This work here on Moms For Shared Parenting, along with the last seven years of my work with Wealthysinglemommy.com, has been about making the best out of non-traditional family life, from the single mom POV.
How do we maximize economic security for women and children? How do we close the pay gap? How do we ensure kids’ have the healthiest upbringing possible? How do we co-create a future in which women and men have equal rights and responsibilities to work, earn, parent, love, and thrive in all parts of one’s life?
As separated families are poised to become the majority of households with children within our kids’ lifetimes, this work is more critical than ever.
But what if separated families were not just normal and healthy — but preferred?
The potential financial benefits of shared parenting
I know first-hand that I have had many married moms — mostly even happily married — look at me side-eyed over mojitos and charcuterie (no bread) — and confess their envy at the 24-hours of free time I am allotted when my kids stay at their dad’s once per week. “I get no free-time to myself,” they say, exhausted. Nevermind the summer weeks when my son and daughter are with their dad, and I travel to Europe or other locales with a friend, a lover, or all by myself.
That is just the self-care part, the fun part — for me, the mom.
Of course, it is established that equally shared parenting time is what is best for children, thanks to dozens of peer-reviewed, published studies.
Financial benefits of remarriage
Equally shared parenting in families in which both parents find new partners can also be a huge financial boon for the children.
Recently my ex remarried, and now he and my children and their new stepmom enjoy the benefits of a two-income, two-adult household. Aside from double the financial security, there is now a second grown-up on hand to help with child care, emotional support for everyone, and the logistics that family life requires.
Similarly, I have enjoyed a relationship for 2.5 years with a wonderful man who is often at my house — or my kids and I at his. Even with living separately, there are benefits that include financial, logistical, emotional — and simply having a positive, loving adult in our immediate family.
Is a separated family better than a nuclear family?
The answer, potentially, is yes. Basic math. If there are two houses occupied by two working adults each, then a child’s economic security is twice as strong as a traditional nuclear family with two earning parents.
Even if three out of the four adults find themselves unemployed, that kid can still count on some income — not to mention physical and emotional resources of four loving parents.
Four parents, in an ideal situation, are better than two.
This all sounds like a nice, tidy arrangement — one that a mess of stepkids or an over-mortgaged McMansion or any one of the million of human failings that end marriages — especially second and third marriages that end in much higher rates than first marriages — especially, especially those with children involved. Couples who have children but do not marry are overall more likely to break up and live apart, though this theory holds for them, too.
Compare the four-parent fantasy separated family with the more common scenario:
Parents separate, courts and culture order the vintage model of kids with mom full-time, dads get visits four days per month. Both parties are incentivized to under-earn to keep the child-support machine in play (he pays less the less he earns, she receives more the less she receives).
Both parties are bitter in this unfortunate arrangement, and dads are likely to mostly or totally check out of the child’s life.
The mom is stuck with the full burden of child rearing, and earning — full-time. 24/7 parenting without the built-in break of shared parenting makes it harder to grow a career, build a business, recharge, date, or otherwise care for yourself.
Single-mom family poverty ensues.
The pay gap ensues.
Fatherlessness and the associated social ills ensue.
As we map out ideal family structures and the policies that support them, we need to look the clear potential advantages that separated families possess.
This mom hopes her daughter grows up to be a single mom with a good co-parent
A divorced friend shared, completely unabashed, that her goal is for her daughter, who is now a teenager, is to grow up and have a child with a great man who will be a great co-parent, then end the relationship and find a loving romantic partnership with someone else.
Here is what my friend told me:
My dream for my daughter is that she be in a loving relationship, and have a good ex-husband who really does a great job with the kids, 50 percent of the time.
People forget the joys of divorce — sharing your kids without guilt and having alone/me time.
I am a better mom as a divorced mom than a full-time mom who was stressed and distracted. Even though I love my child, having time away from her has allowed me to have and live a more complete life — and be a better mom when I am with her.
Thanks to the fact my daughter is with her dad half the time, I have been able to nurture a lucrative career that I am very passionate about and proud of. There is so much less ‘mommy guilt’ when I have to attend evening work events or travel, because it rarely means working around my child. I just go.
I also have time to exercise, enjoy vacations that are relaxing and involve lots of book-reading, and I have had time to nurture a relationship with my new husband, with fewer of the stresses of blended families.
Plus, by the end of my kid-free week, I am recharged and ready to be a mom. If you have your kids all the time, they suck your energy, and you have little opportunity to recoup. My married friends could never compete with me in kids’ afternoon events and activities. I’m the mom who throws the sushi parties, and spends afternoon with my daughter and her friends making cupcakes. I gave my daughter some wonderful experiences because I missed her and wanted our time together to be special and memorable. And because I work full-time, I have the financial resources to take her on trips and other special activities.
My sister is a married, working mom with two kids and she can barely get away to go to the gym. She feels guilty when leaving her kids with nanny or babysitter because they are in daycare all day. If her husband takes the kids, then she spends time alone without him. They lose their connection as a couple and become work horses sacrificing for their children — the very reason so many marriages end in divorce.
When I shared this stance stance with other women, they thought I was a terrible person for encouraging divorce, splitting up families and for wanting time to myself. “What kind of mother doesn’t want to be with their kids full-time?” But the moms I see are stressed out and don’t enjoy their children as much as they could — if they had consistent breaks.
What do you think? Does your family experience the financial benefits of two, two-parent homes? Is she a better mom or worse mom for this stance? What is your experience? Does co-parenting make you a better mom, or worse? Share in the comments …