Mar 16, 2012

A Surprisingly Easy and Lovely Week - but I'm very tired

The last 10 days my husband Y. has been away. I won't annoy the hard-working single parents I know and admire by saying "I was a single mum for a week!" as I know, I really do know, that it's not the same thing at all.
But it has been an interesting week.

It was not hard. I expected it to be a bit hard. I thought I'd be stressed and exhausted and angry.
Always the optimist, me.

I was not at all stressed, exhausted or angry - emotions that I tend to feel on a regular basis as do many mums I think.

On the contrary, I was relaxed, organised, calm and happy the whole time.

I know that sounds bad, but don't worry, my marriage is not on the skids and I do love my husband.
But I have always been something of a loner and very independent. I like being able to run my own show at home, do things how and when I want to do them, keep up with the household things I think are important and know my free time in the evenings and while the kids are occupied is 100% my own. I know that's not what life is all about, but to me it's a little bit lovely.

Though I like being married and Y. and I are tightly bonded and have a lot of laughs together, I have always found relationships a little... stressful, I suppose. And while I'm not going to fall into that thing of denigrating men by saying things like "it's like I have another kid" there is no denying that it can feel sometimes like everyone wants something all the time, and my teeth are set on edge by kids and husband all talking at me at the same time. So it's nice not to have that for a little while.

I wouldn't want this long-term of course. Even I get lonely, and there is no denying that two parents run a household (and raise kids) a lot easier than one.

At the simplest level, without Y. around I can't take the dog for a walk before the kids wake up, or nip out to the shops unless I take the kids with me. And there's no one to tidy the kitchen while I do laundry, do the morning drop-off at school so I can get to work on time, or pick up the slack when I lose my shit.

So these last 2 weeks, I did not lose my shit, not even inside my own head where the kids don't know I'm doing it. Where I am usually very organised, this week I was scary-robot-organised, because I had to be. I also decided I was going to keep up with everything and not let anything slide, to avoid the chaos-theory effect when little things keep adding to the pile until you have the full catastrophe at the end of the week and a crappy, catchy-up weekend. I figured the weekends should be free for the kids, who the first week especially, missed their daddy and felt a bit insecure at his absence.

Also, perhaps, if I'm honest, maybe I wanted to keep the house in really good shape (for our house) so I could show Y. that (a) my way is best and that's why we have to keep up with these various jobs I nag about every night, and (b) I'm not always an emotional stressed out wreck, I'm actually super capable and impressive.

So here's what I did:

  • I used Smart Working Mother's tip to "commit to wash, dry and fold every single day". I folded and put away laundry every day so we didn't have (too many) baskets piled high around the living area.
  • I made school lunches the night before, every single night.
  • I tidied the kitchen and eating area every single night, so that I always got up to it clean and tidy.
  • I laid out the girls' school clothes and my work clothes every single night.
  • I vacuumed 3 times a week (as opposed to my usual rate of once every 2 weeks. It helped that we recently got a new vacuum cleaner)
  • I changed all the bed sheets twice - but this was partly due to the dog weeing on them in the micro-seconds I wasn't watching him and before bedroom doors were closed.
  • I maintained constant supply of snacks, fruit and veggies in the house, cooked rice in the fridge and meat for dinners. That's so much easier when you don't have to account for a spouse eating things from the fridge out of schedule!
  • I re-used or froze leftovers.
  • I didn't faff around with the snooze button or set a new alarm on my phone for an extra 15 minutes when the alarm went off - because there was no-one next to me to thump me and say "Wake up, and for Christ's sake get up or set your alarm later!"

None of this is new to me or anyone of course, and these are all things I have done before, but when you work full-time especially it is very hard to keep them all up consistently. And in fact - my main beef with all these well-meaning time management tips - it is not actually physically possible to keep them all up  consistently. Things happen, we get tired, we make mistakes, we have to work late or someone is sick, etc. But, I did it these last 2 weeks.

And along with all this - more awesomeness - I found I gave a lot more time to my kids. I spent more time talking with them, hanging around with them and doing stuff with them. What I did a lot less of was playing on my phone, tweeting, blogging, scanning news sites and Zite, talking on the phone, and reading.

Also, I have to say, it was fun and easy to spend time with them as just the three of us. That doesn't mean that's the way I want things to be. But it was nice.

The downside is, I rarely got to bed before midnight, so I am now a little bit exhausted.

And here it is midnight again, and I still have some tidying to do. We pick up Y. from the airport tomorrow and then take the kids to school and me to work, so I definitely need some sleep.



  1. Well done, Jackie! LC goes away for work fairly often these days and even though I only have one child and don't work full time (well, I do, but it's from home, so no commute or change of clothes is needed), I also kinda sorta enjoy the solitude of being the only parent.

    Things still get done and somehow Sapphire and I are closer - we help each other instead of take each other for granted.

    But yes, I go to bed later and feel a lot more tired and my invisible tail wags just as eagerly as the dog's does when LC gets home again.

    1. That's it in a nutshell Kath - you've said it perfectly. Glad it's not just me and this is a normal thing.

  2. Uggg. Single parenting is hard even for one week! But it sounds like you are a trooper! When he gets back treat yourself to some kind of special time for yourself.

    1. Thanks Jennie!
      I just spent a lovely day with one of my daughters (she was exhausted so kept her home from school) and I had dinner out with friends tonight which is rare. Very fortifying!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this - I spend a lot of time on my own with the kids and so much of what you say rings true with me. I also like running my own show and as much as I love my husband, the wheels often come off when he gets back! I am a lot more organised when he's away, but as the weeks tick by I'm finding it harder - and the late nights are taking their toll! I have a very close relationship with my children, but when I get tired I think I'm a little too snappy sometimes. Really miss sharing the parenting - never feel I can take my foot off the pedal.

    1. That's it exactly - you have just described exactly how it is for me too!
      Nice to know we're not alone!



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