I often say I'm in single parent mode when Josh is away but lately I've been thinking about that and it's made me appreciate just how hard single parents out there work. I've got a new appreciation for how difficult it is to be a single parent these days. Up til now, I've been fortunate that Josh rarely travels for work. Given that many of the parents, more specifically the dads, at the boys' school travel almost weekly or at the least, much more significantly than Josh was, we'd been lucky til now. I would only have to go into single parent mode a few days every 6-8 weeks and then for 10 days a few times a year when Josh would travel to the States.
I would actually look forward to those short trips. Why, I don't know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quiet time for myself? Watching whatever I feel like on tv (we only have one)? Whether it meant working late into the evening, working on a puzzle or a photo album or emailing with friends, it was just quiet "me" time. It's not one particular thing but I always found that when Josh would go away, we would work harder at communicating with each other, putting in that little extra bit of effort into our relationship. He would come home and things would feel refreshed.
By not having him around now 5 days a week, it's not just his presence in the house that we miss, though of course, we miss that too. But I also miss having a partner to help me with the kids and household tasks. I'm certainly more vigilant about cleaning up after a meal before I sit down for the night because once I sit down, I'm not going to want to do it. And I prep the lunch boxes the night before. I take the boys upstairs to brush their teeth (we usually read downstairs). None of these things are huge things but they take time and energy and not having someone to share in those tasks can be exhausting.
Josh does a lot around this house. I'm really lucky that he helps out as much as he does. And it's not that he shouldn't do these things because like me, he is a part of this house and I work as well. But given my flexibility with my hours and the fact that I work from home and can easily multi task between projects, he participates more than I would normally expect (and definitely more than he ever did when we lived in the States). He makes the kids lunches on the days he doesn't run, does laundry before he leaves in the morning, does the dishes each night and of course, helps with the kids. That's in addition to working a 12 hour day. He never complains.
But beyond having Josh helping out in the house, it's just lonely here without him here. He's not a big talker most nights, but then neither am I. We're usually both pretty exhausted from our day. But sitting next to him on the couch as we watch our favorite shows, there is just a calm that falls over my chaotic day and I feel at peace with him. We don't need to say much, just being with each other is enough.
I find that with Josh not here, I isolate myself even more than I do on a good day. Being self employed, I'm often by myself 95% of the time during the day up until I get the kids. I go to the gym in the AM and socialize a little bit there, go to the grocery store and beyond that, for the most part, I'm home... alone. I look forward to the kids getting home... you know until the get in the car or off the bus and start bickering. Then I yearn for my solitude again ;)
We are now mid way thru week 4 of this single life. I still have at least 5 more months of this to look "forward" to. There are days when I don't know if our relationship can take this or if I can take another week by myself with the boys. But then we push thru and talk about how this is going to make our lives better in the future. That this is a great opportunity for Josh to spread his wings and I would never ever want to get in the way of that.
When he comes home after a long week away, I look forward to falling back into our normal routines. But something different has changed with the dynamic in the last two weeks. In the past, I've always known that it's a quick trip and he's back and we just go on as normal. But now when Josh leaves and I know that this is going to be the process for the next 6 months, something just snapped inside me and I felt lonely and even resentful. I wasn't excited about having a few nights to myself. Instead, I was alone in my thoughts.
But beyond that I feel a sense of resentment. And it's unfounded because Josh is working incredibly hard, not just for himself but for us. It's something I've explained time and time again to the kids lately when they ask why he can't be home. I tell them that daddy is all by himself working hard for us and we are lucky to have each other so that we aren't alone. But yet I still feel that little bit of resentment when he comes home on the weekend and wants to just jump in as normal - and jumping back in is what I want him to be able to do. However, then I wonder, when do I get my "break"? Because I'm still "on" all weekend as well. It's a view I'm not proud of, but hey this blog is all about sharing of feelings so might as well be up front.
The kids miss Josh. I don't blame them. The good thing is that they have many friends in the same boat that they can commiserate with. It's unlikely that it would have been like that at home in the States. However, I think it is making them appreciate their time with Josh much more - they know they have limited time with him each week. They are getting better about connecting over the phone, though Aidan still isn't a big fan of talking on the phone - but he's getting better. However, I need to learn patience with them and to expect outbursts more often as they are also emotionally adjusting to the changes in our lives.
Regardless, it's going to be a long haul over the next several months. Not only are we in limbo with our lives, but our routines are off. I'm sure that as we settle in to new routines that things will flow much better and it won't seem so foreign to us having Josh away. We've figured out his flight schedule - or what we hope will work out. We know that it will get tweaked along the way based on meetings, holidays, trips, etc, but overall the plan is for him to leave on Sunday nights and return home on Thursday nights. This week, of course, is the exception as he won't be back til Saturday AM since he has meetings all Friday. Actually so far he's only made it back on Thurs once, but it's a work in progress.
And in the meantime, I talked with Josh about my need to increase my social activity as well. I tend to get into my routines and will isolate myself, especially in the winter. But now that not only are my days alone, but my evenings (kids are in bed by 8), I need to be more aware of my social life. I've already planned a brunch with some girlfriends once a week and need to put more effort into having friends over for dinner at least once a week. It's all about adjusting and it will happen in time...
So as I plug away at housework, regular work, planning meals, etc - I want to give a shout out to all my single parent friends out there. You guys are amazing and deserve some praise!