"I love my kids so much, but I wish I could just get some time alone!" How many times have we all said something like that?
Parenting is wonderful but relentless – unless you find yourself in a co-parenting situation like Lara Bazelon has, who shares custody of her two children with her ex-husband.
As someone who has recently found herself in the same situation, I read Lara's article 'Divorce and shared custody suits me and it suits my kids' with interest.
Lara says her current situation is "better than most" but admits the change when she and her husband separated was hard on everyone.
"Kissing my daughter's tear-stained face while she clung to me – and trying not to cry myself – was wrenching in a way that seemed to symbolise the large demolishment of our family," she writes.
But Lara says now that the dust has settled, although there are still tough moments, there is a new kind of normal for the family, and part-time parenting has "turned into a strange kind of gift".
This is something I can relate to. When my husband and I were together, my kids would often find me exhausted at the end of the day. Tired and grumpy, cleaning up after everyone, and trying to cook dinner while I helped with homework, folded washing, coordinated baths and story reading…and I was often not at my most patient.
Now that I only have my kids 50 per cent of the time, I make sure I am fully present for those moments. I listen when my kids speak to me. I take the time to chat to them in the bath and wash their backs if they want me to. We read more stories than just the required reading for school, just for fun. I sit down with them to watch a family movie, rather than using the TV to distract them while I get stuff done.
And then on the days when my kids are being lovingly cared for by their father, I get to go for runs, take long baths myself, cook delicious meals my kids would hate, and go out to the movies on my own.
Lara says that at first she still felt societal pressure to wallow when her kids weren't around.
"A good mother would be devastated to lose thousands of dinner-bath-bedtime-story evenings. A good mother would be heart sick to wake up alone," she writes.
Which is strange, isn't it? To feel bad while your children are being cared for by a parent who loves them just as much as you do?
Lara admits she enjoys her time away from her kids, and says she realised an unhappy couple going their separate ways can be better for the kids (and the parents) than staying together and being unhappy.
Some commenters on the article found Lara's happiness offensive:
"Or maybe that she is just supremely selfish…not a good idea when you are a parent… so I suppose it's good she is only a part-time parent for her kids' sake."
"I'm sure the author got the memo and it sounds like the divorce was much about having 'me' time."
"The writer seems very stuck in the moment, with little ability to have foresight."
The common confusion between the words "mother" and "martyr" strikes again. And weird that nobody is having a go at the father, who is also spending 50 per cent of his time with the children.
There were supporters too, with one primary school teacher writing, "My non-scientific take from observing my elementary school students: divorce where the parents could not be amicable were awful on the children, divorces where the parents were clearly amicable and co-parenting effectively seemed like truly no big deal…"
Another came to Lara's defence, writing," I watched my parents be miserable and us kids miserable in the process."
And that's the point, really, isn't it? Nobody chooses divorce as their first option. I would have preferred to stay married, but as much as we tried, we just couldn't make that work. I'm sure Lara is the same.
So what do we do? We make the best of it. We find a way to lead a happy fulfilling life in this new version of ourselves. After a long period of living unhappily, we dare to reach for happiness for us and for our kids.
There are many who would love for us to curl up and wither on our couch, while pining away for the life we've lost but gosh, what a crock. We are not scarlet women, to be branded and hidden away in shame. We got married, it didn't work out, and now we're living our lives.
I'm predicting our kids will thank us for it.