There comes a point in most of our lives as parents, when we have to go it alone for a period of time. I’m talking about whether for business or pleasure, when you’re left keeping the home fires burning while your other half is away from home.
Knowing the drill
Over the last couple of years, we’ve become accustomed to the process of Daddy having to work away for a week at a time, maybe three or four times a year. It’s just the way his line of work has gone, and as a stay at home Mum, it’s part of my role to support the needs of the work that’s keeping me where I am too.
We’ve got used to the whole business of it – a Sunday departure and a Saturday return; in body not in mind, until a few hours in bed to get over the jet lag that is. The kids deal with it in ups and downs – the ups when they’re getting any special treatment because Daddy’s away, and the downs normally when they’ve been told off, and Daddy’s absence becomes catastrophic.
We got this
In all honesty, I don’t worry about the week ahead as such anymore; well no more than any normal week anyway. Now the Mouse is not so much of a baby, she is loads more adaptable at bedtimes, mealtimes and can understand and reason so much more than she could a year ago. Tigs is getting more independent and helpful all the time, and is actually a second pair of hands when I need them.
In fact, the novelty of it being just us gets us in a frame of mind to do more fun stuff together – it’s as though I have to make up for the fact that there is only one parent around by doing extra fun things. I’m not sure why we can’t adopt this attitude all the time – I guess it’s because there isn’t any ‘You watch the kids while I just…’ going on. When you know you hold full responsibility it forces you to step up a bit, doesn’t it?
Sometimes, when Daddy’s working away we might receive generous offers of help, dinner or company from family or friends. Do we need help? Yes and No really. We are okay going through the motions together, getting on with things, but a kind offer of help with the children or a bit of moral support is a welcome offer ANY time in my book, so we will always graciously accept and be ever so grateful.
As much as I like to moan about doing everything, when the hubs isn’t around, the things he does do stick out like a sore thumb. I haven’t put out the bins since I fell pregnant six years ago, and the bathroom doesn’t clean itself. Cat litter tray? I’d rather not go there – Still holding onto the pregnancy excuse pattern.
We deal with the sleepless nights and early starts together in an alternating system, so the week of full on sleep deprivation can hit like a tonne of bricks. It reminds me how lucky I am that I have a man who helps me survive the tiredness, even though he’s got a tough day ahead at the office.
He’ll often try and work from home to help with after school clubs if he can, and tries to be flexible around any appointments the family might have. We face the bedtime routine together, mixing up the reading to the girls and swapping over when tensions get frayed. When he isn’t here there is a definite hole.
Let’s be honest here, once the hard work is done and the house falls quiet it can even be kinda nice to have the place to yourself. Full remote control control, a king size bed to spread out in and guilt free getting on with what I fancy doing (browsing clothes shops online, blogging, watching crap, scrolling instagram, going to bed at 9pm). I know that may sound harsh, but I’m sure there is a tiny bit of him (A LOT) looking forward to the 9 hour flight alone, watching boy movies, reading books, dozing in peace. A uninterrupted week of hotel room sleep and a buffet breakfast and fine dining each day (as opposed to spaghetti bolognese plated up three hours ago ready to pop in the microwave).
Of course, we will however battle over who had it harder. Travel, jet lag, long working hours and stressful agendas vs broken nights, cabin fever, mealtime monotony and misbehaving kids. In reality, there are no prizes for the worst week competition, so a little bit of understanding has to go both ways.
Doing it my way
The funny thing about having a brief spell of solo parenting, is that suddenly you hold the reins entirely. Dinner, bathtime, bedtime happens how and when you want it done. The laundry is all in the washing bin as opposed to beside it, and the towels don’t accumulate on the bed as they sometimes have a habit of doing. The just emptied space beside the sink stays that way until you next visit it.
The evening routine isn’t derailed by the 6pm excitement of Daddys homecoming each night and as such is a calm (and early) affair. Ducks are in a row in every sense of the word, and the house runs like a well oiled machine.
Life is not a machine. A week at home without my favourite moment when we hear the key in the door is like watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in black and white. Or when I reach the furthest point of my run, and the battery dies on my phone, meaning I have to run home in silence. Same process, totally different experience.
One the novelty of having the TV to yourself wears off, on around day three, the week ahead suddenly feels long and like a mountain to climb, without the sparkle of having the other half of your team to collapse onto the sofa with in unison. No one to celebrate it being Friday evening with, and a strange sense of guilt in watching an episode of a series you’ve been glued to together.
By Friday, the morning cannot come quick enough, as we all go to bed early as though it’s Christmas eve – just to make the morning arrive sooner.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and whilst so often we wish time would slow down, weeks like these, we just can’t wait to be reunited; refreshed and appreciative of each other’s role.