Ben was away with work last week. This happens two or three times a year and is typically for just over a week. We manage. It is not easy. It is a lot less easy with a third small creature although I am very aware that the bigger two are now really quite helpful and pretty good company. It struck me as I sat at my spinning wheel while Red discussed the merits (or lack of them) of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that there is less loneliness in Ben’s absence than there used to be. The addition of a baby to our family has brought so much. Including a little more pressure when Ben is away. That isn’t something I want to share with Red.
Several years ago, in between having a new baby and Myrtle being a baby (in my mind, the Easier Year or So) a friend asked me if when he was away I gained an idea of what it might be like to be a single parent. Having not thought about that I replied thoughtlessly, that for me there was an element of increased selfishness, some self indulgence when parenting alone. That was a really dumb response. I am ashamed by it.
I’m aware that it might be tricky to get the right tone on this. I intend to be neither patronising nor smug. What I am is full of admiration for parents who bear that burden by themselves.
It is hard work when Ben is away. Physically hard work, but also and much more, mentally and emotionally hard work. Clearing up dinner, having also made it. Doing bedtime for each child rather than just one or two of them, or there being the option of not doing bedtime at all and leaving it to Ben. Having to mediate each argument, kiss each sore knee better. And then there are the times when a child is poorly, or when I’m poorly. I’m very thankful there haven’t been too many times like that. Having to decide on calpol or calling the doctor by yourself is really scary.
I realise these are just the immediate things. There are other things, so many other things. Times when another parent might be expected, asked about, questions asked that might be difficult to answer. That hurt to answer. Times that are miserable alone but have a funny side when you can share them. So many things I haven’t thought of.
Thing for me is that although I am physically alone when Ben is away, I’m not really alone. He’s on text a lot of the time. If things really got serious I could easily call him. I know he’s thinking of me, hoping we are ok. There for me.
That is an enormous difference. All the difference.
I don’t really know what it’s like to carry all the burdens on my own. I am very grateful for that. I can see just enough of what it must be like to recognise a little of what it is those parenting alone are managing to do. Here I acknowledge that with admiration and respect.