Firstly I wish to point out that I by no means wish to detract from the huge amount of work and sacrifice needed to be a single parent. Parenting is full on, all the time, no breaks, no time off, no sick leave, no monetary reward, so for one person to have to play the role designed to be played out by two is tough. How do I know this? I’m a happily married woman with a very hands on husband who lives with us. Loves us. Provides for us. He always has been a great father and in fact is pretty much better at most things parenting related than I am. The only ‘downfall’ is his job.
I often joke about being a part-time single parent. In reality it’s not really that funny however. I use the term so that others can get an insight into how difficult it can be on my own, although I am grateful that it is only part-time and have great respect for those who take on that role full-time. I do get to be a wife and I do have my husband’s support (over the phone) when he is working and know that financially he’s there to support us.
Saying all that, my husband’s job also has its advantages which I will go into later, but as I’m in a ‘oh my gosh I miss him so much’ mood, I might as well start with the parts that bother me.
- Permanent night shifts. He has to leave at 7.30pm and doesn’t finish work until 8am leaving me at home alone with 3 children. Believe me there is only so much being able to watch what you want on TV that a woman can take!
- Sleeping during the day. Have you ever tried to keep children quiet? All day? Everyday? It’s hard work and means we need to go out a lot. Ever realized just how noisy a Hoover/tumble dryer/washing machine on spin is? Bye bye to thoughts of getting on top of the housework and God forbid the doorbell goes!
- Working weekends/bank holidays. This means that as well as evenings alone with the children, it’s often down to me to do the ‘family fun stuff’ alone. Family-get-togethers minus my husband are a trend which has been going on for over 10 years now and you never really get used to them.
- 7 nights on/7 nights off. Now this obviously is also a good thing, however, would you like to place a bet on how often special events fall on a working week? Yep. MOST OF THE TIME. The amount of times I’ve attended gatherings minus husband is impossible to count, and it really never gets easier. You can also put money on the fact that if illness strikes in our house, that it strikes on a working week. Teething? Yep, you guessed it. It also means we have to fit things in to the week that he is off. DIY, shopping trips, family days out need to be squished together in order to get done.
- Working Christmas’/New Years Eve. For the past few years he has managed to ensure that he is off at Christmas and works NYE. This is thankfully due to the man working the alternate week being happy to work Christmas Day. This does mean that I tend to not celebrate New Year anymore, but we cherish our Christmas’ at least.
- Never finding a routine which works for both weeks. Being on my own for a week means that I can pretty much do things my way. I settle into a routine which makes MY life easier. Baby won’t settle, come in ‘mummy’s’ bed. Let’s go out and visit ‘xyz’ for the day. Let’s go to ALL the baby groups 🙂 Then on weeks where my husband is off of work, I feel guilty for being out most days as its our time together. Time for Penny to spend time with Daddy. Suddenly there’s 3 in the bed and the little one said ‘erm, what the hell dad, you’re in my spot’.
- Part time boss, part-time partner. One week I am the boss. I make/enforce the rules. The following week daddy comes in with different ideas. It’s when we notice the differences in our parenting styles the most.
Some of the positives however, are that after working a 7 night stretch, we get to spend 7 days and nights together (give or take some recovery sleep and the gym). This is when I can relax a little. There’s suddenly another adult around to change nappies, make bottles, do the bedtime routine, cook dinner! Also I find that the teenagers tend to behave better. I’m a soft touch and for an easy life I tend to not be as strict as dad is when it comes to things like bedtime etc. I do try but they out number me and I’m often either in a comatosed state from watching CRAP on TV or seeing to Penny/night-time housework to enforce some rules. A big positive to working the shift pattern he does, is that by booking 7 nights holiday, he automatically gets 21 nights off. Wooo!! Great in theory, but by the end of it, you do start to realise that you enjoy your own space a little bit and start missing knowing who’s copped off with who in Hollyoaks, or what’s new on Jeremy Kyle 🙂 (after about a day I’m back to missing him though).
I help to run a pregnancy and beyond group on facebook and hear very often about dads/other halves not pulling their weight with housework, childcare, romance etc. It can be easy to fall into the ‘all men are a waste of space’ chit chat, but I always try and keep things balanced and reassure other women that not all men are like that. There really are some hands on dads out there, and even though the majority of the childcare tends to fall on the mother, there are dads who don’t see caring for their children as ‘baby sitting’, or something they do as a favour, but as part of their job as daddy. I have one of those men and I am eternally grateful for that. Even though he works erratic, long hours which keep him away from home, I always know that his head and heart are at home with me and the children while he’s working and at home.
Do you sometimes feel like you are doing it all alone? Are you in a similar situation? How do you manage?