When people hear that my husband works out of town most weekdays (yes, this includes nights) they always ask if it’s hard. And my stock answer tends to be no, this is what I have always known and I am used to it. Also, not having to negotiate dinner or weeknight plans with anyone other than my children is generally easier. (Tacos for dinner again, kids? No problem! PS: if you have not already added tacos to your dinner rotation, you are missing out. There is basically nothing easier. Unless you are the type who would feel compelled to make homemade tortillas, in which case you don’t deserve anything easy). But sometimes it is hard. And hectic. And exhausting. And absurd.
The things that make being on my own challenging at times are the following: I have kids. My kids expect to be fed. Some of my kids have to go to school, which means they have to be woken up in the morning, which means they have to go bed at a reasonable hour. Oh and also, the older two fight constantly. Just to give you an idea of what my house is like, imagine a monastery. The kind where everything is peaceful and serene. Now imagine if instead of the distant sounds of a choir practicing inside a chapel, the only sound you can hear is high-pitched shrieking. And you’ve just stepped in something sticky on the floor. Imagine there was no serenity. Or peace. I also feel like the monks probably have fewer almost-made-it-to-the-toilet issues, but I am just speculating.
There are, of course, fun, easy days. Days when we picnic in the park instead of going home for dinner or have an early dinner and bath and then have time to play hide-and-go-seek and read as many books as we feel like for as long as we want before bed. There are nights when we make pancakes for dinner and nights when we get ice cream for dinner (no-one tell my husband, I’ll deny it). But there are also many nights when all three kids are up twice each at different times (you do the math) and mornings where the coffeemaker overflows all over the counter because I forgot to put a filter in (again) and my toddler is refusing to put pants on and my older two are fighting so loudly, I fear the neighbours are going to call Children’s Aid and I can’t remember how to work the toaster oven for the life of me. (Don’t judge. It has a convection button. Also, I haven’t slept through the night for seven years.)
There are times that my life feels so chaotic it’s comedic, like the night last week when the fire alarm went off while I was upstairs trying to put my youngest back to sleep (an apple crisp that I was baking for a friend with a new baby had burned when my gas oven overheated). I ran downstairs still holding her and then let her wail on the floor while I opened doors and windows and stood on a chair fanning the alarm in an attempt to get the damn thing to stop ringing before it woke up the other kids. (Or the dead. That thing is loud.) This would have been less ridiculous had it not happened hours after my daughter dropped and shattered a shatterproof (!) bowl. Of course when I used my Ninja-like grace to save her from stepping on the broken, shatterproof glass, I knocked a pan off the stove, spilling all of the hot, sticky contents onto the floor.
A bigger issue than overturned pans and midnight fire drills is the fact that when my husband comes home, he is a special guest star. The kids have missed him all week and he can do no wrong. And I don’t blame them. He isn’t the one who forced them to bathe and brush their teeth and do homework and wake up when they were still tired. He didn’t yell at them to stop yelling when he couldn’t take it anymore (the irony is not lost on me), or force them to give him a bite of their dessert because he ate his too quickly (I don’t want to talk about it). He is the guy who has been missing them all week, who is coming home with a present in his bag and love in his heart (I have love in my heart too, but my love is everyday boring old mom-love. Not shiny dad-love). And I am sometimes jealous of that.
On the other hand, I treasure all of the extra time that I get with the kids more than my fantasy of leaving for a week (or three) and having them miss and appreciate me (in my fantasy, they cry tears of joy when I walk through the door and then start a choreographed number of ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ from Annie). Also, as I learned in yoga class, chaos is transient. (And by ‘learned in yoga class’ I obviously mean ‘I might have read this on a lululemon bag at some point’.)
The morning after the fire alarm, everything was fine again. The glass had been picked up. A new crisp was being watched closely in the oven. I had even remembered to close the doors and windows before going to bed. And after school that day the kids and I decided to hang out at the park until six because it was such a perfect late fall day. When we got home, I made eggs for dinner and everyone was happy.