A few months ago, my husband sent me a text that said, “Hey, so ... work is sending me to China. For a week. Sorry about that. Are you going to be okay with the kids?" My response was, “Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That's hilarious. And, yes, we'll be just fine.”
For some parents, the idea of being left alone for a week with 6-year-old twins is terrifying. For me, however, it means a week of delight and relaxation.
No, I'm not kidding.
It hasn't always been like that, of course. When the twins were babies, I couldn't handle a weekend alone, forget about an entire week. But now that they're older and more independent (i.e. they're potty trained and they sleep for more than four hours at a stretch) these brief periods of solo parenting are not only easier than ever, but have become something I look forward to.
Hold on, Meredith. You mean you look forward to it like you look forward to dental surgery, right?
No. I mean I look forward to it like I look forward to sitting my butt on the couch and queuing up a few episodes of Outlander after the kids go to sleep.
Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. He's an amazing father and an involved partner. I'm also not saying that single parents have it made in comparison to parents with a helpful spouse. I'm no dummy. I know how good I have it. But the truth is, when my husband leaves town for a week or even for just a day or two, parenting is easier.
For one thing, when I parent alone I am efficient. As any good despot would tell you, it's much easier to rule when you don't have to compromise. When I decide that something the kids have done deserves a time out, then that's where they're going. When it's time for them to go to bed, then that's what's happening. Their dad might go upstairs when they scream for more hugs or kisses or water or because their sheets don't feel right, but I am not their father; I am their no-nonsense-taking mother. Bedtime takes approximately 45 minutes less when it's just me at home than when their dad is around. That right there is worth all the trips to China.
But more importantly, parenting is so much more relaxing when the only person you have to listen to is yourself. Nothing makes life more difficult than other people's standards and high expectations. When I'm on my own, I'm able to embrace my weaknesses as a parent. I wrap myself in a blanket made of poor choices and a muffler knit of lethargy. Want to watch another show? Sure, why the hell not. That's when I get to do those low-priority chores that I can't justify when their dad is around, like organizing the Tupperware drawer or cleaning the walls. What's for dinner? Well, I can't cook so the options are pasta, pizza or breakfast for dinner. Welcome to Camp Mom, kids. Life is beautiful here.
Now, could we live like this all the time? Absolutely not! No one gets to live her life eating mac and cheese and playing Pokemon. But that's why these mini-vacations from responsibility work for us — even when you're eating right and exercising and doing all the right things for your body, sometimes you need to eat some cheesecake. And when the kids and I are free from the judging eyes of the man who loves us, they get to live the kind of life every 6-year-old dreams of and I get to enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with saying, “Yes.” Because Dad will be home soon, and we're going to need to start doing the right things again.
And, that's hard work.