I’ve just survived one of the most difficult experiences I can think of as a parent—solo parenting! My husband had a work trip that required him to spend 5 full days in Los Angeles with his colleagues. Consequently, that meant that I was home alone with our son, Liam, now 3 years old, and managing all of the details of our lives the best I could. And the many bumps, twists, turns and failures made me realize how much I missed having my partner around.
Like many other families, my husband and I juggle a busy schedule. He works full-time, I’m in a graduate program full-time and our son is in 2 day-a-week preschool and 2 day-a-week childcare with his grandma. It’s a lot of bouncing around—and since I see patients up until 8pm sometimes, it often means that pick-ups, drop-offs, dinner times and quality time all fluctuate depending on the day and the requirements.
Liam said to me last week, “Mommy, who’s picking up me?” as I dropped him off at my mother-in-law’s house. “I will,” I responded, “but it’s going to be a bit later than usual. Since Daddy’s on his trip, you’ll have dinner with Grandma and Papa, and I’ll see you after that!” And when I picked him up, he looked at me and simply said, “I’ve missed you, Mommy. I’m glad you came to get me.” Comments like these break my heart because I know I missed the mark last week. I was bouncing around like pinball from grocery store to class to preschool to bedtime routines, much delayed. And all the while, my patience, humor and kindness were waning quickly.
My husband has a way of bringing a breath of fresh air to a room! He has a ready smile, a quick hug and energy to learn about what has happened in our lives. He can often diffuse my son’s quick elevation to temper and my quicker descent to frustration with a simple intervention such as a silly dance or funny piece of music. He does the simple acts such as making lunches or making coffee—both of which get short changed in the morning rush when I am by myself.
When I married my husband, I knew he would be a good friend and husband. In fact, it was in part because of these elements that I felt confident enough to trust in getting married for the second time after withstanding a very painful divorce and annulment process 5 years earlier. But what I couldn’t have imagined were the many ways that he would be an indispensable part of the family equilibrium which allows us to laugh much more than cry, dance/sing much more than sulk and be quiet. And when I’m alone for such a short period of time, I can’t help but think of all those men and women who do this every day!
According to the most recent Census data, almost 20 million children live in a single parent household in the U.S., with a dominant portion of the care-taking parents being a woman over the age of 40. And they do this kind of magical juggle of resources, patience, education, laundry, cooking and transport every day. At least I had the hope and expectation of my husband’s return, but for those who do not, how do they do it? And I only have one child at home right now (albeit, one on the way but that child’s care is significantly easier at the moment)!
As a society, do we consider the needs of single parents? Do we think about them when Congress is arguing about a federal budget that still doesn’t give enough of a tax credit for children’s daycare needs? Do we remember the needs of single parents who don’t have a break on the weekend when we think about hosting a play date for our own children? Do we think about befriending a single mom or dad, to learn about their needs and their unique parenting journey?
As I think about this spring time with its renewal of life and hope, I’m incredibly grateful to all those moms and dads who take such good care of their children while facing very difficult odds. I hope that I, and many others out there, serve as a source of support, encouragement and relief for all that you do. And to my own husband, Dave, I offer thanks to you for your continued commitment to our home and our family, so that it can be a place of nurturing, of partnership!
Carrie Nantais, M.Div., MA, currently lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, David, and two sons, Liam (age 6) and Theo (age 3). She is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology in May, 2017. Her areas of interest include: integration of spirituality and psychology, forgiveness, trauma and resiliency and women’s health issues. When she takes care of herself, she enjoys yoga, being creative, singing loudly in the car and laughing with her family.