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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Introducing Jennifer Miller

When my friend asked me to be a guest blogger on The Suburbanites Guide to Somewhere part of me thought “no way, I can’t possibility take on another thing in my life”.  Actually, there was some cursing involved but I was told that I couldn’t do that on this blog.  Part of me of course thought it would be neat because I used to have a blog.  It was just for family and close friends but as my addiction to Facebook grew my interest in the blog waned.
 Anyway, I told my friend that I would think about it.   Besides the lack of time there was the issue of what to blog about.  Of course, I thought I would probably take the “easy way out” and blog about something I know about and bring “a different perspective” to this blog.  You see, while I am a suburbanite parent, I am not a wife; I am an ex-wife.  And while the masthead of the blog clearly allows me to “rant for the jaded and cynical”, I didn’t want to write a negative “Debbie Downer” type blog. 
But isn’t there something about being a single parent that’s not  a big downer?   I racked my overworked, tired brain to think about the good side of being a single parent.
I thought about the gay autism analogy Doc S used recently.  To me, in some ways being a single parent in suburbia is like being gay.   I often feel that people look at me differently because I am divorced.  I sometimes feel that I am left out of things because I am single.  In suburbia, it often feels like everyone is coupled off and I am almost never invited by my married friends to do anything with them.  And it’s not as if I never see my married friends but it’s usually when the spouse is at work or otherwise busy and more of a play date with the kids’ type of thing.  It’s almost as if they are afraid divorce is a contagious disease that they will get if they spend too much time with me.  Or maybe it is too much of a downer because my life is so difficult.  Or maybe they think I want to steal their husbands.  I really don’t know why.  So you look for single friends to do things with and that works OK until they meet someone and get married and while you are of course happy for them, you are left alone again.   I recently met someone special and, like magic, we both find our social calendars filling up with our couple friends who want to see us, now that we are a couple too, that is, if they can find a sitter.  It’s really nice because we can socialize with our couple friends again since our single leprosy has been cured.
            Of course, being divorced and being gay isn’t the same thing.  People do not choose to be gay, that is who they are.  However, people do often choose to get divorced.  I know I did.  Though I do I think for most of us divorced people, it doesn’t feel like a choice.  Who would do that to their kids if they didn’t feel like they had to?  I have been living the single parent life since June 2006 and I do not regret getting divorced, I only wish I had the courage to do it sooner.  Except for having my kids, my marriage was a bad idea.  Yes, I made a mistake; in fact I have made lots of them in my life.  I love my children and it breaks my heart when they miss me or their father because they are almost never with both of us at the same time.   I do feel like I failed them but I know that I could not live with their father; it did not feel like I had a choice.

So, what are the positives of divorce?  I could only think of two.  One, of course, is to no longer be in an unhealthy unhappy relationship that damages the whole family.  And the other is the free time.  When I was married, I was always busy and almost never alone.  I took care of the kids and the housework when I wasn’t working or going to school.  I was almost never alone and I almost never had any free time or time to myself.    When I was finishing my Master’s degree and I would ask my husband to take the kids so I could study or write a paper, he would ask “both of them?”  When I had finished my Master’s degree and was teaching in addition to working full-time in order to support my family and I would ask my husband to take the kids so I could grade or prep for class, I got the same response.    There was no me time and no time to work.  But now that has all changed.
I am a single parent and I have free time without my kids on a regular basis.  That is the secret of why single parents do seem oddly happy sometimes in spite of all the work and stress.  I know that I have free babysitting on a regular basis --having an ex can come in handy sometimes!  Yes, I know what you are thinking; “Don’t you miss your kids?”  I used to miss them a lot, but over the years it has gotten easier.   And I get time to do whatever I want.  Now, sometimes there is laundry and food shopping involved, (unavoidable, of course).  But there is also time for me, me, me!  I go to the gym.  I go hiking.  There is time to be at home alone and to watch whatever I want on TV, eat whatever I want and sleep as much as I want.  There is time to get my hair and nails done without having to bring my kids with me.  I can see friends and have grown-up conversations.  And, of course, there is dating. 
I do recognize that I am a little bit childish and it’s great because being a grownup all of the time can be a downer.  So, I enjoy my child-free time as much as I can, and I treasure it just like I treasure the time I spend with my kids.

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