My husband, Thomas, just returned from eleven days in Ireland retracing the family roots with his parents. When he first told me of this trip, I had that same feeling I have every time he has to go out of town for business – panic: “you’re leaving me alone with these… these… these… children?!” How will I juggle it all myself? The meals, bedtimes, schedules, the start of a new school year, etc. Well, guess what? (Actually, this won’t come as a surprise to most women reading this) it was F-I-N-E, pretty much.
When Thomas is around, which is most of the time, I take his interests and feelings into consideration so much, being the dutiful wife that I am, that I sometimes forget that I can manage it all alone when I need to. I sound so insecure and helpless, don’t I? It’s not that, it’s just that, after twenty-two years of marriage, I’m really used to thinking about a lot of things jointly which leads to me forget how perfectly capable I am on my own. Let me go on record here as saying I’d rather parent with him than without him!
Yes, I did experience a few problems like when the broiler coil in the stove, the hot water handle in the shower, the turn signals in my car and one of the TV’s all stopped working THE DAY HE LEFT! What is up with that? Well, some things I fixed myself and others had to wait until his return last week (ok, we’re still waiting but he was jet lagged).
Overall, though, it was calm and peaceful and it felt a little too good to NOT have to consider another adult’s interests, schedule or moods! However, there’s a slippery slope that I’m concerned about. What if I get really good at this parenting alone? What if it starts to become more of a hassle to parent with Thomas than it is to parent without him? I keep thinking of a friend of mine with two daughters. Her husband had to travel extensively, like six months out of the year. At first she resented it and felt nearly swallowed up by the responsibility of it all. Then she started to get in a groove and got good at it. Really good at it. When her husband came home, she and the girls had to figure out how to re-integrate him in their lives and he had to figure out how to be their husband and dad again. It was very hard on all of them. Sadly, this went on so long (the absences and attempted readjustment) that he was never able to get in the groove with them. They divorced. Now she’s in the groove with the girls when they spend time with her and her ex has developed his own groove with the girls under his own roof. It’s a cautionary tale.
I’ve talked to other mothers, especially stay-at-home moms, who get annoyed when, after being home all day with the kids, their husbands swoop in and suggest they try some sort of fix like “have you tried rocking her to stop the crying?” “Gee, no, honey, that hadn’t occurred to me at all. I’m so glad you are home to offer that suggestion”, they respond. Boy, oh, boy, it’s tough. Men, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And women, we’re in a hard position too. We want to parent jointly and hope like heck that we’ll all just magically agree on everything. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. So we continue on, struggling through it, trying to do what’s best for everyone concerned. In the process though, we mothers are reminded that even though it’s enormously hard, we are able to get along without our men just fine when we have to. (Just don’t start enjoying it too much!)