Here’s a shout-out to all the parents whose partners travel during the week. Jeff’s traveled since Sadie was about a year old, so I’ve amassed some advice to share.
Basically, I’ve finally learned to have two different sets of standards: one for when Jeff’s in town and one when he’s not.
Example: When Jeff is here, we do family dinner at the table and you are 99% likely to find proteins, vegetables and a whole grain starch on the table. On those nights, we all sit in chairs and have discussions that begin thusly: “Sadie and Simon, what were your favorite parts of the day?”
However, on the nights when I solo parent, you are more likely to find me scraping food off the floor to serve to my children than to find a bona fide protein source that I cooked by hand. I actually haven’t sat down to eat a meal since Monday night, right before Jeff left. Come to think of it, Sadie ate her “dinner” while riding atop our rocking horse (which she dressed up like Yoda, because why not?). Not to be outdone, Simon found his digestive bliss while sitting on the potty. Me? I stood at the island checking the weather, thinking that if a snow storm or weather system was on its way and likely to deter or delay Jeff’s flight, then I was going to make a run for it. On foot. In the rain. Without a sports bra.
For years, I’ve tried to run the same ship when we were down one parent. I’ve berated myself for being more short-tempered, for cutting corners, and being less playful when Jeff was gone. The guilt of turning to the devices of Apple, Inc. to entertain the kids so I can get the dishes washed or take a shower before work has eroded pieces of my soul. (And the soul doesn’t grow back overnight. It’s not a goddamned earthworm.)
It simply doesn’t work to keep the same standards on the weeks that Jeff is gone. Period.
And it’s Jeff’s fault. If he were just a figurehead or a pop-in-right-before-bedtime dad, I wouldn’t miss him as much. But he’s busy when he’s home: he does most of the cooking, half of the bedtime routine, half of the morning routine (and how fucking soul-destroying can that piece of the day be?). Come to think of it, he does at least half of everything. He’s not perfect– he’s not great with washing dishes and doesn’t seem to realize we have a dirty clothes hamper, but he’s super involved in the big stuff. Like parenting. He also must do all of lots of stuff I know nothing about since I am busy doing none of it. See changing light bulbs, killing rats in the mini-van, explaining to the children how ice gets into the ice maker, and balancing the check book.
My point is that parenting is like a table and if two legs are knocked off it, then the table can’t stand up straight. It’s going to wobble and shit’s gonna slide off of it. And that’s okay, because there won’t be anyone around to see you scoop stuff off the floor and serve it for dinner.