Hardship is Not a Zero-Sum Game

I know I keep promising Roxanne the story of my ex-husband’s slutty girlfriend, but I keep having other things to say. And I’m not really in the mood to relive the story just yet.

In the meantime, I read a great post called “Being a Single Parent Isn’t Hipster,” and it brought up a lot of feelings about my struggle with calling myself a single mom. And it brought me back to my conflicted feelings on my situation.

I once heard that “talent is not a zero-sum game,” meaning that just because someone else has talent doesn’t mean that you aren’t also talented. I’ve applied that to so many things in my life, but lately I’ve been thinking about it in terms of tragedy and hardship.

It is difficult to parent on my own, to be the only one responsible for my son, and to be “on” all the time when Smiley is with me. Also, I only have my son 50 percent of the time, and that sucks, I miss him so much it physically hurts. But I try to look at the bright side: I get time off. I have time to myself, time to go on dates, time for uninterrupted sleep. And my son is being cared for by his other parent when he’s not with me. I have a decent co-parent, but he seems to be able to turn off and tune out when he doesn’t have Smiley, so when I’m on my own, I really am on my own.

But when I find myself complaining about my life, I sometimes think of some friends and how they have more difficult situations. I have friends who are single moms 100 percent of the time. But just because they have it tough, doesn’t mean my life is a breeze.

I have several friends whose exes have practically abandoned their children. But every one of those friends is in a different situation. Every situation is difficult.

One friend lives with her parents, who provide free daycare, which is a great savings, since the dad doesn’t pay child support. And her daughter gets to have a great relationship with her grandparents. But my friend doesn’t go out in the evenings or on weekends on her own because she doesn’t want to take advantage of her parents since they already watch her daughter so much of the time. Plus she is thirtysomething and lives with her parents.

One friend lives very close to her parents and has two sisters who are able to help with her son when she needs it. But she doesn’t get a dime of child support, and her ex-husband calls in the middle of the night to berate her, not to talk to his son. He lives out of town and has dropped off forms in the mailbox while his son is at school, never making arrangements to see him. And this friend is very strong and independent and doesn’t like to ask for help. (I know she’s reading, and I would like to say “Hi, I love you, and asking for help doesn’t make you weak. And please remind me of this when I am down on myself for needing help.”)

I try not to focus on the deficiencies in my life, but sometimes it’s difficult not to.

I miss my son–so very much–when he’s with his dad. Sure, both of those friends have their kids 100 percent of the time and they don’t have to run any decisions by their exes, but they don’t get any regular time off. Sure, both of those friends have parents and family members around who can help them and I don’t, but I get breaks every few days and my ex is finally paying child support. The numbers don’t add up. There’s no winner in this situation.

Hardship is not a zero-sum game. Just because it’s hard for you doesn’t mean it isn’t hard for me. It’s just hard in a different way.

This isn’t actually a response to Lil’ Devil Mama’s post. I completely understand where she’s coming from.  I had already been drafting a post about this topic and her post just inspired me to finish it. I know there are some ways I have it easier than others, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Also, please read Chopper Papa’s take on deadbeat dads. It is powerful.

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7 responses to “Hardship is Not a Zero-Sum Game

  1. I think you can call yourself a single mama with pride.

    My post was in response to several friends who think it’d be easier to be me. And one friend who left her hubby who is supporting her fully…new apartment, pays her bills still, she has full use of their old join account and now has a new job with income she keeps for herself…all the while touting how hard it is to be a single Mama. That got on my last nerve.

    Honestly, I don’t think I can define who/what makes a single parent. But I can’t be okay with people thinking it’s a choice that can be made so lightly…it took me nine months to get up the courage to admit it was the best thing for me and the Monkey.

    • Oh goodness. Yes, I can definitely see issues with that kind of person calling herself a single mom! Thankfully I don’t have anyone like that in my life, although I’m sure some of my ex-husband’s friends think I have it pretty easy.

      I left a little more quickly than you did, but I had a deadline (I don’t recommend moving at 7 months pregnant), and I’m pretty sure leaving my ex saved my life. It certainly made my life happier and my son’s life better, even given his wacky schedule.

  2. Thanks so much for the link back. Glad you enjoyed the post. Sometime back I wrote a post asking if single parents have the best of both worlds. It continues to be how i feel about the topic. http://chopperpapa.com/2011/05/a-divorced-parent-the-best-of-both-worlds/

    You also have given me an idea for a future blogpost. Thanks!

  3. An insightful post and I completely agree on your zero sum theory, it applies to so much of life. I hear people say all the time that they shouldn’t feel bad about their own situation because someone has it worse. Well, someone will always have it worse, unfortunately, but that doesn’t take away from our own pain. To express that is natural.

    I’ve been a single mom for a little over a year now, since my husband came under investigation for child pornography. He will go to prison until the children are adults, so they are my responsibility from here on out. Is that good or bad? It just is. Life throws us curveballs from time to time and we learn to adapt and make the best of the situation.

    Being a parent can be very hard, whether or not we share the responsibility. It is also infinitely rewarding. Good luck to you and your little Smiley.

  4. All i know is that the life I am living (w/husband and 3 children – 14, 13 and 8) is not really what I pictured back when my rose-colored glasses were not cracked, but I wouldn’t trade my children for anything. Chalk up one more dose of emotional support coming your way from Kentucky.

  5. isn’t there a saying about if everyone threw their problems into a pile you’d take yours back? I think even though sometimes my life can be challenging, it’s worth it. Without those challenges I wouldn’t be me. You are clearly an incredibly strong and amazing mom.

  6. This is interesting and I like your note that it my be hard for everyone, just in a different way. I am a step parent and let me tell you – it is fucking hard. Sometimes I think it would be easier if my husband was a widow but I know it would still be hard, just different hard.

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