I'm a bad b*tch. I really am. I can work all day, come home, take care of the kids, put dinner on the table, fold some laundry, write a blog post, make love to my husband and make it all look easy. That's on Monday. On Tuesday, I am doing it all over again. By Wednesday, I am tired and by Sunday, I'm a bit cranky. Why? Because while I can do it all (and make it look easy), I shouldn't have to. And neither should you. You should not be a married "single parent."
Did you notice that I did not write "single mother?" I purposefully wrote single parent because either gender can mentally check out of a marriage/family. I've even devised a little test to help you figure out if you have checked out of your family life:
1. Can you name all of your child's teachers?
2. Can you put away the laundry in your home? Do you know where everything goes?
3. When something goes wrong in your household, do the kids walk past you and go searching for your spouse to fix it?
4. Do you abdicate responsibility and leave it up to your spouse to make the big decisions?
5. Is your word your bond? Does your family believe that you are going to do what you say you are going to do?
So how did you score? Are you the overachieving parent or the slacker parent? See there are problems with both. The "married single parent" feels as if they have no help and they have to do it all. This parent juggles entirely too much and is probably worn out. They are no longer serving their family in love. They are serving their family but totally pissed about not getting any help. But the reality is, they created this monster. The "married single parent" never asked for any help in the beginning so years later the slacker spouse has no idea where they fit in. The "married single parent" thinks that "if I don't do it, it will never get done."
The "slacker parent" doesn't know how to jump into the family life again. They don't want to do something wrong so it is easier to just stay out of it. The slacker parent tried to jump into the fray but got shot down when they didn't do it the way the other parent did.
Do either of these parents sound familiar? So now what? How can they both turn into effective co-parents? Simple answer: the married single parent has to loosen the reins and give the slacker parent freedom to fail. The slacker parent has to assert themselves and complete tasks. That's the simple answer. But what does that actually look like?
Tips for the Married Single Parent:
1. Open your mouth. Share your to-do list with your spouse.
2. Give your spouse room to fail. If they make a mistake, don't rub their nose in it.
3. Let them do things their way. Who cares if they fold towels in squares instead of rectangles? Let them do it their way. Bottom line is it's getting done.
Tips for the Slacker Parent:
1. Complete a task. Complete a task, any task. Boost your self-confidence by completing something on your to-do list.
2. Ask for help, guidance if you need it. If you haven't been involved in a while, it's ok to ask for help. But remember you are asking for help, not asking for your spouse to take over.
3. Make your word your bond. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Your spouse learns to trust you to help by the things that you do, not the things that you say you are going to do.
Bottom line: There is always going to be an ebb and flow to marriage and co-parenting. Sometimes you will do more, others your spouse will. But if you work to make sure that the tide doesn't always flow one way, then you can go from a "married single parent" to an "effective co-parent."