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Do Single Mothers Parent Better?

“A single mother is a precious thing. A single father’s family is lucky if he doesn’t lock them in the bathroom for screaming 15 hours a day.”

I am not a single mother. The above is a text from my husband, sent while I was out of town. I believe I had been gone for exactly 15 waking hours at that point. Bless his heart.

For a moment, the thought of being a single mother is tempting. I indulge in the suspicion that I would be a better mother if I were single. Oh, come on, don’t give me that; I am well aware of the extraordinary challenges of single parenting. All head nodding and “Absolutely!”-ing aside, I am becoming aware, however, of challenges I willingly slop on top of the fortune that is parenting with a partner. Precisely because I have a partner.

A partner means there is always someone else who could do the dishes when they get home. Someone else that could stack the wayward dolls. Someone else who could wade through that pile of boy.

If it’s an option, I’m going to leave it to the ol’ pardner.

Which means I spend half of my day waiting. Waiting for someone else to tie up the loose ends I’m leaving all over the place. Just because I can wait.

This summer, my family rented a beach house for a month. It was an hour from our home on the Gulf Coast, far enough away to feel like a vacation but close enough to run home if we needed something. Pointedly, close enough that my husband could work during the week and drive back to the beach house on the weekends. That left me alone with the kids five days a week. And being alone made me a better mother, for a moment there.

Oh, the mother that appeared out of less congested air! Suddenly, without my husband as an option to help, I became the mother you read about in suburban novels where the disillusioned city hipster gets her game face on and takes care of her family like kohl liner on, well, hipsters.

Watch her work! She wakes with the dawn, makes breakfast complete with special touches of cinnamon! She tidies the dishes, shoos the trash, cleans the coffee cups! Want to read a book? Sure! Let’s read! And fingerpaint! By golly, let’s take a walk through this boutique downtown! Yes, all three kids! With their shoes on! Clean underwear for everyone! No fast food for us, no sir, it’s all… well, it’s all frozen but watch her reheat it!

Ah, now let’s snuggle.

We’re home now. I put the last pair of clean socks on my boys before school and announced in the direction of the hallway, “Boys are out of socks!”

I think my husband was in the backyard. My job is done.

 

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