This is something that has been bothering me, actually, something I have been obsessing about for over five years, since my daughter’s birth. Her father and I got separated before she was born so she has never lived with both parents. Whether it’s good or bad, time will tell. They say it’s bad for children to witness their parents’ arguing and bickering. The divorce is also regarded as a traumatic experience for kids, so the children who simply don’t know what it’s like to be separated from their father, like my daughter, seem to be happier. Living with a single parent is a fait accompli. For them, it is normal because it is all they know. All single parents can do is to accept their fate and do their best to make sure their child is surrounded with love and attention that would somehow make up for what’s missing.
All this sounds great in theory, but in real life it isn’t simple at all. All single parents, who can only rely on their own resources, like me, know this all too well.
There is another delicate issue faced by divorced parents and those who have never raised their child with another person: physical custody and parenting time.
In my case, the issue of custody has never been debated. It is only natural to award the sole custody to mother except in cases when they are found to be unfit for the role. This is exactly what I wanted. Shared custody is a utopia I wouldn’t hear about.
Everybody knows that the parent who doesn’t live with the child is allowed parenting time in line with legislation and judicial ruling. The patterns, at first sight, seem reasonable. For example, the father has the right to spend time with the child alone one or two afternoons per week and every other weekend. When the child reaches certain age, the father is allowed to spend a part of the winter and summer holidays with the kid, etc.
My situation was different since I made a lot of effort to maintain a good relationship with my ex-partner. We spent a lot of time together and tried to make sure that our child lives a happy and fulfilled life.
However, when the ex-partner starts a new family, which happened in our case, the idyllic vacations spent together become history. The child is forced to see the father together with his new family and the single mother simply has to grin and bear it.
Is it easy? Not at all. Some people claim that it is good for children to spend time with their half-brothers and sisters, and to accept the parents’ new families as their own. There could be truth in it. Sadly, I still find this difficult to accept. I keep waiting for the moment when my daughter will start asking me questions to which I have no answers.
I’ve often heard that “even the kids who live with both parents don’t see their father much because he works all day”. I disagree. Children who live with both parents are well aware of this. My child has never lived with her father and it breaks my heart when she squeals: “Mummy, can I go see daddy today after the kindergarten?” Sometimes she can, and more often than not she can’t. Her dad has another family and his own obligations.
Do children need both parents? It seems so. Can a single mother make up to her child for all that the child had been deprived of under the circumstances? Time will tell.