After a Divorce–When There Are Kids

Jon Gosselin has reportedly said, “Our marriage fell apart and I felt like I was free. And I kinda took advantage of it for a while and didn’t really think about my actions, obviously, until I started getting paparazzi and written about. But that’s maturing. That’s growing up.”

How nice. Our big boy is growing up. Now if he can just do it in time to help his children do the same–hopefully before their thirties and they have children of their own. And notice that it was the media attention that caused him to reflect on his behavior–not what his behavior might have been doing to his kids. Say what you will about Kate, she’s not the one dating several different people, going to clubs, buying an apartment that has no room for the kids. And that’s how it usually is. Divorced mothers seem to feel more of a sense of responsibility toward their children than do divorced fathers.

I don’t mean to pick on men, but in cases where they don’t get custody and only have visitation rights, it’s all too easy for them to become focused on their own issues instead of the day-to-day issues their children may have. It might be more fair to say that the parent who has custody is more conscious of and responsive to his or her children’s needs. But in a society where women are still awarded custody in the majority of divorces, it will naturally be the women who feel the responsibility more keenly than the men do. And so this post is about what women go through when they suddenly become single mothers.

  1. They’re always “on.” There’s no one else to spell them, to take over for even a few minutes.
  2. They have to take care of all the minutiae that makes up their children’s lives. The permission slip, the daily lunch money, the skinned knee, the upset tummy–the list is endless.
  3. They rarely have time for themselves. Not even to go to the bathroom.
  4. They don’t have anyone to share their kids with. At least not anyone who is privy to the same day-to-day information that they are. It’s lonely to not have anyone to turn to and say, “Remember when…?” or “Isn’t that cute?”
  5. They never get enough rest. You can’t when you’re trying to be two people.
  6. They never have enough money, even if they get child support. The little things add up quickly and the child support is basically used up by the big-ticket items (housing, food, clothing.)
  7. They are always being compared to the other parent and to other mothers (most of whom are not single). Especially by the kids themselves. And others: I once had my sister lecture me for being away from my kids nine hours a day, even though I had to work.
  8. They have to exercise superhuman self-control: over their mouths (and the things they want to say about their exes), their emotions, their sexual desires, their consumption habits, and their time.
  9. They are the only ones there to listen to their kids, an important but often underappreciated function.
  10. They have to give up their kids for part or all of every special occasion. The respite from caring for them never quite makes up for the loneliness.

I have a feeling that Kate Gosselin is aware of most of these things. And if she and Jon end up sharing custody evenly (and what do you want to bet that they don’t?), I hope Jon comes to accept these realities like the man he is striving to become.