Mom Says Divorce Would Make Parenting 'Easier' -- Single Moms Everywhere LOL

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If there's one thing busy moms fantasize about more than anything else, it's definitely time to themselves. So much so, in fact, that some women might go so far as to daydream about splitting from their partners just for the "every-other-weekend divorce vacations" -- which is how writer and mother-of-two Crystal Ponti put it in a recent essay for the Washington Post. As a mother-of-three, I totally get the desperation for alone time this woman is feeling. But as a former single mom, I can tell you the trade-off really isn't worth it. Like, really.

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In a piece called "Parenting would be so much easier if my husband and I got divorced," Ponti laments the lack of free time she and her spouse have, and theorizes that perhaps her divorced friends -- with their guaranteed, court-mandated regular breaks -- have it better. She writes:

I love my kids, but raising two spirited children under the age of 5 leaves very little downtime. I'm on my feet the second they open their eyes and for the 15 hours that follow. Grappling matches over everything from who owns a broken Dory toy to who gets the sliver of crust from my turkey sandwich are hourly occurrences.

Divorce would give me at least a day or two to sleep in, clear my head and recover from the parenting marathon I run most days. There would no objections or surprises, because I'd have an official paper that states: 'It's your turn. I'm off this weekend.'

Ponti goes on to argue that divorce, while challenging, doesn't always turn out to be such a bad thing for kids, who "bounce back," and that studies have shown that becoming a parent is directly linked to a drop in overall happiness. And while she concludes that in the end, she is committed to her husband and family and isn't really planning on getting a divorce, she does paint a rather misleading picture of single motherhood as an attractive option for moms in need of some "me" time.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, many readers took considerable offense at Ponti's point of view -- particularly single moms who were quick to point out that "divorce is no vacation." I completely understand the outrage: There is literally nothing about being a solo parent that resembles a vacation, weekends off or not. Even if your spouse does go to work early and get back late (as Ponti says her husband often does), there is absolutely no comparison between spending most of the day with your kids while your partner works and actually bearing all the responsibilities of your children's care alone, all day, every day and night.

And when I say "responsibilities," I'm talking about both physical tasks (preparing meals and helping with homework and finding shoes and making dentist appointments and so on and so on) and all the myriad mental and emotional burdens that come with being a parent. Yes, it's tough when your spouse is gone from before breakfast to after bedtime. But the benefits of having a partner to talk to at the end of the day -- to lean on for support and to ask for advice and to laugh and cry with -- are invaluable.

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Believe me, there is a difference between feeling overwhelmed and being all by yourself and feeling overwhelmed and having another person to share it with -- even if that other person is feeling overwhelmed, too. Raising kids is scary. Having someone to do it with makes it less scary. And it makes the good times even better.

All that said, however, Ponti is right about one thing: Those kid-free weekends are pretty great. They are PRETTY GREAT. And they're so much better than leaving the kids with a sitter for date night or stealing away for a mani-pedi, because you get two whole days. That means two mornings of sleeping in. That means huge blocks of uninterrupted time to spend any which way you choose (even if that means catching up on errands or cleaning the house). That means you can go out with your girlfriends and pretend to be carefree without worrying about waking up with a slight hangover the next day or getting in past the sitter's curfew.

I spent my time away from my kids doing things like binge-watching episodes of House, M.D., knocking back margaritas, singing karaoke, and flirting with bartenders. Of course I also worked and grocery shopped and went to the post office and did a bunch of things adults are supposed to do, but mostly I just did whatever I wanted, which is a huge luxury for any parent. And then, at the end of the weekend, I "turned back into a pumpkin" (as my childless friends used to say).

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My weekend vacations disappeared when I remarried and had another child. Do I miss them? Oh yeah. Sure I do. Of course I do! Did you miss the part about how I watched House all day and partied all night?! But still, I wouldn't trade what I have now for those temporary freedoms. I wouldn't trade watching my husband laugh with our son every morning when he wakes up or collapsing into bed next to him after a long day of driving kids around and picking up Legos and filling out school forms and diffusing tantrums. Being a single mom was really tough. Even if my regular installments of free time were like a vacation, in many ways, divorce, overall, is not. 

I think ultimately what Ponti is arguing in her piece is that moms -- whether they have partners or not -- desperately need time to themselves, and on a regular basis, too. We need that time to reconnect with who we are as human beings, not just moms. We need that time to decompress from the endless stress associated with the daily grind of parenthood. No matter how much we love our families, we can't act as caretakers 24/7 without burning out at some point. But there are easier (and better!) ways to get the space we need than divorce. 

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