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Archive for December 2nd, 2018

Before I dive into a blog post that involves a bit of a whine, I feel I should explain my hangnail theory of suffering and complaint. Years ago, my sister was talking to me about something (I don’t remember what exactly) that was really bothering her. However, she also expressed a little bit of guilt for complaining about something that she felt was minor compared to major troubles that other people were experiencing. I told her to think about how much a hangnail hurts when she has one on her finger. It may be the smallest piece of skin and seem like nothing in itself, but hangnails HURT. They hurt like crazy, and I always feel so relieved when one is finally gone. I told her, “When you hurt, you hurt.” Comparing your hurt to others’ hurts doesn’t help your hurt to go away and rarely even dulls that constant nagging hangnail pain that can take over your thoughts.

My hangnail for the last week has been a temporary bout of single working motherhood while Mike was out of town for work. I won’t go into the boring details of trying to maintain a work schedule and stay on top of work deadlines after being sick for two weeks and then being home alone with the kiddos. The particulars of my temporary single motherhood may change from trip to trip when Mike leaves town, but the overall effect of exhaustion and stress have been pretty constant over the years. And I don’t want to complain too much because I recognize how lucky I am to have such a great parenting partner around most of the time. And also, because I recognize there are men and women all over the place for whom this is a normal condition. Normal to be the sole caregiver/organizer/taxi service/nurturer/disciplinarian/provider. Normal to be solely responsible for getting kids where they need to be, feeding them, keeping them on schedule, playing with them, comforting them, perhaps even yelling at them (*gulp*) on occasion. Normal to know that sickness cannot be accommodated with extra rest. Normal to live with the demands of work life and home life without consistent help. And, just as I could not explain how I manage to get through my temporary full load on my own, I doubt many single parents could explain precisely how they manage. These are just the types of situations where you deal with the hand you are dealt. Week by week. Sometimes day by day or hour by hour.

The kids and I had our good moments and bad this week. School was attended. First-grade homework was completed. Meals were eaten on a regular basis. The weekend brought a trip to our neighborhood pizza place for dinner out, a sleepover for both kids together in one room (which they think is just the best thing ever…until the 4-year old wakes up crying at 1:30 a.m. because she’s slightly disoriented from sleeping on the floor), and a little more TV watching than they would normally get. The bad moments usually involved me losing my cool and yelling at them or losing my whine containment field and babbling to Mike about some random work stress. I’ve told him before, I try and teach the kiddos not to say, “I can’t.” Especially if they haven’t really tried to master whatever challenge is in front of them. Say, “It’s hard.” Or, “I need help.” But don’t just say you can’t. This is a very tough lesson for me to try and embody when I can’t successfully juggle work and home duties, sometimes even when Mike is around and trying to cover for me. I can no longer function well on very little sleep, which used to help me work much much later into the night than I can do these days. Some would argue I never functioned well that way.

How do single parents do this all the time? It’s an impossible question to answer with specifics, I am sure. Hopefully, some or many have support networks of friends and family. Hopefully, they’ve adjusted to this normal in such a way that everyday stress levels are manageable. The single parents I know have stress, yes, but also have amazing relationships with their wonderful kids. They have much to be proud of, from what I see of their ability to juggle work and home and life and chaos. I have to think it helps when you can acknowledge that one bout of yelling or one extra-lenient moment doesn’t affect resilient kids at all, as long as they know you love them and are doing your best. It’s one of the reasons I never subscribe to anything close to a “mommy war.” Who am I to lecture someone else on how to raise a kid, or criticize someone who is working his or her fingers to the bone to maintain a household? So, I apologize for whining about one week of extra duties and stress, but I will express how happy I am to have the hubby home again, finally, finally, happily.  Except, did I mention he got sick while working away? I’ll try not to throw every responsibility back at him all at once, to give him a day or two to recover.  Maybe. Potentially. Perhaps.

 

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