It's 8:00 am, and the baby's checkup is at 8:40. I quickly run through a mental checklist: wipe the oatmeal from her face, get her dressed, get my son dressed, fill the dog's food bowl, and load the kids in the car. This whole enterprise would be easier if I had backup if I had a co-pilot that could swoop in and make sure my son brushes his teeth or fill the dog's bowl. But there is no co-pilot.
I'm flying solo as I do many times a month when my husband travels for work.
To be clear, solo parenting is much different from single parenting. Single parenting is parenting completely on one's own. It involves juggling a job outside the home with school drop-offs and pick-ups and possibly coordinating with a co-parent. And many single parents don't have a co-parent to shoulder the burden.
Solo parenting involves missing my partner for a few days at a time, but knowing that after a few nights, they will arrive home again.
Solo parenting means that I wake up before the kids to make sure that I can get showered and dressed because no one is here to hold our daughter for 15 minutes so that I can jump in the shower.
Solo parenting means that I cook dinner while wearing her on my back because dinnertime coincides with her witching hour, and she will not suffer the indignity of being put down.
Solo parenting means that I wipe our son's tears away because he misses his dad, and it's hard for a 5-year-old to understand why Dad has to travel.
It is hard. Harder than you think it is.
But I also know that traveling so much can be hard for my husband also. I know he misses playing catch with our son after dinner and cuddling with our daughter before bedtime. As present as he tries to be for our family, he has missed important milestones because of his job. When our son graduated from preschool, he was not sitting in the audience, and I know that his heart broke thinking about missing that special moment.
But, while he was missing graduation that day, I was the one doing it alone: making sure we made it there on time and that both kids were presentable; trying to soothe our daughter as best I could because we were missing her nap time and hugging our son tightly at the end of the ceremony because he was overwhelmed and afraid.
At the end of that busy day, my bones ached with exhaustion, and I longed to sit on the couch with my partner in life and decompress with a glass of wine, but he was not there.
So, to my husband when you come home weary from traveling and see that the recycling has piled up or the playroom is strewn with toys or our bed is unmade, please take a deep breath before uttering a frustrated word.
Realize that I have been walking a tight rope, balancing the needs of a 5-year-old with the needs of a 1-year-old for days on end by myself.
Realize that after I get them both to bed, I don't have the energy to tend to the recycling or organize the playroom. Offer to take over for a bit and let me take an extra long shower or meet a friend for a glass of wine.
And please give me a hug. Because I've missed you.