Sunday, January 08, 2012

Truths About Half-Parenting

Much about the last two weeks of the year were really great. Namely, with Max on a break from school and me on a break from work, plus, getting some extra days with him for Christmas, we spent a lot of time together, more than we usually do. For someone who lives half her life without her son, this is a gift to be treasured. And I have, very much so. We did fun things together, ran errands together, celebrated together and hung out at home together.

But here’s the down side of such a treasure: it offered too many opportunities to highlight everything about Max that is maddening, and everything about me that is poor, as far as parenting goes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about a truth about my life that is painful and shameful but very simply... true. I hate having my son just half the time. On some level, I am fine with it because this is his normal and he has lots of time with both parents and he is not inadequately missing out on one or the other and he is a happy, well-adjusted child, but my heart hates it. I feel cheated and, if it's one of those weeks where everything is going wrong, I curse everything (i.e., his father) for doing to this to my son and me.

But the truth of this situation, the thing that makes me feel awful when I say it to myself or to Jevo, is that this damned half-parenting is the only parenting I know how to do. It is just a fact - I started doing this months shy of my son's third birthday, and he is now six years-and-some-months-old. However much I hate half-parenting, it's been the bulk of my parenting life. I am at a point where, regardless of what I feel about my situation, I have become a product of it and am wholly limited by it.

And days like the holiday break really bring this reality home to me. Days like that push me to my limit, because toward the end, I'm simply done. I've lost all my patience, am irritated and exhausted and unable to be rational. I devolve into a version of myself that's everything I don't want to be.

With this there's personal disappointment and shame and frustration because the fact of my half-parenting is ultimately no excuse. I mean, come on, I can't hack more than xx amount of days? Seriously? I go past the usual time and my parenting abilities expire?? Surely, I can't just run out of gas when I get extra time with this boy of mine - that's so... lame. Weak. Dumb. This really can't be it, you know?

And yet an equal truth is that as much as I physically half-parent, I am nonetheless a full-time parent through and through. There are the daily talks with my son when he is not with me, where I counsel and comfort and advise and instruct. There is the co-parenting with his dad, which requires a lot of coordination and planning and careful thinking and, at times, near-psychic abilities. There's also the very real truth that, with him in my home or not, my son is firmly embedded in all that I am and all that I do, as embedded, I know, as I am in him.

So, I know that however limited my time with him feels, half-parenting is only a part of the situation. Still, it's a big enough part to affect my notions of parenting and what it is I think I'm capable of. I simply no longer know the every single day, no rest of parenting. I get a break. I get days to recharge, to have my own time to myself, to go on dates, to run errands and keep house with having to attend to a child. And while I think this has some benefits - I get breaks and days to recharge, to have my own time to myself, to go on dates, to run errands and keep house with having to attend to a child - it's still a problem I have to remedy somehow. It's too self-defeating and detrimental and crappy a thing to have to contend with.

There is only one part of this whole thing that I feel is a true blessing, and that's how much better a parent I think I am than I would otherwise be. If I had stayed with his dad, my son would know a very different (and worse) mom. I know this in my bones. And missing him so much makes me treasure him and our time together that much more. I am not (save for when I insist on weekends on having time in the morning to read the paper or use the computer while I enjoy my coffee) a distracted parent, nor do I take my time with him for granted. Believe me, you try living half your life without your child and just see how attentive and present and aware and persistently grateful a parent it makes you. I can't say that would be true if I had him all the time. Hell, when I did have him all the time, I was distracted and less grateful and overall so friggin' exhausted and almost permanently cranky. Those breaks that hurt so much nonetheless give me the opportunity to welcome him back home with new eyes, with better focus, with more energy, with an almost killing awareness of all that is good and sweet and happy about our life, which I then try to pass on to him.

I think about this part of my life and feel like I have no choice but to take it as it is and make the best of it. But it worries me beyond the stated reasons because I don't know what I'll do when Jevo and I have a child and I'm back to full-time physical parenting. It feels overwhelming to think of all the work - the exhausting, mind-numbing, repetitive, boring work - that would consume my life. Can I do it without the frustration, the crankiness, the feeling that it's all me doing all the real work? Or will it all be inherently different because this time around, I'll be doing this with someone with whom I have a healthy, loving, honest, fulfilling relationship?

I think about that, too, about how much my job as a full-time parent when I last did it was affected by my relationship with his father, and I wonder about that link. I can't help but think there's a connection (namely due to how different - better - I've been overall and as a parent these last few years, and because, you know, if there's strife in one big part of your life, it bleeds into everything else).

If there's truth to this theory, then I don't think I have much to worry about. Except for my own sense of self-doubt, of course.

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Posted by Tere @ 1/08/2012   | |


  • Blogger Freckle Face Girl posted at 1/09/2012 7:11 AM  
    As someone who very rarely gets a break, I must say that it is exhausting at times, especially when you are giving him all of your attention. When you are together all of the time, it is ok to take a few minutes to yourself & let him too. It will give him time to develop his imagination.

    If/when you have another child, I think you'll be just fine. Babies do take a lot out of you and make you extremely tired, but as they grow and can do a little more for themselves, it gets easier. Without the extra stress of a negative relationship, you'll be happier through it all.
  • Blogger Mary G posted at 1/12/2012 5:35 PM  
    I hear you, but I've never met a mother who didn't get frazzled and fed up from time to time, and part-time or full-time has little to do with it.
    I had my grandkid for one eleven day stretch and said to a friend who is a step-grandmother eight times over that I was relieved to see the child go home. Her response was that she was delighted to hear me say so as she figured it was her step-grandma status that caused her to feel glad to see them go.
    I think what Freckle Face Girl said is so very, very true. In a good relationship, the other parent is your life saver. And the second time is so, so much easier, in my opinion. You can tell yourself you managed not to break the first baby and so you know what you are doing.
    I think you are a good mother - and good enough.
  • Anonymous taps posted at 1/16/2012 12:21 PM  
    It's okay not to be perfect. I work full time at a newspaper and come back around 7 - 8pm most week nights. Half the time I beat myself up for not being around enough for my three boys, and the other half, for losing myself in the process and I want to run away from home.
    I think women set ourselves up for failure when we put too high a yardstick. And while we strive to do our best, nobody faults you for not being the mother of the year. You are the best mother there is for your own child.
  • Anonymous Nawab posted at 1/17/2012 1:45 AM  
    In my opinion you are a very good mother who cares for your children very much. I am very much pleased with your thought. Thanks for such a nice posting
  • Blogger Tere posted at 1/21/2012 8:20 AM  
    Thank you all for your thoughts. I'm learning to make peace with those frazzled feelings and accept that I will have them, even though I have him less time than most moms, and that it's o.k.
  • Anonymous dolores posted at 1/23/2012 7:26 PM  
    parenting is tough especially when you are doing it by yourself but we go along everyday we learn and i have learned alot
  • Blogger Miss Banana Pants posted at 2/03/2012 4:56 PM  
    I admire your determination in being an awesome "half-parent". It's hard enough when there are two parents in the home. Children can demand so much of our energy and attention. Sounds like you are doing a magnificent job and are very aware of what treasuring each and every moment are all about. That's something not all of us have discovered yet. I really like your blog and writing style. I'm so glad I found you on facebook. I'm a new fan!
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