Sunday, May 16, 2010

Single Mom Syndrome

I've said it before and I'll say it again and again and again... I don't know how single parents manage to raise children on their own. Clearly they aren't "all alone" because I have reason to believe that is impossible. "It takes a village," and then reinforcements from a few neighboring villages sometimes as well.

My family always wonders why I'm not more excited about driving out to visit them every weekend and why I'm not up for road trips to visit relatives with Ada in tow. I'm not sure what life is like for them these days or what all they remember from back in the day when we were little, but packing up and traveling for a weekend is right near the bottom of the list of things I want to do on any given weekend.


Weekends are my time to play catch up and I can't do that while on the road or at someone else's house. I can only imagine it is much worse for single parents and families whose parents travel for work. There is a reason families only had one income back in the day and one parent stayed home. It is a full time job to run a household. I like to think I'm superwoman and can take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, parenting, incubating (albeit temporarily), and grocery shopping, all while managing our social calendar, working 25 hours a week, doing the bookkeeping for our condo association, and trying to maintain a life of my own including a monthly book club, occasional knitting club, and attempts to attend prenatal yoga. Not to mention learning how to cook, switching to more healthful food choices for my family, and all the hobbies I have that make me more like Suzy Homemaker than most (knitting, sewing, quilting, etc.)

Should be easy right?

As a two-parent family with an awesome husband who shares these responsibilities with his equally wonderful wife, sure, it could almost be manageable or, dare I say, easy. But once you throw in work travel or a crazy work schedule and deadlines that dedicate half of your family team to other efforts, what is almost easy together quickly becomes impossible and overwhelming on your own.

While this has been my year of The Compact, cooking and incubating, it has been Rick's year of professional architecture exams and work deadlines. And last month was the month of travel including four consecutive weekends home to the grandparents', with one of those extending tour days to include a drive to Minneapolis for a wedding.

That said, should it surprise me that my house is a mess every other day as I struggle to keep up with chores and Ada and sleep and putting in enough hours at work when my partner in all this is relegating to working a couple 14 hour days each week? Somehow I find time to worry that he may be burning out from too much work so I make it a priority to set aside time for him to play soccer and try not to nag him about his urgent need to study for the second of seven exams he needs to complete this year to become an official Architect. I also find myself limiting my social activities and sacrificing "me time" if it doesn't fit with his crazy schedule. That's all good until we hit a day, like we did earlier this week, when my body and mind just gave up and told the world to leave me alone.

Thankfully, Rick translated my desperation over the phone and came home to help manage Ada, the housework and his ailing pregnant wife. He made dinner, coerced Ada into eating the dinner I made her that she wouldn't eat for me. Entertained her while cooking for us both and managed to clean the kitchen and run the dishwasher to boot. All while I kicked up my feet on the couch with a good book in an attempt to de-stress and get the day's aches and pains from being 33 weeks pregnant to melt away. I'm lucky that he wasn't out of town on business and didn't have an urgent deadline to meet that night.

There comes a point in life, for me anyway, where enough is enough. I've hit it. I'm done traveling until after the baby is born and we are in a routine. People will just have to come see me. I've done lugging groceries into the house with a cranky two-year-old in tow because she's tired, hungry, or has to poop. We can grocery shop as a family, Rick can do it, or we can starve -- okay so having Peapod delivery our order is the real third option but you get my point. I'm going to four more yoga classes in the six weeks before the baby gets here, sooner rather than later in case he wants to come early, and Rick will just have to rearrange to make time for it. I'm going to try to get ahead on my workload and bank a few extra work hours, and hopefully do so while working from home more since my work setup isn't as nice on my body as my desk at home and I can't figure out why. Maybe it's the fact that I get up a lot more to move around at home and frequently sit with a heat pack on my shoulders. We'll see. It's all just a phases. This too shall pass.

Moral of the story: You can't raise a child alone so be sure to enlist the help of others. Know your limits, stick to them, and know that it is okay to say no.

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