I recently listened in fascination as a married shared her experience of parenting while her husband was away for a 10-day business trip: She gets more hugs since the kids' affection is not divided by two. She is a more fun parent than normal, stepping into the role her husband typically plays. The kids are better behaved since there are fewer adults around to nag and discipline.
Then she tagged me on a Facebook post:
Being a single parent is… being exhausted, your head aching and with no patience left but pushing through anyway because the kids need to bathe and eat and there's no one else who's going to make that happen other than you. Hats off to those who do it every day.
Of course, one can easily pick apart this happily married, two-income mom's claim to being a “single parent.” I'll allow her to indulge in the title if it helps her cope. But I dismiss assumptions that it is always tougher to parent when you do not have a partner.
Now, if you have a great marriage with a supportive, involved partner who really gets what it takes to care for children, a home and two careers — well, that is certainly easier than going at it alone. If you really enjoy this person's company and you jibe on parenting tactics, that trumps all.
But as someone who was in a contentious marriage, I can tell you that parenting solo is far easier than doing so with the wrong spouse. Less tension in the house. More of a sense of control. Clearer expectations for the children. As my ex and I heal from our divorce I find that we are slowly finding ways to support each other as co-parents that were not possible when we were married. Plus, it is all about expectations and adapting. As I told friend, she is simply not used to being alone with her kids all the time, whereas I am. If I were suddenly forced to co-parent for two weeks I would go nuts. As I wrote last week, the more time I have with my kids, the more time I want with my kids, as we get into the groove of operating as a party of three.
And then there is the individuality factor. Some people simply find it easier to parent by themselves — just like some prefer solo sports like biking or distance running, to team efforts like rugby and dodge ball. But unlike sports — which can be experimented with at whim — parenting and marriage are big-ticket decisions that can only be explored with an enormous front-end commitment. And sometimes you find your groove in situations that you cannot predict.
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, Oprah.com, 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.