Saturday, December 10, 2005

Life As A Single Parent

No, my wife and I aren’t splitting up, rather I’m happy to report she’s back from a two-week biz trip, which means I get to close another chapter in my life as a frequent single Dad.

Pam travels extensively; she’s normally gone on travel at least twice a month, often three, and sometimes four times a month — but those trips are usually two or three days with the occasional four or five day tossed in.  I’m fortunate that as much as she travels she’s still around quite a bit to help out with parenting. 

This two week period as a single parent was the longest stint I’ve had since starting a stay-at-home/work-from-home Dad job five or so years back when our daughter Lydia arrived on the scene.  Self-deprication aside, I count myself as a pretty good Dad who can handle pretty much anything while my wife’s away.  For all my experience as a parent over the last five years, this two week period was an eye-opener and gave me even more appreciation for the many single parents who do this constantly.

My schedule and workload the last two weeks was pretty normal.  The daily routine runs something like: wake up and let out the cats who won’t sleep until my normal wake up time, go back to sleep, wake up (again), make coffee, read some RSS feeds if my son’s decided to sleep in, get the kids up, get breakfast made, get kids dressed/cleaned/brushed, drive daughter off to school, drive back home, stop by Kroger or Meijer to load up on veggies and bananas, get back home, start laundry, get a snack for son who is chewing my leg off, finally sit at computer to get a bit of writing done, handle e-mail correspondence for my DevGroup and small biz, get son down for a nap, take care of chores I can’t do when Zeke’s mobile and in the way (unload/load dishwasher), FINALLY get a shower, sit down at computer and get 30 – 45 minutes of quiet studying or coding done while Zeke’s asleep, wake Zeke up, drive to school to get my daughter, get home and fix lunch, head off to piano lessons if it’s Monday, get back from piano, back to the computer for some more e-mail and perhaps knock off a bit of writing, get afternoon snacks done, change laundry out, start dinner, get kids fed, get son into bath, play with kids for a few minutes, get son off to bed, change laundry again, get daughter into bath, unload/load dishwasher again, get daughter out of bath, have an argument about doing chores before goofing off, get daughter into jammies/teeth brushed/hair brushed, get daughter into bed and settle down to read a book or two with her, sit on couch to watch a bit of Firefly/LOTR/Hellboy/STNG/Battlestar Galactica/Band Of Brothers to wind down a bit, kick myself again for holding myself to not having any vino/whisky/other alcohol while my wife’s off on travel, head back to computer where I sit down at 9pm and work at getting into a zone to knock out some software or semi-intelligent sounding prose for an article for the website.2

I’ve left out various non-stop chores which don’t fall into set chronological moments, such as the innumerable toys and books which land on my keyboard, tossed there by my 15 month-old son who is a constant, joyful interruption; intervention between son and daughter who love each other dearly, never more so as when they’re screetching at each other while trying to settle who gets to play with what; constant diaper changes (I’ll leave out graphic descriptions because I love my readers); rushing into the next room because my son’s in there and it’s been too quiet for too long, and any number of other varied errands and disturbances.

I also had several other events to deal with these last two weeks including painting two rooms (primer + two coats), fixing two busted toilets, dealing with the very nice but not so good at killing bugs guy from Orkin who has been telling me for five months that we should be seeing a decrease in carpenter ant activity “right after I put down this new stuff”, a follow up doctor’s appointment for my carpal tunnel-like problem which is now thankfully resolved, and finally two busted fillings to get repaired while the dentist talks about a possible root canal to fix another tooth.  Thank God the cars work.

I’m not throwing out that list as a lure for your sympathy (well, not too much, at least).  I only had to do this for two weeks and I really don’t deserve accolades for getting through that short stint.  Rather, I’m documenting for myself what my daily routine looks like — so that I can reaffirm just how blessed I really am.  I’m blessed with two kids who are, despite my numerous jokes, really terrific and low-maintenance kids.  How many 15–month and five-year olds love, and I mean love, all their vegetables? (“Kale?  YUM!”)  How many actually help out on occasion with chores around the house?  They’re also healthy (knock on wood), sharp as tacks, and are both endowed with a wonderful sense of the rediculous.  Laughter and giggles are thankfully a constant part of life around here.  I’m also blessed with a wife who is, occasional grumbling aside, a great help around the house and a great Momma.  I’m blessed with a terrific neighbor who has helped out in a pinch when I’ve had a short-notice meeting or two pop up.  Add to that a grandmother who lives 1.4 miles away and takes my daughter off my hands once a week.

How in the world does a single parent get this stuff done 24x7, 365 days a year on their own?  I’m amazed that any single parent manages to 1) stay moderately sane and 2) avoid stringing their kids up by their toes in the garage.

You want to do something to get yourself some seriously good Karma, or perhaps help balance out some of the negative things on the list you’ll need to present at the Pearly Gates?  Find a single parent and do something special for them.  Buy ‘em a couple sessions of Merry Maids.  Give ‘em gift certificates for a couple take out dinners.  Take their kids off their hands and send them off to a movie.  Or just take their kids off their hands so they can have a quiet hour to themselves.

You’ll probably never understand just how appreciated your effort would be.

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