I felt like a deadbeat mom.  The kind of mom they gossip about how she doesn’t have her act together for their kids.  The mom who forgets to pick up her kid from school.  Or she blows her kid’s birthday fund on a binge weekend. The mom who isn’t around for the important stuff that their child will remember when they grow up.  How could she she miss her son’s birthday party?

My son turned eight today.  For his last five birthdays, his dad and I have alternated who he spends his birthday with: mom or dad.  Never both.  In the beginning, I would keep track of who he was with on his birthday, so I could look back the following year and make sure to arrange that the other parent would have him on his next birthday.  As the years has passed, we have eased into a more comfortable coparenting style, so that we don’t have to rearrange the schedule for birthdays.  We just accept that one of us will host the birthday based on whose schedule the date his birthday day falls.  Last year, I hosted our son’s birthday, because the date landed during my scheduled time with him.  This year, it landed on his dad’s scheduled time with him.  So I assumed I wouldn’t see him for his birthday when he turned 8 years old.

To make it worse, his dad gave him a dirt bike.  And I gave him a lego kit.  What a sad contrast.  It’s like comparing Disneyland to Chuckee Cheese.  The gift disparity is nothing new, this happens every birthday and Christmas.  Not only am I more frugal than their dad, but I also have a lot less financial resources.  So, not only does my birthday gift pale in comparison to the gift his dad gives him, but I also the mom who doesn’t see him in his birthday.  

I wonder if this is his dad’s way of ‘’sticking’’ it to me. He wasn’t happy I left him so maybe this is the last way he can find to really grind on my gears. Or maybe he just really loves showering he kids with expensive gifts to buy them off.

It’s so easy to compare yourself to other parents. Isn’t it?  It’s oh so easy for me to dwell on the fact that their dad buys them nicer gifts than I do. Kids are smart.  I know my son notices it.  Does my son think I don’t love him as much as his dad?  I also compare myself to other parents.  My friend’s daughter turned seven last week.  She brought her McDonald’s for school lunch, along with a flower.  She threw her daughter three birthday parties.  One for just their immediate family, a second for her friends, and a third for relatives.  I can’t help trigger these thoughts: Not only am I not going to be attending my son’s birthday party, but he is only going to have one party.  Poor kid.  His school also doesn’t allow outside food into the building for lunch anymore, so I can’t bring him McDonalds.  I forgot to buy little stickers or pencils for him to hand out in class.  And I didn’t have time to meet him for lunch at school to celebrate his birthday.  

It took all lot of coordination and effort just to get him to his dentist appointment this week.  Forget about all those fancy other things the other parents are doing.  

I feel overwhelmed with guilt and inadequacy that I didn’t even make the cake or wrap the present nice so we could celebrate his birthday before he left for his dad’s.  The cake mix and candles are still sitting on my kitchen counter, saying you dropped the ball this year, mama.

Yes, I did.  I’m a work in progress.

I easily get swept away with the guilt of inadequate parenting due to divorce.  If we weren’t divorced, it would be so much easier.  It would be normal, like everyone else.

Lie.  Everyone has struggles.  Nobody has it easy.  Their struggles are different than mine, but it doesn’t mean that I was dealt a bad hand and am justified in pouting.  

I will deliberately look at the good: my son is very loved by both his mom and dad.  His birthday is always celebrated with joy.  Another good thing is that our coparenting is improving.  I think by his next birthday, we may attend the birthday party held by the other parent.  My son would love that.  

Parenting now that I am divorce is a lot different than when I was married.  I was there for everything before. I never had to keep track of times or dates or miss important events.  I start feeling bad for myself, and which that I never got divorced.  

That’s when the alarm sounds.  It screams: “PITY PARTY PITY PARTY PITY PARTY”.  Then I shake it off and go on about my day.   

I am not at his birthday party this year, but the truth is that it doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom.  I’m doing the best I can.  Each year the coparenting landscape changes, and I change with it.