Stephanie and I spent last Sunday night on the couch in front of the television. It was a chance for us to finally relax and decompress after a long weekend and as the evening was starting to get late, Stephanie said, “I’m going up to bed. Are you coming up?”
“Not right now. I’ll be up in a little bit,” I responded. “I am going to watch the end.”
“I had a lot of fun today, thank you.”
“Don’t thank me; it wasn’t what I had originally planned but what the heck? We went with the flow today and we had a lot of fun.”
“Well, it was a great day. Just what the doctor ordered but I am tired and need to get some sleep,” Stephanie said as she got up off the couch, gave me a kiss and headed upstairs to bed.
I continued to watch the show but my mind started to wander as I thought about the day we had just spent together. The kids and I started Mother’s Day off by making breakfast in bed for Stephanie. The children helped me make an omelet and coffee. Stephanie was awake when we delivered the food to her and while she ate, the kids inundated her with many, many cards that they had made for her.
We were surprised by the weather. It was the first nice weekend of the spring, so Stephanie decided to scrap our original plan and we all went for a leisurely walk along the water at a State Park nearby. It was windy on the walking trails but the weather was warm and it was nice just to be outside. The kids climbed trees, played tag with Stephanie and I, and raced each other around the park while we had fun just soaking up the warmth of the sunshine.
Instead of going home for lunch, we decided to go to a local sub shop. We bought a couple of sandwiches and headed out to another park to eat lunch in the gazebo. After lunch, Stephanie and the kids played on the beach. An hour later, we met up with Chloe’s godmother at a playground and continued to have fun in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. On our way home, we took the kids to get ice cream.
When bedtime finally rolled around, the kids were exhausted and they fell asleep quickly. Stephanie and I spent the rest of the evening just lounging around on the couch watching television. It was a great Mother’s day; leisurely, relaxing and fun! And as Stephanie headed up the stairs to bed, I started to think about all of the single moms and dads in the world.
It seems odd to think about the single parents of the world but in a lot of respects, I was thinking about our mothers; Stephanie’s and mine. We were both raised in single parent homes and although I was fortunate to have an extremely involved father throughout my youth, my brothers and I gave my mother a run for her money. To make a long story short, we tired our mother out daily.
A few years ago, Stephanie and a colleague were sent to Dallas to attend a weeklong conference. I had the kids to myself for six nights and seven days. I assured Stephanie that the kids and I were going to be fine and that she had nothing to worry about. And judging by how easy our Sunday evening had gone, my point was proven before she had even spent an entire day in Dallas. We had dinner, had baths, read books and the only change to the routine was that I had to stagger the kid’s bedtimes. They went to sleep and I hung out for the rest of the night; piece of cake!
I woke on Monday morning and was about to start my normal routine but before I could attempt to start my day, the kids were up and needed my undivided attention. Before I knew it, I was late for work and the children were late for school and preschool. The morning was turning into a complete disaster and when I got them settled down at the table with some breakfast, I made a fast break for the shower which was interrupted numerous times by little hands that were banging on the door so I could address the next major calamity in their lives.
By the time I had gotten the kids off to school and I arrived at work, I realized that I had eaten breakfast, had any coffee and that I looked a little disheveled. I took a few minutes to straighten up, tuck in my shirt, comb my hair and at my earliest opportunity, I ran out to Dunkin Donuts for a very big cup of coffee.
Monday afternoon was even crazier than Monday morning. I had an emergency at work that had to be attended to before I could go home. I didn’t have anyone who could pick up the kids for me on short notice so when I finally left the office a lot later than I had planned, I knew that things were not going so well. I picked up both children from their respective child care providers and paid the late fee at both schools. I drove quickly through the drive thru at a local fast food restaurant and when we got home, the kids ate quickly, did homework quickly and we went through all of our nighttime rituals as fast as possible. The kids went to bed an hour late and when they were finally sleeping, I had a million chores of my own to attend to before I could sit down and put up my feet.
I fell asleep in the chair where I was writing out checks and paying some of our household bills. When I woke up a few hours later and lifted my head off the desk, I took a few moments to modify my daily schedule before I went upstairs to bed. This “single parent gig” was much harder than I had ever envisioned it would be and I had only been at it for one day. Imagine if this had been my life each and every day since the children had been born? I was exhausted and in a few hours, it was about to start all over again.
The next morning, I woke up ninety minutes before the kids. I took my shower, got dressed, made all the lunches, got the kids bags ready for school, got their clothes ready for them to put on when they woke up and started a load of laundry. When the kids came downstairs, I started them on my new “timer system.” I would set the timer and tell them how long they had to have a certain set of tasks completed by and when the timer went off, the jobs were completed or we stopped everything and got those chores done. Then I set the timer again and gave them a new set of responsibilities to take care of. When the final timer went off, we were on our way out the door to school and work. This time, the morning went a lot more smoothly. The kids were at school on time, I was at work on time and we were all prepared for the day before us.
When the end of the day rolled around, I made sure to leave work early enough so I could pick up the kids from their child care providers in enough time to get home, make dinner and get through our regular evening routines. Once again, when we walked through the door of the house, I put the kids on my new “timer system.” The evening ran much more smoothly than the night before but when the kids went to bed, there were still more household chores to complete before I could call it a day. When I was finally done with everything I had to accomplish, I bypassed the opportunity to watch television or read a book and I went straight to bed.
This new routine went on for four more days. I woke up earlier and went to bed later each day; the house work had to get done and Stephanie was away, the responsibility fell solely on my shoulders. There was no conquering and dividing when it came to the children or the household chores, all of the problems fell at my feet and I had to resolve them all in a timely manner. And when it came to spending any time involved in my hobbies or interests, I ignored them because I was either too tired and didn’t want to move or I had flat out fallen asleep. When Stephanie came home from Dallas on Saturday afternoon, I don’t know who was happier to see her; the kids or me! I was exhausted.
This wasn’t an isolated event, though; I have had weeks like this randomly over my life whenever Stephanie has had to go away for work. There have not been too many weeks like the one above over the last few years but they have happened. And I have to admit that it has gotten easier to manage over time because like all things in life, with practice comes perfection. Getting up earlier and taking twice as long to accomplish everything gets easier as well but the sheer exhaustion that comes with having both kids and the entire household solely to myself for a week, never seems to dissipate. I finally have come to realize what my mother meant when she used to say, “There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.” I can’t imagine what personal hobbies, interests and experiences she sacrificed for my brothers and me so that we could have everything we ever needed.
As I got up off the couch on Sunday night, turned off the television and was about to head off to bed, I inexplicably walked out onto our front porch and took in the sounds of a warm spring evening. As I stood by the railing and stared out into the night, a resolute calmness settled over me like a warm hug from heaven. I looked up into the star filled sky and said, “Mom, Kathy, I know Stephanie and I didn’t say this enough when we were growing up, but thank you. We turned out okay because you both did such a great job; Happy Mother’s Day!”