This weekend, I slept in, did some yoga, biked to get groceries without someone wailing in the back about how cold it was or how their bike wasn't working properly or how their helmet was itchy.... I met a friend for dinner and didn't rush home to release a babysitter, I got a haircut, watched a silent movie with two other friends the next day, and ate a whole container of popcorn myself without having to share.... I answered 7 of the 103 emails still in my in box, read various math articles and teacher blogs, wrote several blog posts myself, had two naps and skyped with my girlfriend in PEI -- twice!!!
I remember a divorced friend telling me years ago that shared custody and co-parenting was the way to go when it came to the kids. Still unhappily married, closeted and constantly exhausted at the time, I thought he was being facetious.
But now I have seen the light.
Although it's still super busy with a full-time (and then some) job, lunches to make, music practice to enforce and school homework to supervise on my own this year on weeknights when the kids are with me, I find that co-parenting in this fashion nevertheless forces me to focus on my children when they are with me... because I am more aware of how precious that time is, and I also know I will have 2-3 nights to myself later in the week to do some of the other things I need or want to do.
I'm sure I'm not the perfect parent, but I know my parenting skills (not to mention my joy of parenting and appreciation of my kids) have drastically increased since I traded in the daily battle for part-time parenting.
To be sure, not seeing my kids every day has meant giving up some control... over what they eat, what media they consume, what dinner table conversation topics they pursue, and where they shop for goods -- and for a control freak like me, that's been a hard pill to swallow. But part time parenting has also meant that when I do see the kids, I'm refreshed and ready for the enriching conversations, the engaging questions and the many life-changing adventures I was often too tired to pursue with them when I was worn out by the everyday grind of former times.
It also means that whichever household Alex and Simon are in, they always come home to a parent who has genuinely missed them and is really looking forward to seeing them again. This works both ways; I notice that the boys are much more enthusiastic and genuine with their "Hey, Mom!" when I see them than they used to be when we were together every day all the time -- what a nice feeling to come home to!
In some sense, co-parenting is the perfect arrangement: Lots of focused time for the kids, and regular intervals of adult-only time for each parent to pursue her/his own, other interests and commitments.
There should be some way to emulate this parenting model for those unfortunate souls who are happily married!! ;-P