Before I left my ex-husband, I was terrified. I was scared to be alone, and I was absolutely sure that I wouldn’t cut it as a single mom. I had convinced myself, in no uncertain terms, that parenting alone was going to be way, way harder than parenting with my, at the time, toxic husband. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, in so many ways, parenting as a single mom was actually easier — much, much easier — than co-parenting with my do-nothing ex-husband.
If I had a time machine, I would definitely go back to the days when I was trying to make my first marriage work and tell myself to leave. Leave right away. Leave because you know it won't get better. Leave because, yes, you can do this whole mom thing on you're own. But I don't have a time machine, and at the time I had no idea that I would not only survive as a single mom to two, but I would thrive... and my kids would, too.
Now, I would be lying if I said that it was easy. In fact, being a single mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I found that being just a mom, and not also a partner (and a pseudo-parent) to a narcissistic, selfish, man-child, was so much easier than staying in an unhealthy, toxic relationship out of fear.
For one, I didn’t have to fight with my partner all the time, I didn't have to negotiate every decision, and I didn't have to watch someone parent my kids in a way that I thought was inferior and even, at times, harmful. I also didn’t have to clean up after both my kids and another adult who was fully capable of doing it himself. As a single mom I could, finally, parent my kids the way I wanted to, and without commentary or interference from a partner who wasn’t a very good co-parent.
For these, and so many other reasons, being a single parent was much easier than co-parenting with my ex. I wish I could’ve known years earlier just how much easier it would be.
There's Way Less Fighting
When I was married to my ex, my life was full of fighting — he fought with me and, even worse, he fought with our kids. It was terrible. After I left I vowed to stop fighting, and promised to view my kids as team members rather than opponents. Experiencing parenthood sans unnecessary fights was like a breath of fresh, clean air.
You Can Parent Your Way
You Get Alone Time To Recharge
For a while, single parenting was simply trying to keep my head above water and make it through the day. But when I managed to get both kids to bed, I was able to find so much peace on my own. I learned so much about who I was, and what I wanted, in those blissful moments of solitude.
You Don't Have To "Parent" Another Adult
My ex was barely old enough to drink when we met, and certainly not an "adult" when it came to most things. It was amazing to not have to take care of his frequently hung-over, man-child self. It was wonderful to not have to be the person tasked with waking him up for work, or helping him with his college homework. For the first time I could focus on parenting my kids, instead of parenting him.
You Own Your Mistakes
While it sucks to be the one in charge, it's also pretty freeing to know that you are the only person to blame when things go wrong. It may sound silly, but I did a lot of growing up and learning about myself in those years of epic parenting successes and failures. When I didn't have anyone else to blame, I became a better mom.
You Don't Have To Compromise
Learning how to compromise is a necessary life skill, and it certainly comes in handy when you have a partner and an effective co-parent. But it's seriously hard to do when you're with someone who is toxic or abusive, especially when it means compromising your values or what's important to you in the process. Being a single parent meant no longer having to compromise with a slacker co-parent. I realized that, no, I didn't always have to give up on the things that mattered to me, and that realization was amazing.
You Get The Good Parts All To Yourself
When you are a single parent you get all of the tantrums, poop blow-outs, and teething toddlers to yourself, for sure. But you also get all of the good moments, too — first words, potty-training success, first days of school, first soccer goal. They're all yours, and it's pretty damn special.
No One Is Watching Your Every Move
The people who say there's no greater joy than dancing like no one is watching, have never been a single parent. For me, there's nothing better than the uninhibited joy in a living room dance party with your kids, choreographed by a single parent.
You Only Have Kids To Clean Up After
My ex was not helpful around the house. He didn't know how to do laundry or load the dishwasher, and he had never, in his life, cleaned a toilet. Needless to say, it was awesome to no longer have to teach a grown-ass adult how to clean up after himself. He also inspired me to teach both my daughter and my son to not have to rely on someone else to clean up for them.
Your Kids Will Thrive
It took me a while to find my groove, but once I did, I realized that they were better off with a single mom than they were when I tried futilely to co-parent with their father. It was so reassuring to see them happy, and to realize that I was happy, too. As terrified as I was to have to raise my kids solo, I was shocked to discover that my kids didn't just survive with a single parent, they thrived.
Every night, once my kids were tucked in bed and I had time to myself to reflect on the day, I could smile knowing that my children were happy, healthy, and in the best environment possible. Staying together for the kids isn't an adequate parenting philosophy (at least, it wasn't for me and mine), and becoming a single parent turned out to be incredibly beneficial for my kids.