I’ve always had a lot of admiration for single parents. I’ve never been quite sure how someone could possibly pull it off. I saw my mom do it but my sister and I were already in our teens by the time my father left. My sister could basically be the default parent when she needed to and growing up as latchkey kids, we were already really independent.
But solo-parenting small children? This is no joke. My husband has been gone for work for almost a month. I’ve been caring for a nursing infant and a toddler – alone – for 28 days. Whoever does this regularly deserves a trophy, a massage, endless gold stars, a cookie and a round of applause.
When I talk about “solo parenting” I’m not just talking about people who don’t have partners. I’m talking about people who do all of the parenting, regardless of whether they have partners or not. Women and men who stay home with the kids all day while their partner is working. Anyone who is in charge of more than 90 percent of the childrearing responsibility. My husband and I defaulted into sharing all responsibility and now that I know what the alternative is like, I would never have it any other way. Here are some of the things that truly suck about doing the lion’s share of the parenting
1. There’s no such thing as a relaxing shower.
I totally took for granted being able to say, “I’m getting in the shower, honey. Make sure you keep an eye on the kids.” Now, not only am I back to that parenting-an-infant paranoia – where I’m not sure exactly how long I can leave my infant totally alone – I also have a toddler running around who I’ve become convinced will inevitably shove goldfish crackers into his little sister’s mouth if I turn away for one second.
2. Running errands ruins me for the rest of the day.
Get toddler into a clean diaper and dressed. Get infant into a clean diaper and dressed. Strap infant to my chest in a carrier so I have free hands to help toddler get into car. Get toddler into car seat. Get infant into car seat. Drive to supermarket. Get infant strapped to my chest in a carrier so I have free hands to help toddler out of car. Get toddler out of car and into a shopping cart.
Okay. I haven’t even shopped yet and I am already exhausted. F this.
3. I’m so jealous of people doing stuff that doesn’t involve parenting.
If one more of my friends posts a picture of themselves lounging by the sea or sipping a glass of wine at a bar, I’m going to shoot myself in the face. I used to be happy for my friends with free time.
4. I can’t have a phone conversation without sounding like a jerk.
I used to wonder why some of my parent friends couldn’t seem to have a phone conversation without being interrupted by their kids. Now, I totally get it. Since my husband has been gone, I can’t focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Inevitably, one of my kids will need something. I’m totally that person not listening to you on the phone.
5. I have to be the person that kills things.
Florida sucks. There are many reasons why, but for now I will concentrate on the bugs. There are these giant insects down here that everyone calls “palmetto bugs.” That is code for “giant, disgusting, flying cockroach.” I will totally play the damsel in distress card when one of these things makes an appearance. Unfortunately, there is no one here to hear my squeals. I have to defend the castle and protect the kids. And when I say “protect the kids,” I mean find the bugs before my son does and puts them in his mouth.
6. My house is a disaster.
I’ve never been as acutely aware of how much my husband does until now. I may do the dishes, cook, and keep things generally tidy, but he does the yard work, the mopping and the vacuuming. It’s much cleaner around here when two people are contributing. Much, much cleaner.
7. I can’t sneak out and have some alone time.
This may be the worst thing of all. How do people handle having to always be responsible for another being, 24 hours a day? I sneak out by myself at least once every few days and I’m realizing this is what keeps me sane. I have burst into tears from exhaustion at least once a week since my husband left. No, I can’t afford a babysitter right now.
8. I’m becoming the annoying person that thinks parenting is the hardest job, ever.
I’m smart enough not to be vocal about this one but I am always thinking it. If someone complains to me about their long day at work, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m thinking – Ha! You think YOU have it bad? Try being at someone’s beck and call every waking and non-waking moment of every day! I haven’t taken a peaceful shit in three weeks! I haven’t had longer than a two minute shower either! I hate being the person that thinks these thoughts. Please come home, honey.
9. I’m so easily entertained, it’s almost pathetic.
This is pretty self explanatory. Anything that doesn’t involve PBS, playing with mini bat mobiles and cutting food into ridiculously tiny pieces brings me more joy than it really should. My sister and I quickly snuck off to the mall the other day and it was like a mini-vacation. Mini-vacation in a mini-mall. I need my parenting partner, and hence, some freedom – STAT.
10. Did I mention the exhaustion?
Holy crap. I. Can’t. Even.
Any man or woman who does this full-time – hats off to you. You can be as sanctimonious as you want to be. You’re my hero.