“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” ~Victoria Holt
Never regret. Those words on the surface sound like a great way to live. Live life so that you have no regrets. The idea is great, the reality non-existent, I suspect. I don’t think it is possible to live a life completely without regret. I don’t think one needs to wallow in and torture oneself with regret either. We can learn from our mistakes and our past, and move on but still be saddened by the way our past plays out in our present. I for one, never wanted to be in my forties parenting four children alone. Here I am and doing well, but it is not what I would have chosen. I would have chosen a loving marriage that worked over single parenting any day.
A Nice Idea
When it comes to love, marriage, divorce and single parenting there’s an entire galaxy of regret to be realized. Regrets of time and emotion wasted, of poor choices, of insufficient self knowledge, of the realities that now face the person tasked with parenting a child or children alone without the help of a loving, supportive, participatory partner in a marriage that worked. Regrets of diminished financial resources and not being able to now provide the childhood experiences that you once hoped you could, not to mention the increased demands on the dwindling time and energyof the single parent. Granted, this isn’t everyone’s single parent reality. It is the reality for many, however. Specifically, on many levels, it has been mine. I don’t think I’m alone here. When it comes to life after divorce, especially if that life now involves single parenting, the idea of living with no regrets is simply that: a nice idea.
Mixed Feelings About Single Parenting
I’ve recently come across a fellow blogger who seems to be a kindred spirit. She’s walked the single parent road for much longer than I. Her tour of duty in Single Parent World is just two years from being over, while I have a decade of duty left. Her recent article titled, “Single Parenthood: How Do You Really Feel?” resonated with me. I, too, am proud of what I’ve accomplished in the last few years, the stability and safety I’ve fought for and aquired for my children and I, and the slow, arduous climb back from financial disaster. These are accomplishments I celebrate, but with every celebration there is that cloud of regret that hovers over the silver lining. It’s a mixed bag. On one hand I’d never go back to the nightmare I was living before. At the same time, I prefer that I’d made better choices, known myself better, behaved better myself so that I could have avoided being in this place now.
The regret is that while I am content in my life as a single parent it would have been far better for us all to be part of an intact family with a marriage that worked for us all than not. Single parenting, while far superior to my previous reality, is not what I ever wanted for myself or my children and it isn’t the existence I’d choose even now had I any other choice, most particularly, that of sharing with a partner who fit us, who was loving and supportive and personally competent.
Things Are Forever Different Now
Things are different for the single parent. For most of us, financial resources are much more limited, especially early on. This reality hit me hard when I realized that I was not going to be able to put my children in piano lessons, soccer, volleyball, gymnastics or any other of the many activities they previously enjoyed. Not only was I not going to be able to put them in all the activities they previously enjoyed, I couldn’t put any of them in even one of the activities. Do the math. Even in my small community where things are less expensive than they would be in a larger city, the cost of dance lessons runs about $40 a month. That alone is almost my garbage bill. Multiply that amount by four. Add to that the increased time and fuel expenses involved in driving the children to their activities and the reality of making this happen on my own, without the financial assistance from the ex or transportation help from the same makes this an impossibilty for those of us saddled with the financial responsibilities of home ownership, debt repayment and without the assistance of large incomes or public assistance. When I’m rationing milk to make it to the next payday, paying for piano lessons is not going to happen. Things are forever different now.
Traveling The Path
I’ve been a single parent for two years now and I have about 10 years before my youngest is launched, five years before I’m down to just one child. I’m a good parent, not prone to allowing my home to deteriorate to disaster with food,dishes, dirty laundry and trash strewn everywhere. My kids do chores, have their friends over on occasion, spend the night elsewhere on occasion and are involved in sc
hool activities and sports. I have a career that pays the bills and allows me time off with my kids most of the time that they are not in school. Because of my parenting arrangements with my ex’s (yep, that was plural), I have regular time to myself with no kids. For me, life in Single Parent World is far better than for most. I can’t complain, and most of the time I don’t because I know, as with anything, it could be so much worse.
I deal with the same issues of fatigue, inability to have any kind of time to put together a decent meal that isn’t microwaved in some part, trying to spread limited finances, time, and energy among four (now three, one is at college, I remember now) other people and still have something left for myself. My life, my children’s lives, are moving on. Most of the time it is simply a matter of doing what I know I must and can do today. The future is too overwhelming to contemplate, the past still too painful at points. I often don’t feel as though I’m doing anything right and sometimes, for a few brief moments, I feel as though things couldn’t be better. Most of the time it is trial and error, guess and check as I find my way in this strange new world. It is a way that while bumpy and steep, at first, seems to be smoothing out somewhat. The path has leveled off, the terrain more appealing, the walk not so cumbersome, the weather far more mild most of the time. Even so, it is not a path I travel without passing by brief moments of profound regret for what I would have preferred over this.