Last week I read a beautiful article titled ’10 Unexpected silver linings of Divorce’ by Carolyn Martin, a mother who has herself experienced divorce. It is a beautiful piece. One line in particular really had me thinking. Carolyn was talking about the reality of being a separated parent and she said- ‘I am their mother 100% of the time even though they no longer live with me 100% of the time’.
This simple statement says everything about parenting. Once you become a parent that is who you are- it will never change no matter the circumstances. As parents we may all think of this differently and engage with our children in our own way but there is one thing in common- we are all parents and we are parents all of the time.
Every day I assist separated parents to negotiate the tricky balance of time with their children. You hear phrases like ‘shared care’ or ‘equal time’ being tossed around a lot these days in the legal world. But the thing is, for my clients, they don’t ‘stop’ being parents just because their children are in the care of their other parent for half of the time. They are parents 100% of the time, it’s just that their children are not in their home or within easy reach.
I have no doubt that many separated parents’ think of their children constantly when they are away. And while they may at times be grateful for a short break, I am sure they wish for their kids to be back under their roof almost every minute they are not there. Because it is one thing to spend some time away from your children by choice, it is a whole different thing when someone else has told you that you simply cannot see your children at particular times of the week or perhaps even at all.
And this is the reality of post separation parenting. There are days when you miss out on things because it isn’t ‘your day’. Of course there are other days when you get to enjoy things and maybe they ‘balance out’ but I expect for many parents, and children, they don’t.
But regardless of the physical time we each spend with our children, we are parents 100% of the time. During divorce we need to remind ourselves of this every day. We need to remember that even before divorce we were not with our children every minute of every day- the difference of course is that we perhaps could have been if we chose to.
Physical time between a parent and a child is essential but it is what we do with that time that is far more important for forming a loving and lasting relationship. Our job as parents is to nurture our children, to support them as they grow and explore the world. We need to make sure they have every chance of achieving their dreams. This requires so much more than simply ‘time’ between a parent and a child.
So when you are faced with negotiating the time you will spend with your children after divorce, keep in mind that the number of nights you spend with your children is not a reflection of your value to them. Less than half does not equate to being a ‘lesser parent’.
You are a parent 100% of the time. Don’t ever forget that.