I am a single parent, and I am trying to get to a point where I can experience being the primary caregiver for two children as just a normal part of everyday life as opposed to a burden on me... for some reason, I feel the need to note that I love my children, I love being a parent, and I enjoy their company- I am writing about the specific times where things come up that children cannot go to (or are not "supposed" to participate in)-things that children on TV sitcoms magically disappear for.
Generally speaking, it is not difficult for me to enjoy having children around as part of my everyday life- they can make a weekend more exciting and open up a wide range of activities that I can do, such as going to various parks and playgrounds, and I love a good game of tag or follow the leader on the climbing structures when they aren't too full. However, as much as I try to get away from the children-are-(sometimes)-a-burden framework that used to dominate my thinking right after my divorce, I find that various circumstances are pushing it back into my life- two main examples right now being the university and my position as a union executive.
I begin grad school this fall, and it is a small program at a small university. Two years ago, there were fewer students and 2 more course options. This year, there are basically no electives being offered due to a severe prof shortage. Anyway, the part that is relevant to parenting is my schedule. My earliest course is at 4:30pm, and I will be in class at least two nights a week until 10pm. So, I help the kids get on the bus to school in the morning and do thesis work and readings through the day (things that I could easily do at home in the evening), then the kids have to go to daycare all evening while I attend classes.
I am really struggling with whether it is ok for me to spend that much time away from them. It is important to note that their father does not feel guilty about only seeing them for a couple of hours every other week, so why do I have to feel guilty about leaving them at daycare until 10pm 2 nights a week? I think it has something to do with my youngest's "behavioral issues" that developed at school last year when i was in class until 6:00 twice a week. He stopped listening to his kindergarten teacher and refused to go to bed for me at night, and when we consulted a specific agency about the behaviors, they suggested that it was because I wasn't spending enough time at home (with no suggestion that an absent father could be partially to blame).
Combining this class schedule with mother-blaming, I've gone as far as to debate whether I should actually get a graduate degree because it might not be fair to the children... but, on the other hand, would it be any more fair to them for me to take whatever type of job I can find with my current degree (insert liberal arts joke here) instead of following my own dream and my passion to continue my education and get the job that I see myself doing for the rest of my life?
The other issue I have been having related to my children is about working on a union executive. Our union has been having regular meetings and conferences 4 hours away (driving- 1 hour flight- 7 hours by train) to combat wage restraint legislation. My university needs to be represented, and, until we find more members to step in this fall, I seem to be the only one who is willing/able to do this. My union has a policy where children are welcome- daycare is provided at the meetings and speakers often talk about how happy they are to have entire families able to attend. However, there are activities that are planned at night, which means I cannot fully participate in the activities that are taking place as "good" parents put children to bed at a "reasonable" hour. Most participants have a spouse to stay with the children while they go out, but, for the single parents (in my experience, all of the attending single parents have been mothers) who attend, things like games night and camp fires are cut quite short. I have even had to miss evening meetings where important document wording was being debated in detail.
I'm not saying that I think there should be daycare all night at these events so I can go play games night and then go drinking with my peers, I am just saying that having children has stopped me from doing things that I might otherwise be able to do. So, I now need to try and reframe this discussion and get to a place where I can get around some of these experiences where having children sometimes feels like a burden... keeping in mind that when my children are together, they are not really capable of being quiet enough for non-child-friendly situations.
So, I guess my point is that as hard as I try to not see my children as a burden, I feel like this view is being pushed back on me- and my experience is that they are my burden, not their father's.