I cannot adequately express how much I admire single parents. How they do it – do it all – day after day, week after week, amazes me.
My husband works nights a few times a week, and while I don’t dread it, I certainly don’t look forward to it either. I feel guilty just saying that. Aren’t I supposed to love spending time with my kids? Aren’t I supposed to be a parent? And parenting is something that is supposed to come easily, isn’t it?
The first time my husband went away for several days, my girls were 9 months and 28 months old. I put on a brave face, but I was terrified. How could I fill all those hours on my own? How could I manage diaper changes (times 2), meals, bath-time, bed-time and the hundred and seventeen little emergencies that come up every day, and how could I stay half-way sane through it all, when I had nobody other than a chatty toddler to talk to?
My husband’s job has taken him away since, albeit only for a couple of days at a time, and while the girls are older and more able to help, other things have made it challenging. That first time, I was on maternity leave – didn’t have to worry about getting to work, or missing work, or juggling work. Didn’t have to worry about getting the kids to school on time, dressed, combed, fed (omigod! I have to feed them too??) with all the necessary papers and books and signed permission slips all tucked properly into their back-packs. I say a silent ‘wow” to my husband every day, when I realize that this is his job all the time. I can bitch and moan about having to get up at the crack of dawn so that I can be at work before anyone else in my house is even out of bed, but the fact is, he’s got the hard job. He has to work against that clock (as well as two often-unwilling participants) every morning.
When he first approached me about this fishing trip with his friends, I was full of bravado: “Sure honey, do whatever you like. You deserve a holiday”. Of course I threw in a measure of guilt: “Of course, I’ll have to take MY vacation time in order to cover the kids’ schedule, but that’s okay dear.” Secretly, I may have been hoping that the trip would never really materialize. Secretly, I may have been shaking in my boots at the prospect of 5 full days of single parenthood*. Secretly, I may have been wondering what kind of crappy mother I was for feeling any ounce of trepidation about being left for a week with my children, for gods sake.
But the more I think about it, the more I can cut myself a break. I wasn’t really worried. I DO love my girls. They are great kids. They are fun kids. They entertain me. They have quietly grown to an age where we can have real conversations, where we can actually enjoy a nice dinner together (as long as “nice” is not defined by the gourmet-ness of the cuisine). Several times in an evening, I can’t help grabbing one of them and giving them a bear-hug or a nuzzle in the neck. I wasn’t worried. I was reacting to past experience; I was in the habit of being alarmed, rather than really being alarmed, by his suggestion that he’d go away.
So he went. And, frankly, I’m doing AWESOME. The girls are happy. I’m happy. They are going to bed on time; the homework was done within hours of it coming into the house; we’re getting to school early. The dishes and laundry are done, the floor is washed, the garbage is out, and I am blogging. I’m like, ten times more productive than I am when he’s home. How cool is that?
The best part? I realize that I miss my husband. Not because I need his help. Not because I am craving adult company, or I want someone else to do bath duty or dishes duty, or the morning routine, but because I miss him. We all know that we have a tendency to get caught up in the everyday stuff that we forget to just love each other. These few days, with everything going so well, I can sit back and enjoy the feeling. I meditate on it, enjoy it. I love my husband, and I miss him, and I’m truly looking forward to his return.
Poor guy needs to get away more often.
*I know I’m not a single parent. I know it might be offensive to suggest I am. I am doing this for 5 days, not a lifetime. I don’t have to fight anyone for custody or child support; my children don’t have to make the impossible choice over who or how to love better. It was just an expression – as in I am the single parent this week, versus the non-single parent that I am every other week. 🙂