When my husband headed overseas last week, I braced myself for the onslaught. We have four kids, two of them at school and twins at daycare …
Dreading the slog
For a little over a week, it would be me juggling the whole lot: school and daycare drop offs and pick-ups; trying to stay on top of all the groceries, admin, cleaning and washing; all this along with a couple of part-time jobs.
I’m pretty resilient, but I’m the first to admit that parenting can often overwhelm me.
It’s not just the kids, but the day-to-day slog of running a family, which can be so monotonous and relentless at times. All those meals to prepare, school bags to pack and homework to oversee. For someone who is not a naturally organised person, this stuff can really unravel me.
I thought it would be super tough
This is coming from someone who, back when the four of them were under school age, dubbed the day I had them all home with me “Terrible Tuesday”. Ahem. Tongue-in-cheek, of course.
So as this week (ten days actually) approached, none of us were sure how it would go down. My mum kept saying she was on stand-by for help, and my worried friends rallied round me, urging me to get in touch if I need a coffee, vent or big cry while my hubby is away.
But a funny thing has happened. I’m on Day Seven of this gig, with three more to go, and I’m still standing upright. I haven’t developed a drinking problem and haven’t needed to run out into the street screaming. I haven’t cursed my husband for leaving us or begged my kids to give me break (I’ve got form for this).
I feel fine. It’s all been … fine!
Read more about solo parenting:
- Solo parenting isn’t as tough as single parenting but it’s still REALLY hard
- 7 parenting tips to cope when your partner’s away
- Single and wanting a baby? Here are your options
How could this be?!
It got me thinking: how could I find solo parenting four children easier than when there’s two of us doing it?
I mean, my husband pulls his weight when he’s home. He’s hands-on with the kids, cleans like a demon and cooks me dinner every night. Without him, my workload has multiplied in size, and yet, I feel completely calm and at ease.
So how could solo parenting be easier than I thought?
The realisation hit me earlier this week. The main reason I’ve found parenting on my own easier this week is because there’s been one less person to worry about.
As much as I love my husband, and as much as all of us miss him terribly, not having to deal with relationship stress has kind of given me a break. It turns out that maintaining a grown-up, committed relationship, especially one that involves children, is seriously hard work.
Relationships = work
I can’t believe I never realised this before, but it makes perfect sense. Relationships and marriage are tough. Even the most healthy, rewarding and fulfilling ones take a lot of work to keep them that way. You can’t just expect to cohabit with another human, produce children with them and somehow keep everything afloat without some conflict and stress along the way.
I mentioned this to a couple of friends, who immediately nodded in agreement. Yes, they said – the dynamics change when a parent isn’t there. Plus, you get to do your own thing when your partner’s away – you can eat what you choose, watch your own TV shows. Things that you’d normally have to discuss and agree on when your partner is around can just … get done. Solo parenting gives you a little break from having to factor in someone else.
This explains why things went so smoothly for my husband when I went away for the weekend recently. I worried so much about how he’d cope without me, yet every time I called to check-in, he sounded completely fine, as did the kids. He was probably enjoying some time without me.
My husband and I have a great relationship. We talk, laugh and love our kids madly. But we still get on each other’s nerves sometimes, because we’re a couple of humans living in close confines, under fairly stressful conditions (AKA parenting).
We bicker about housework, we bring home stress from work, we find parenting tough at times and we like to watch different TV shows. All of these things mean that married life and parenting isn’t always easy-breezy at our house – and I’m fairly certain this is the same for a lot of families, if not the majority of them.
I’m not the only one to feel this way
Research reveals that lots of women feel their partner gives them as much grief as their children do. A 2013 US survey of over 7,000 mums found that 46 percent of women thought their partners were causing them more stress than their kids. A lot of this is to do with lack of assistance, and not feeling adequately supported.
I can’t wait for my hubby to come home. I miss not having my best friend with me, my partner in crime. He makes me laugh, gives the best hugs and cooks great curries. But when he does come home, I’m going to be suggesting some ways we can reduce each other’s stress levels a little, because chances are, I’ve caused him just as much angst as he’s caused me.
There has to be a better way to do things, so here’s my plan: Talk kindly to each other at all times, for starters. Leave outside stress at the door when you come home. Respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to running the home and family. And make sure our responsibilities are split fairly down the middle.
We’re both in it for the long-haul and I’d prefer to have more fun and laughs along the way. And maybe factoring in some future solo breaks could help things along too – which really puts my fantasy gal pal New York break back on the map!