Work Life Balance

Divorce Envy: Mothers Who Are Jealous Of Their Divorced Friends’ Free Time

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divorce envyIf the great saying goes that you can have three out of four: Marriage, Family, Career, and Self, married and employed mothers generally know which card they forfeited. The upkeep of a partnership, a home, and of course a child generally doesn’t leave much room at the end of the day for anything else. But for divorced mothers who have the luxury of a co-parenting ex, their weekends away from their children can read like spa vacations to some of their overworked, married counterparts. The passing of a divorced woman on her way to meet friends for coffee or enjoy a yoga class child-free can incite only one sentiment: divorce envy.

Jana, a full-time working married mother of a 1-year-old girl, tells Mommyish that divorce envy is common among her married friends. Although she admittedly has a very involved husband, she empathizes with the feeling.

“They are envious of the ‘me time’ that married mothers so often forgo for the health and happiness of their spouse and children,” she observes. “I get it, because I see so many women having to juggle the needs of both their kids and their husbands. Where are their needs being met?”

Jana estimates that the envy is further fueled by the cultural emphasis on celebrity motherhood in contemporary parenting. Celebrity women with those coveted post-baby bodies and all the childcare money can buy appear to “have it all” — including time to take care of themselves. Childless weekends, exercise classes four times a week, and a movie with friends are just some of the indulgences that a certain divorce can afford.

“In reality most mothers are stressed, sick and often tired. Any moment alone is usually spent cleaning up or planning for the next family escapade,” she adds.

Andrea, a married mother of two, commented on Mommyish’s Facebook that although nothing seems appealing about a family split, she relishes the time off:

My (married) friends and I talk about this all the time. I wouldn’t wish a hellish divorce on ANYONE, but I gotta admit I covet those every other child free weekends.

Star, a single mother, also commented:

I must admit, it is the best part. Free time.

Joleen, a former single mother, empathized as well:

Obviously there’s lots of different situations and it may not be ideal, but having been a single mom myself (now remarried), I occasionally do daydream about a weekend completely my own.

However divorce, just like marriage, varies, with an array of unique situations that obviously don’t accommodate such freedoms. Upon parsing out the root of such envy, even many divorced and single mothers aren’t able to partake in many of the presumed and so-called “benefits” of divorce, particularly those who are running the show on their own.

Melissa, a divorced single mother with one daughter, describes herself as “on 24/7.” Her little girl’s father is not involved in the child’s life at all and sees her only a couple of times a year. Both of Melissa’s parents play a prominent role in looking after her daughter while she logs in long days at work. With a job in public relations and social media that allows her to skip “boring PTA meetings,” Melissa appears to possess a freedom and flexibility that would appeal to some parents. Yet even though she is admittedly jealous of families with actively co-parenting fathers, Melissa feels herself at the other end of divorce envy from time to time.

“On the outside, my life does seem pretty cool. I have a fab job in NYC, get invited to tons of events, travel, date, and still manage to have a well-rounded, smart and spunky daughter. Big thanks to my mom who holds everything together when I’m not around,” she says. “Then my weekends are filled with soccer games, birthday parties, museums and crafts followed by a fancy dinner somewhere with my daughter. I’ve always included her whenever I can. She’s attended meetings, watched me negotiate deals, and dined with celeb chefs at restaurant openings.”

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