Reframing becoming a single parent: moving past anger and resentment

My ex and I had a big fight the night before I left for NYC for New Year’s Eve. Not because I was dropping off a barfing child, but there were a litany of complaints about the person he thinks I have become. It’s a whole separate post if I care to relive the fun of two hours of fighting with an ex.

When we finally got around to having a productive conversation, one thing he asked me was whether I was still angry with him for leaving for work (for those of you who don’t know, he’s moved to another country for up to 2 years for a job opportunity, leaving me as the sole caregiver for our child).

I answered honestly: I am no longer angry, but am working through no longer resenting his decision. I resented it because I thought it would damage my son. While I’m sure there will be some damage to their relationship long-term, the reality is that he seems to be in a pretty good place day-to-day.

The other part of the resentment is over the restriction of my perceived freedoms. The reality is that having my son every other week for the first year was really great for dating and rebuilding my social life. As I’ve written before in posts about my marriage, I had stopped doing things I wanted to do. I halted progression in key areas of my life (the one exception being professionally).

So it was nice to have time with my son, where I could focus more on him, and then have time that was totally mine. While I missed seeing my son the weeks he was with Will, I got used to it, and I would sometimes call him a couple of times during the week. It was all good.

But now, being thrown into being a sole caregiver, with a job that requires travel, and trying to have a social life at the same time? Forget it. Something has to give. I haven’t seen my out of country team since the late summer. It’s not good. I’ve been stressed out. I feel like my friendships are sliding. I have little time for dating, and my health is suffering.

Probably the worst thing for me is that almost every decision I make to exercise some freedom, or do something that’s just for me, is at the expense of my son. Decide to go to the gym in the morning or after work? It means I see him less. Schedule an evening out with friends or a date? Means I don’t see him at all that night.

One of the final nails in the proverbial coffin is that according to Will, our (my!) nanny is miserable and on the verge of quitting. She makes my work life possible. She works four days a week, 7:30-7:30. On occasion she has stayed later when I have events, or even overnight – for which I pay her. We gave her three extra weeks of paid vacation this year. I kinda think it all balances out, but that could just be me.

Regardless, it’s something else to now worry about. She has never expressed any unhappiness to me, for the record.

So I have my one night a week – Friday – to myself. Assuming my parents are healthy and not on a trip.

I have gotten quite fixated on this of late. How difficult it is and how pissed off I am at the whole thing – since it’s a situation I didn’t choose to be in.

BUT…I always say that you can never control another person but you can control your reactions. So I’ve decided to move past it. I realized a few weeks ago that if Will called me and said he was coming back next month, I would regret the things I didn’t get a chance to do with my son.

I have been given a gift of time with my child. They grow up very fast, as all parents know. I am his sole caregiver right now. I have an opportunity to build an even stronger relationship with him – really get to know him. Take him to do all the things I want to do. Play. Hang out and tell gross jokes.

Teach him magic tricks and how to whistle crazy loud using nothing but an acorn cap (one of my greatest talents). Bake cookies together and teach him how to cook. Finally get him doing chores and learning about money. Go on a beach vacation and take him out of school to do it (aka the last week of March!) and find time to visit that friend outside the city who owns horses.

That kind of thing.

When it comes to friends, I have to accept that I won’t be able to do some of the things I was doing. I’m not going to master the tango any time soon. I will maintain contact in other ways, and it will be a while before I can see my childless friends.

I met Tony at the same time I was thinking about all of this. I realised I didn’t want to expend all this energy on multiple men. It wasn’t a difficult decision because there was nobody else blowing me away. So believing that Tony likes me and he’s not engaging with others has also allowed me to just chill about the whole thing. His pace is good for me because it helps reinforce the things I’m trying to do elsewhere in my life.

Last week I hid my POF and OkCupid profiles, and deleted my lavalife account. I moved the apps to another screen on my phone and iPad so I don’t even see them there, taunting me.

I sent a note to a couple of the men on FetLife I had been maintaining a conversation with, telling them I was taking a break, or if they were play partner candidates, that I had met someone vanilla and needed to give it time with him.

It has been interesting to see who I have heard from and who promised to reach out and never did. No big shocks, but it definitely speaks to where I am on their proverbial lists. There was only one man who I contemplated pursuing a bit more – he’s a real estate agent whose profile is very appealing and who I spoke to about a year ago but we never made a date happen. But he’s on ice as well.

So now I have a bit more time – but more importantly? I have space in my head. It’s good for me to make my life a bit more simple these days. This week so far I have gotten home at a more reasonable hour, I’ve played with my son a bit more (not enough yet), really focussed on him at bedtime instead of having one eye on my phone, and when he’s gone to sleep, I’ve crawled into my bed.

The only way I’m going to get healthy is by sleeping more. So I’m working on that. Next week, I’m going to find time within my work day to go to the gym, at least once. I’m not willing to see my son less, so I need to get creative. I managed to drop a couple of pounds over the holidays (probably because I stopped drinking when I had the pneumonia really badly) but I have about 10 more I want to lose so I can get back into all my clothes.

Despite still physically feeling crappy, I feel way better mentally. I know it will be hard to put these things into practice, but I am taking it a day at a time.

