’ve got nothing to complain about, but there was a sense of emptiness to the day. Of loneliness. A sense of what it must be like for noncustodial parents everywhere.

I recently met a single dad with 50-50 custody who admitted to gaining 30 pounds in the first year after his divorce – all of it owning to the ice cream he’d down in an effort to drown the horrible feeling of going home to a kidless house. A single mom confessed to feeling lost on the morning after the first overnight her toddler spent at his father's. “I miss Mr. Pee Pee pants crawling into bed with me for a snuggle,” she says.Of course, all this me-time might sound like heaven to married moms (not to mention single moms with absent exes), and I’m vowing to make the most of mine. Saturday night I went to the theater, and I’m looking for a Sunday morning running group and a regular volunteer commitment. I swear I’m going to reconnect with old friends and maybe make a few new ones. And if I’m lucky, I’ll make my free time just as crazed and hectic as my kid time.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Honoree Corder on May 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    As someone who had 100% custody for 12 years, and now has 1 weekend of visitation a month, I honestly thought this was a trick question! :) But seriously, I know it’s hard to decide what to do when you don’t have kids to necessarily worry about.

  2. Pamlet on December 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Oh, god I know this feeling SO well. There are some weekends when I’m doing all of the kid-free things: brunch with friends, leisurely shopping, reading, late night dinners & theatre outings, and others where all I want to do is watch Netflix in my pjs & nap the weekend away until my littles return.

    • Emma on December 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

      There are so many facets of women — intellectual, professional, romantic, sexual … and yes moms. Being a single parent, particularly if you have a visitation schedule, allows for lots of room to develop all those parts. Which is pretty fantastic.

  3. lori on December 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I’ve had sole custody for over 10 years (with no visitation)….I think I had a free day…once in 2002 :(. But, my girl is pretty cool and I’ll be totally devastated when she decided to head to college one day!

  4. Leslie on December 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

    My son is 16–After handling most of the care in the early years, I laugh that I miss him so much when he is at dads or with friends! I have friends, family and a dog that keep me busy (job too of course!) I think what I feel is just being a parent vs. a single parent. I read a quote once “having a child is like forever having your heart partially out of your body.” I agree.

    Happy Holidays to all you caring parents-

    • Emma on December 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      That is a great quote, thanks for sharing, Leslie. Sounds like you have a great, full life. Good for you.

  5. Loree on June 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    This is very true. I just survived my first overnight away from our kids (2 and 3.75-almost 4) I laughed, cried and completely over planned. I was trying to be intentional and ended up exhausted. LOL. The sleep all weekend and Netflix sounds good right about now. Thank you for this blog. I just came across it and wanted to find out how other professional single moms deal with life.

  6. Jessica on October 20, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    I learned this pretty early on. I’ve been separated for a few years and have gotten into a good rhythm of week on week off with my Ex. My biggest suggestion is to have a calendar that says when you have the kids and when holiday’s are. I planned a trip to Miami over Mother’s Day weekend my first year because I was kidless but didn’t realize it was there. To this day my Ex still brings it up (even if my kids don’t) to try and make me feel bad or “turn” people against me.

  7. X x x on June 8, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    I absolutely hate it without my kids. Yes I could do with the time to myself. Yes I can sleep. Yes I get to be me…..but my heart isn’t there :'( so how do you enjoy anything?! Maybe it’ll take time as I had my kids for 7yrs sole custody. Now I’m not prepared to share.

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