Today was day 12 of my husband’s 16 day business trip to India. And today was rough.
I’m not going to write about finding the silver-lining or give you tips to survive solo parenting because, frankly, I’m not in the mood. No, I’m going to write about how hard this is. How much being alone as a parent sucks for me, for you, for us all.
If these 2 and a half years of enduring my husband’s long business trips has taught me anything it’s this: parenting is a job for 2 people. We do it alone all of the time, sure, but it’s intended to be the work of 2 people.
But it’s not about the “work” of parenting. It’s not.
It’s not that I just can’t change one more diaper or make one more meal or give one more bath. It’s that I don’t want to do it alone. I’m tired of doing these things alone.
Or more so, I’m tired of housing all of the memories and moments of our children inside of me alone. The good, the bad, the painful. I’m tired of not having someone, an adult I love, to share these things with.
On Saturday I had a record-breaking disastrous potty-training-fail at a McDonald’s play area. It was awful, disgusting, prolific. The type of experience where you stand mouth wide, shocked at the moment you have suddenly entered.
I knew I’d laugh and tell the story with relish one day, but as I drove away from that McDonald’s my eyes were twitching and my fists were clenched.
More than ever I needed my husband in that moment. And it’s not why you think. It’s not about the work or the mess or that I shouldn’t have to be the only one to deal with that nightmare.
I didn’t need help with the mess or the kids. I just needed him.
I need to hear him say, “wow, that was awful.” Just that. I needed him to listen to me as I cried and let out the rage and regret over yelling at the kids. I needed him to hear me and to be with me, even if it was just over the phone.
I just needed him.
But I couldn’t call him and there is no else I wanted to share this story with, at least not then.
I was alone. And it sucked.
I don’t often talk about how hard it is when my husband is traveling. I don’t like to complain, I strive to stay positive and I hate to have anyone think I am weak in any way. I am very proud and because of that I suffer in this loneliness more than I should.
But it is hard. So hard. Denying this is denying the very truth of parenthood: it is a job for 2 people and I am one 1 person, no matter how hard I try or what act I put on. I am only 1 person.
We all parent alone sometimes. Some more, some less. We all have husbands that are forced to work long hours, go on distant business trips or pick up a second job to support the family. We are married to men with long commutes, demanding bosses and struggling companies. Our husbands have been deployed, they’ve gone back to school or devoted themselves to important communities. The men we share the burden of parenting with are often gone, out in the world, supporting us, fighting to protect us and guiding us.
They are good men. But this is still hard.
Tonight after the kids were in bed my husband called. For the first time in several days the reception was good, the kids weren’t an issue and our schedules lined up. Over FaceTime we had a moment to just be together.
He’s exhausted, sick of Indian food and stressed with impending deadlines, but excited to hear about life back here for us. I finally had a chance to tell him about McDonald’s, and about the baby ripping apart my necklace at mass, and snuggling with Bernadette after her nap and walking home from the park in the rain and a handful of other little things I’d been holding silently in my heart.
He listened, and watched me cry, and told me how hard that must have been, or funny or sweet and that he’d be home soon and that he was sorry he was gone and that he loved me. And that I was amazing.
And before he hung up I had calmed down and was smiling. And I felt much better.
Tonight, all the way from India, he gave me what I needed. He was able to help me carry the burden of parenting just by listening. As I spoke, as I cried, the demons of loneliness loosened their grip on me. I saw this man through my phone that loved my children as much as I did, understood them, cherished them and was now in charge of their memories along with me.
I saw that I wasn’t actually parenting them alone. And that’s all I needed.