I’m still in touch with Tony – we probably send a few messages back and forth each day – but we don’t have concrete plans yet. He did say he didn’t want to have it be more than a week before he saw me again, so he may come by after my son is asleep on Saturday night. If not, I will definitely find something else to do with my time.

0 thoughts on “Reframing becoming a single parent: moving past anger and resentment

  1. My son’s father moved away immediately after the divorce, not nearly like your situation, but far enough that with the exception of summer when M would go to visit, I was full-time caregiver. No family to help either. Great for my relationship with him, horrible for my attempts at dating, etc. I am in the place now where I have nothing but free time but was so used to not having it that I don’t know what to do anymore.

    I guess I am rambling to say it will all balance out, and it is a good thing you got to have some fun before. I hope the nanny situation works out too.

  2. You’ll be a Time Master in… well, no time, Ann!
    But seriously, your son is going to benefit from the time with his wonderful, caring, intelligent, worldly mom and the world will benefit from the son you’re going to eventually release into society.

    Be well, my lovely friend… both physically and otherwise.

  3. Ann,

    With theach age that your son is, this time is of the utmost important in his personality and character formation. That you get unrestricted time with him is important for your relationship with him for years to come. There are some similarities to you and your son and my mom and me that I recognize. I also see that I do not have a close relationship with my father. I don’t resent him or bear any animosity towards him. I just don’t have a father-son relationship with him but rathere a cordial-yet-distant connection. Conversely, I am very close to my mom and share much of my life and my children’s lives with her. I help her around the house (she’s recently widowed) without hesitation.

    I am glad to see that you are making such a considerable change. The space in your mind that you now have is much-needed and will help you with knocking back stress and more sleep (what is that???) will break this cycle of illness and boost your immune defenses.

    I am proud of you!!

    • Thank you Will… I’m glad I can make you proud. You are so right about time with my son. Every age is important but he’s still forming who he is right now – and I want to help him out with that.

  4. I believe, when it comes to our children, if it is causing you these feelings … The absolute best course of action is what you are doing. Pause, spend time, re-evaluate the quality of time with your child. I am a firm believer its the one choice in life you can make and never regret, focusing in your child. When the time is right, you will find ways to fit in anything else. But right now, the turmoil inside needs to be settled and focusing on him will do that.

  5. I had all three of mine for most of the last three weeks. While it can at times be stressful having them there all the time (especially when the little one was sick almost that whole time) I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    Right now I have decided that my life (such as it is) just has to wait until I can get things in place for them and another family member I’m currently helping. So while I have no social life, I am fulfilled by the time I spend with my children and knowing that what I’m doing will make things better for them.

  6. I can totally relate with the balancing between having time for our children and time for ourselves. I was the sole caregiver for most of their lives, even though their father was in the same house. So when I finally had a week to myself every other week? It felt good.
    I missed them tremendously, but it felt good. For me, part of it was also to have their father understand exactly what it was I had been doing for all these years. I’m not sure still he understands, but I don’t care that much any more.
    So that’s where my resentment was. I still have to work on it, because he assumes that I am going to be available at the drop of a hat every time he needs to be away. And I have some issues with him not taking care of their health properly (i.e. sending sick children to school because he doesn’t have a back up plan and not going to work is not a possibility in his mind).
    I have chosen to work less so that I could still be with my children, because I do realise how quickly time flies. Another one of the things he doesn’t understand, but hey! At least, I know my children will come to me with anything they need to discuss, something he cannot say himself.
    But enough about myself. I am happy for you that you decided to make this about your son more than against his father. The peace of mind it allows you is invaluable 🙂
    Let me know how it goes, I am very interested, considering I am not too sure of how well or poorly I’m doing myself 😉

    XO

  7. When I told my brother about my wife’s pregnancy, he said, “Do you know how you’ve been #1 your whole life?” I said, “Yeeahhhh!” He said, “Well, now you’re #3. And be glad you don’t have a dog or you’d be #4.” That’s a jokey way of saying it’s all about the kid. His/her well being is of primary importance. You can’t IMAGINE what I gave up so that my daughters would have a normal, happy life, but sacrifices have to be made. By BOTH parents. You son will grow to resent his father’s absence.

    You may think it balances out but working 12-hours a day will grind her down. Being around a kid is exhausting enough. Even more so when it’s not your own.

    It gets easier as they get older. I know that must be cold comfort today, but it’s something you can hang your hopes on. You are a prolific poster. Every day, by my reckoning. Might I suggest a few times a week instead and using that free time for health-related activities?

    • Oh, I hear you. I took a lot longer to get ahead at work because of the time I took off when I had my son. It’s very difficult. So yeah, I can imagine.

      I agree that the 12 hour days are tiring. She has more energy than I do and my son is in school from 9-3:30. She has a three day weekend and I try to get her to leave early whenever I can.

      Yes, I do tend to post every day. It just kinds of happens that way… and I find it so helpful to me as I process what’s going on in my life. But what I am trying to not have happen is feeling any pressure to post every day – if I have something to say, I will write it, but if not, I will let it go.

