As I write this from my kitchen table, steaming coffee at my elbow, Dylan sleeps upstairs. He lies on his stomach, snot encrusting half his face, his little thumb rests next to his mouth, from which it must have slipped as he drifted off. Every fifteen minutes or so, a chest cough wracks his little body and part of my heart seizes until he breathes normally again. He’s fine. It’s just a simple upper-respiratory infection, the doctor told me. Kids get this (and the croup, last week’s ailment) all the time. It makes them stronger adults. I know, I’ve been told time and time again. Still, it doesn’t make the worry that goes with caring for a sick child any easier.
However, despite appearances, Dylan’s cold is not why I’m still at home on a Friday morning, donning my “mamaform” of slippers and robe. No, my presence here has more to do with the snowdrift kissing my windowsill and the impassable driveway outside. Josh has been out of town since Monday – up north at an environmental learning camp with the entire 8th grade class (no thank you), so before the school even called the snow day this morning, I was planning on staying home. It’s not that I’m a helpless damsel in distress without my husband, it’s just that there was no way I was going to attempt to shovel my way through the massive amount of snow that fell last night in time to get Dylan to daycare by 6:30am and myself to work by the 8 o’clock bell.
At any rate, with the school closing, my home bunker is now justified and I can sip coffee and reflect on my week as a single parent. Holy hell, I don’t know how they do it. Let me acknowledge this disclaimer before I begin: single parents have it much harder than I had it for the past five days, simply because my experience was temporary from the beginning; I knew Josh would be home at the end of the week. Furthermore, I’m aware that many parents operate on a solo basis from time-to-time due to traveling work schedules, etc., so I know my experience is not novel. Still, it was new to me and not at all easy. I was surprised by how often I heard my inner child whining something about life not being fair. I wanted the week to end. I wanted Josh to come home. Like yesterday.
I’d say my biggest takeaway is this: if I didn’t have Josh, I wouldn’t have the dogs either. I felt like I was a single parent to three kids. I never realized how much Josh and I juggle responsibilities in the mornings, taking care of feeding the dogs, changing Dylan, getting ourselves and our charges fed, cleaned, contained, etc. It’s been easy to imagine myself as the lone laborer, the mule, the martyred mother for these past eight months because I’m usually (always) the one nursing Dylan, putting him to bed, going to him at all hours of the day or night, packing his baby/diaper bag for outings, etc. At this stage in his life, it simply makes more sense for me to be the one to be doing more of the parenting. And I don’t mind it; in fact, I relish the hours of caring for my baby. However, I now see how very wrong I’ve been to assume that I’m the only one pulling my weight.
Cut to last night’s commute home: We live 20 miles from our school. On a good day, it takes us 30 minutes to get to/from work. In a snowstorm, however, it takes two hours. Despite being an hour and a half late to picking Dylan up from daycare, I was relieved to see my father-in-law’s truck in our driveway when I finally got home. Tom braved the roads (and suffered a hit-and-run) to relieve our dogs. Unfortunately, he was too late. Not only did the dogs crap on the carpet, but they destroyed a handful of my favorite books that were on a bookshelf within snout’s reach. I just about fell apart when I set my sleeping babe, still strapped into his car seat, on the kitchen table and was greeted by my two amped-up dogs, like they’d just been released, exploding from the gates of a racetrack. This was Josh’s territory. He deals with dog disasters of all kinds: bathroom nightmares, illnesses, vet visits, etc. Without Josh, I felt like an impetuous child, stomping my foot and throwing up my arms. I didn’t want to deal with them – especially when I needed to wake my baby, change him, feed him, and put him to bed. But I did. Because I had to. No one else was going to. And I think that’s the lesson that single parents everywhere could have told me before I even began. The buck stops here. It’s not easy. It’s not glamorous. It’s not even that rewarding. It’s just tiresome and lonely. Needless to say, I’ll be grateful for my husband’s return this evening; that is, if the busses can make it home…there’s talk of them having to leave Saturday morning if the conditions are too dangerous. C’mon, Old Man Winter. Give this tired mama a break.
HAPPY BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY!