When we decided about four months back that le wife was going to visit her sister and our new niece in New York…alone…I was casually dismissive about the whole thing. “Oh, sure,” I said, “Go for it! No problem!” I’ll admit freely that part of my nonchalance was attributed to the astronomical cost of air travel now that we have to pony up for three tickets, despite the fact that someone is still pretty much a lap kid on the plane. What a waste. Anyway, declining to visit the newest member of our family was a non-starter so it really boiled down to two options: cough up at least a grand to fly the whole family to NY or suck it up and be primo-daddy-o for a few days.
In the end, financial considerations trumped any apprehension about solo parenting.
Luckily I had a few things working in my favor while wifey was away (in no particular order):
- Advance notice/prep time
- Potty training
In retrospect some of our biggest concerns were that the child would simply not accept my authority as the parent of the house, that I would snooze through her mid-night episodes, and that the child would simply be devastated with the absence of her mother. None of these proved to be true. The most difficult part of the whole week was soothing someone at between four and five in the morning when she would wake up asking for momma in her sleepy state.
I would remind her, “Is momma on an airplane?”
“Is momma visiting cousin Juliette and Aunty Miffy?”
“So, can we see momma right now?” No.
“Does momma always come back?” Yes.
“Will we see momma soon?” Yes. After nap?
“Well, after a few naps.” Otay. I have milk?
“No, we only have water at night.” (big mistake there)
(I’m omitting the nocturnal tantrum for obvious reasons)
I later changed my tune and gave her the bottle, snuggled her in the glider and put her back to bed. She slept til at least 7 every morning after each night’s episode. Not bad, says I.
In fact, the week passed by mostly like any ordinary one except I was now in charge of both morning and evening routine. Oh and someone crapped her pants at school and freaked out about it on the Thursday my mom was responsible for afternoon coverage. Somehow the whole thing got blown out of proportion as it was relayed via Amma to wifey. The hardest part about the whole ordeal was reassuring absentee wife that I had everything under control, including the ensuing rash.
One of the things I quickly realized is how hard it is to do everything by yourself. My first day on the job I didn’t do any prep work the night before and I was scrambling like woah to get everything organized. Rouse the child. Shower. Shave. Get dressed. Feed both of us. Feed the dog. Get her dressed (including the dread-inducing hair brushing). Pack lunch. Tidy up. So when exactly do I get to take my nap?
So in summary here are a few reflections on my five days as Mr. Mom:
- Solo. I have newfound empathy for my wife. I mean, I know how hard it can be in general. But man, the scramble. The feeling that there’s no backup. The self-doubt. Routines are good. Prepping the night before is paramount when going it alone. By the week’s end I had figured out to pack a lunch for both of us, pick out the day’s clothes, and sharing item, and set things up for success in the morning.
- Bond. Viv and I are definitely closer as a result of the week. She’s more willing to accept my help and come play with me, even as she regresses back to her mommy-centric habits. Still, it’s rough. The other morning I tried to give her milk and received a vehement, “NO DADDY! NO! MILK NO! ONLY MOMMY BRING IT!” Sigh. I’m flashing forward to teenage angst in my mind. Evidently the mommy obsession flips around four? Can’t wait.
- Solitude. There wasn’t a whole lot of time/energy left for excursions by the end of each day, so it was mostly just me and her all week. It reinforced my understanding of just how much wifey and I rely on one another, and how much we do miss having a community back in Santa Cruz. Can’t force that, though. Hard to believe it’s almost been a whole year since the move.
- Family. What a lifesaver! Without the assistance of my M-I-L and mom, the week would have gone quite differently. In fact, Amma quickly replaced momma as the most demanded person of the week. This reinforces in my mind the unlikelihood of departing from Southern California in the near future, for better or worse.
- Sleep. Evidently I’m not as heavy a sleeper as I thought. Or maybe it was just the nagging sensation in the back of my mind that if I didn’t wake up, there was nobody else. At any rate, I’ve been waking up more since then and I think/hope wifey is grateful for the new assistance. I can’t promise I’ll keep it up, but I feel good knowing I’m actually able to rouse myself and help, and that munchkin will accept it.
- Kid. While she’s technically a toddler until she’s three, the kid is turning into a kid. Full sentences. Reasoning & negotiating. Fewer tantrums. What really hammered the realization home for me was preschool drop off. As I brought her into the classroom I saw at least two mothers soothing clingy (and considerably older) children and wiping away tears. Not so for little miss munch. She showed me her storage cubby and then wandered off without so much as a goodbye, hug, or anything. Perhaps this is foreshadowing of future parental spurning.
Up next: Right to Privacy & Inspirational Reading