      I’ve always maintained I’m blogging for me. So I need to remember that. The people who are with me for the ride hopefully won’t care if I go silent for a day or two here and there. Right?

      (wrt health stuff, it has to be things I can do in my house. But I’ve been meaning to get back to my yoga practice so that would be a good start).

  8. I can really relate to this as neither of my children’s fathers are involved with them in any way so I have no weekends off either. I did for a short time when they were 4 and 5 but that lasted less than a year, but it was awesome to have some free weekends.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!!

      I’m sorry that the fathers aren’t involved, although I suppose in some cases perhaps that is for the best.

      Regardless, it doesn’t make it easy to take care of your own needs. And I think women are particularly wired to feel that things they do for themselves are selfish.

  9. As a military spouse where her husband is off an on with being there for parenting, I get the loss of freedom aspect. It’s so important, and crucial. And then I have guilt whenever I cram a moment to myself – after all, my children don’t have their father and here’s their mother leaving them for the night.
    But your mental health and happiness will just make you a better parent. So having (most?) Friday nights to yourself is an amazingly (large for me) amount of freedom that you get back to being not a mother- but your other roles as a woman.

    • Yes, military spouses definitely deal with this! A good friend of mine had a husband in the navy and he was gone 6 months at a time – they have 3 children in rapid succession. She had also moved to a naval city so didn’t have her family nearby.

      All that to say, I completely empathize.

      The guilt is terrible and finding the right balance will be a challenge. My son has spent one night a week at my Mom’s since he was 1 year old… and so I need to remember (so thank you) that it is a gift many people don’t have.

      What I was choosing to see is a loss (from a whole week to just one night) and now I’m trying to focus on making the most of that night, and recognizing that the choice to be fully present with my son is not something I will regret.

      If Tony (the person I’m currently dating) loses interest because there may be some hiccups along the way that means he can’t see me all that often, then he’s not into me enough anyway.

  10. This post makes my heart happy in so many ways.
    There’s just something invigorating about taking inventory around everything your heart and soul touches. Being a corporate woman myself, I have often wondered how on earth you were able to do it all and not be completely spent. I have a hard time doing it and my husband stays at home!
    I love your mindset and reading your words brings me peace, too. I think it’s why I’ve always enjoyed reading you.Wishes of love and happiness to you, Ann. I can see light at the end of the tunnel for you 🙂

    • Thank you so much. Taking inventory is a good term for it – I guess that’s what I’ve been doing, a bit more actively, over the last couple of months.

      Things didn’t feel right and as you know I had a terrible Sept-Dec. Weight gain, feeling tired, being sick, being angry and resentful, is not how I choose to live my life.

      The work thing is difficult – my career is very important and I love what I do. So I have always framed that as a positive thing. The nature of my work is such that I am trusted to get the impossible done. So while I need to preserve my corporate brand, it can’t be at the expense of my child. I am very lucky that my bosses understand what has happened since September and support the decisions I’m making. But it’s not easy for me to do.

      I’m glad you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure I’m there yet, as I’m still settling into the decisions I’ve made over the last few weeks. But I know I feel better mentally about those decisions, which is a good sign.

      Now I just need to get over this damn cold!

      • Ugh. The cold crud does such great job of halting everything doesn’t it? I hope you get to feeling better as soon!
        As for weight gain? Girlie, I’ve seen some of your photos. You are PERFECT!

        • Yes, I hate being all sniffly and feeling gross.

          And thanks for the weight comment – I need to be able to fit back into some of the clothes I could wear in the summer! It is a reasonable goal I think 🙂

  11. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to be a single parent, although sometimes it can feel like am a single dad working on split custody the way that my wife “helps” or doesn’t with the kids. I feel for you and understand what a delicate balance that can be.
    It seems like dialing things back on the dating side of life is a good choice, even if it wasn’t yours to begin with. I know from my own experience that while hooking up can be fun, that it really engages a lot of mental bandwidth and can be a serious distraction from stuff that really matters.
    Good luck!

    • I completely agree that sometimes we can be “single” even in a marriage. I definitely felt that way in mine sometimes.

      You make a great point on the mental bandwidth – that’s what I’m finding now – that I have a clearer mind. Not worrying about others that I’m pursuing / dating has been a great thing.

      Thank you 🙂

  12. It sounds to me like you are on the right path and you know what you want/need. Sleep is important. Make sure you drink enough water too. You will start to feel better physically too. I guess I didn’t read enough yet, to know Will was out of the country. I can’t compare because I do not feel my ex was very good to or for my children, so it would have been a blessing for us to have him go away. I still need to read “about my marriage”. Just know that your son sees ‘perfect’ when he looks at you.

    • Thank you for that, Julie. I don’t always remember how my son would see me…so it’s good advice.

      My ex is very good with my son. We were good parenting partners for the most part – and he’s way better than I am at dealing with thorny questions my son asks. He can explain things in a very simple way that is honest, matter of fact, but age appropriate.

      When my friends and colleagues found out he was leaving, they questioned whether he had a good relationship with his son. The sad thing is, he did (does). I just hope that there’s isn’t too much damage long term. There was for me when my Dad left.

What do you think?