Going it Alone

This past week DH was away on business. Due to sickness and pre-arranged plans I sort of had Monday and Tuesday off from the kids. That left Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday until DH got home around 7:30 pm. That’s a long time to be looking after two young kids without any help or break. And yet, it went great. It was actually wonderful.

I remember the first time DH went away I was so worried I’d lose it with the kids. But it all went pretty smoothly. Evenings were challenging – that was back in the days when my
kids would stay up until midnight, but overall it went much better than expected. This last week was no exception, and made even more wonderful by the fact that I managed to get both kids to sleep before 10 pm, one at a time, without any frantic, insane behaviour ensuing in the process (more on that success in a later post).

By Friday I was marvelling at the experience. I was genuinely enjoying my children. Not just in brief moments, but all day long. And they seemed to respond, too. There were no fights! Nobody got scratched or kicked or carried away while playing at wrestling (which they did almost every evening, only this time without things deteriorating in the end). I had no fights with DD either. No yelling. I was proud of my parenting. When the odd emotional eruption occurred I was calm and present for them. It felt great.

And yet I couldn’t figure out what had changed! Was it because I had had a big break from the kids early in the week? Was it because the kids were just maturing and getting easier to handle? Was it because I was able to keep my home relatively clean and tidy? What was the secret of this success?

Well, I couldn’t help but wonder if DH’s absence had something to do with it. NOT to suggest he is in any way a hindrance or a problem or anything like that. And in fact I’ve noticed that many of my mama friends have found that they actually have an easier time of things when their DH’s are away, and their guys are not slouches either. I chatted to one of them about it on Friday: what is it? I asked. She said that, besides the fact that one less adult means a significantly less amount of housework, it’s mostly because she resigns herself to the fact that it’s all up to her. There is no expectation that someone is going to come home at 6 pm and take over. And that somehow, in accepting that, it makes it easier to handle.

Well, DH came home that night, and not an hour later a noticeable shift had occurred. Things were going back to what they were like before. The kids started scrapping, I got testy when I tried to make some dinner for myself and kept getting interrupted. DS pooped on the balcony. The place was suddenly a mess. Surely this was not all DH’s fault!

And thinking about it that night, I realized that what had changed was my approach. Had DH not been home I would have made sure the kids were engaged so they wouldn’t end up turning on each other at this difficult time of day when everyone is getting tired and hungry. If that meant playing with them while the water boiled that’s what I would have done. And I wouldn’t have attempted to make myself a meal until they were fed and settled down with a movie or something. I would have been preventative, preemptive, in damage control mode. Instead, with DH home I just expected that I should be able to start on my dinner because he’d eaten and I hadn’t and it was late and surely I deserved to eat and can’t he watch them while I do this? And why isn’t he helping them resolve this dispute that is rapidly spinning out of control? And doesn’t he see that DS needs a diaper change and can’t he go get a clean cloth diaper out of the dryer himself? And of course I didn’t ask any of this, I just expected he should see and take charge so that made me resentful and testy.

Well, I really enjoyed the past three days and I don’t want that experience to fade into a distant memory. I want to feel that way all the time! So I’ve decided to start pretending that I am still alone, that I’m still 100% responsible for the kids. I’m not going to expect that when DH comes home things are gonna be different and I can start letting things go. I’m curious to see how this goes…

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