Four Days Without Daddy: One Big, Long Confession

I confess, I am always amazed at how quickly my standards fall when I am temporarily called upon to be a single mother. (Wait -- did I say fall? I meant plunge). Prior to each of Husband's business trips I am all steadfastness and sunshine with myself and others. "No problem!" I say brightly to Husband, my mom, my friends. "I'll ask for help if I need it." I am smiling, smiling. I am saying things like, "We'll take it easy around here. Have a nice quiet week. Easy dinners. Early bedtimes. Y'know." Maybe I schedule an extra babysitter; maybe I ask someone to help with driving kids here and there. All in all, I think I have everyone (even me) convinced that we'll make it through with flying colors.

"Come back!" I always say as he kisses me goodbye. A joke, kind of. "We'll be fine. Don't worry about us."


Once he's gone, I can gauge my success at coping with temporary single parenting in five basic areas: Patience, Trash/Recycling Removal, Dinner, Basic Grooming and Bedtime.

Day 1:
Patience is flowing like a river! Dear, please remember to take your shoes off and hang up your school bag. What would you like for a snack? Yes, of course you may create a beaded, glitter-festooned "I Miss You Daddy" card for your father, let me just plug in the hot glue gun for you. Boys, please remember to be peacemakers with each other even when you disagree. Trash/Recycling Removal is promptly completed by me with thorough attention to sorting, rinsing, flattening, and removing from the living environment. Dinner is something everybody likes. Spaghetti, maybe tacos. "Oh, Mom," they gush, "you are the best mom in the world," I know, I think to myself and smile, I know. Basic Grooming is attended to lovingly with caring, maternal hands and warm washcloths. Baths for everyone! Fresh towels! Two passes at the teeth: your turn, then my turn. At bedtime, an extra book, an extra-long cuddle. Everyone gets a turn with the prayer book to read, or "read" (depending on age and skill level), a favorite passage. They're all tucked in tidy and sweet at 7:45 - and yes, you may read for fifteen minutes before you turn the lights out. After they're all in bed, I luxuriate in a warm bath so I'll be one step ahead in the morning. Clever girl.

Day 2:
Patience is hangin' right in there. Did you put your library books in your bag? Well, put 'em in. Do you have your lunch? Well, get it. Yes, you have to wear a jacket. No you may not watch TV before the bus comes. No you may not play Legos. Stop arguing. Please. Put away your laundry. Now, please. Please stop arguing, boys; find a nicer way to say it. I don't want to ask you again to put away your laundry. Please. Trash and recycling removal is done by The Bean. Dinner is passable: tunafish sandwiches and tomato soup. Sliced apples. Glass of milk. Cookies for dessert. Basic Grooming is covered at the, well, basic level. We can skip baths tonight, but let's wash faces and brush teeth. Here, I'll help. One book tonight, and I'll sing a prayer. Bedtime is moved up to 7:30.

Day 3:
Patience is wearing thin, and the threats begin. If you don't pick up your Legos now, no TV later. Everyone to the bathroom for teeth brushing now or it's straight to bed with no book! Quit arguing! Right now! Popcorn for snack, no you may not have an apple to go with it. Boys, cut.it.out. Trash and recycling are stacked together in the trash bin, which is beginning to overflow. I gingerly step inside the trash bin to push it all down..... maybe we can squeeze in one more day. Dinner is hot dogs and a fruit cup. And a glass of milk. On paper plates. Basic grooming consists of me calling out down the hallway, "Make sure you brush your teeth and wash your faces!" At bedtime, there is one book, one mumbled Our Father, and all are tucked in by 7:15.

Day 4:
Patience: Whatever you're going to ask me, the answer is no. Can I -- NO! Could you help me --? NO! But, Mom --? NO! What? Your finger's stuck in a toy otoscope? Here. Here's a bar of soap. See if you can get it unstuck yourself. Trash and recycling are overflowing and occasionally falling out of the trash bin, but at this point I decide to wait until Husband comes home and let him deal with it. Dinner is a fruit cup. Basic grooming: "Did you guys brush your teeth today? Did you brush them yesterday? Well, at least make sure you brush them tomorrow." Tonight, no book, you may read in your beds. Prayer is me muttering under my breath I hope to God your father's flight is on time tomorrow. All tucked in at 7:00


Tomorrow finally comes. By the end of four days I am exhausted, drained, impatient, and utterly unconvinced that I am cut out for this line of work. But still, still trying to smile. Every five minutes for hours one of the children asks me, "When will Daddy be home?" Soon, darling, soon, I say in a dazed kind of way from my perch on the couch. And finally, just in time for dinner, the murmur of the garage door lifting, the clunk of his car door, the jingle of keys. "Hello, dear," I say as he walks through the door to a cacophony of shrieks and cartwheels from the children, "We're so glad you're home. We missed you, but we were fine, fine." I plop a pot of soup on the table for dinner. A can of mandarin oranges as a side dish. A definite step-up from last night. You know, to celebrate. We gather at the table, a family again. Yes, I'm tired and frazzled but all feels right in the world. That wasn't so bad after all, I think to myself, and I start looking forward to a cup of tea and a hot bath.

And then, I confess, I start crying when he tells me he has a conference call in a hour.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


CitricSugar said...

Well told. I'm both amused and sympathetic! Wishing you laughter, hugs and a long, hot bath...

Molly said...

Thanks, Carly. I did finally get that long hot bath :).