I wouldn't recommend getting one to improve your parenting skills, but it hit me this morning: I've become a better parent since my divorce.
Not saying I was a horrible one prior to entering splitsville, and who knows what life would have been like for all of us if Big Daddy and I had weathered Hurricane Secretary and stayed married. But I truly believe, with all my heart, that I am a better parent today than I would have been if I'd stayed married.
Sure, I've made my share of mistakes with the kids since being solo, said things, done things that in hindsight, probably shouldn't have been said or done. But overall, I think going through the hell of divorce has made me a better person, and in turn, a better parent.
I think it's the result of so many things, some huge and obvious, some so very subtle and tiny that they can only be felt, like a soft breeze.
The biggest contributor to this New and Improved Mommy is, of course, the fact that I am solely responsible for my children about 90% of the time. You pick up on things faster, learn to read their body language, figure out their nuances when it's you and you alone dealing with them.
I was so worried, at the beginning, that I wouldn't be able to do it all. And I'm proud of myself for not only doing it, but most of the time doing a pretty good job.
Are the kids all Rhodes Scholars, future Presidents and brain surgeons? No. But they are growing into fine, responsible, kind and funny people. There are still moments when I shudder to think of them as roommates or spouses, what with the pee all over the toilet seats, the empty ice cube trays, the socks stuffed into couch cushions, but that's all surface stuff. At their cores, they are good people. They have their issues, of course, I think the five of us put together maybe have more issues than National Geographic, but my babies are good people.
The irony of this is that I have only one person to thank: Big Daddy. If he hadn't done the things he's done, if he hadn't made the choices he made, I wouldn't have evolved into who I am today. I would most likely be a good mom, a good person...but I wouldn't be ME. Learning how to do this on my own has given me more education, more life lessons than I could have ever possibly learned while parenting with a partner.
When you do this massive job all by yourself, you are quite literally being baptized by fire. There is no training, no "breaking in" period. One day you're a team, the next day you're all by your lonesome. You no longer have the luxury of saying to the person next to you: "I've had it. They're all yours for the next 4 hours." You are the one who makes sure homework is done, showers are taken, bellies are full and souls are fed. Nobody for you to call when you're running late, and say "Go ahead and get that stuff out of the crockpot and make sure they start their homework and oh yeah toss that load of whites into the dryer. And let the dog out!". You become the Alpha, and your kids, the Pack.
The beauty of this situation is, of course, that you and the kids grow and learn together. You become a solid unit, a front line that faces all obstacles and all joys together.
In some ways, I pity Big Daddy. I feel bad for him because he has no idea what it's like to parent these kids. He only gets bits and pieces of it, the leftovers from the feast. He doesn't have the connection the kids and I have, the history. And that's sad. Sad for him, yes, but more importantly, sad for the kids. They've missed out on having a full time dad and even though I do a good job of wearing both hats, there are certainly gaps in my coverage.
Who knows what the kids will see when they are all grown up and look back on their childhoods...will they see those gaps that were left by the divorce? Or will they instead look at the whole sections and smile, remembering how the five of us banded together and made the best out of a decidedly sticky situation?
I'd like to think they'll take a cue from their mom, and smile.