My husband travels a lot for work. I’m used to weekday solo parenting, though then there’s the rhythm of school and regular childcare. He’s had a few Monday AM meetings in Asia that have involved leaving Saturday night, and plenty of AM meetings in Europe that have involved leaving earlier on Sunday than I am particularly happy about. But I usually do not have the whole weekend solo.
This past weekend was different. My husband went to College Station, Texas, to take in the Aggie game. He grew up there and went to college there. Someday he’ll take the kids to a game, but they’re not old enough yet to be good football watching companions.
So I was on my own with the three of them. It went pretty well, despite the constant rain.
On Friday night, I took the kids to the “train diner” (aka Ruby’s Diner). The food isn’t great, but it’s kid friendly and they make good milkshakes. I must say, I felt a wee bit self-conscious walking through all the booths with my three kids in tow and my pregnant belly sticking out, but hey. That killed a big chunk of the evening.
Saturday morning, all three kids wound up in bed with me, which was kind of sweet. I made pancakes for breakfast. Then they watched cartoons while I did about an hour of work. We made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. We had cookies for lunch (with fruit and veggies — and I figure the oats cover various sins, right?)
I’d arranged for a sitter to meet me at one of my kids’ soccer fields, since I had two games at the same time in different locations again. But it was raining like crazy, so the league canceled the games. Instead, the sitter came to our house and I took off for the YMCA. I ran 4.25 miles on the treadmill, albeit slowly, and lifted weights. Then I hit Starbucks and used an old gift card to buy a coffee. I sat in there for about 90 minutes doing more novel editing. It was quite the scene. I was unaware exactly how happening Starbucks is on a Saturday afternoon in a mall. Lots of people came by and ordered things that bear no resemblance to coffee.
In any case, it was a nice break. I went home, made the kids dinner, and let them get in my tub with loads of bubbles. Then I turned on the jets and let it froth up as much as the whipped topping on a pumpkin latte. They found this incredibly fun, fun enough that they didn’t notice I had started their bath about 45 minutes earlier than I normally do. They compliantly got into their jammies afterwards. Everyone was in their rooms at 8, so I could buckle down for 2.5 more hours of editing afterwards.
The next morning my daughter had indoor soccer at the Y, so we loaded up the minivan and drove over. I’d left early enough to park the boys in the playroom, but they wanted to watch their sister. So I said they could sit on the bleachers with two rules. They could not run out of the gym, and they could not complain. They obeyed rule 1, but broke rule 2 within about 5 minutes. Oh well. She wasn’t that stoked about soccer either. After, I took them all to their playrooms and ran 2 miles on the treadmill. We went home, had lunch, and my daughter went down for a nap. The boys started watching the Aggie game, which I’d taped, but the Aggies were losing so badly within the first quarter that they lost interest and turned on the Incredibles. That was fine with me. I did 2 more hours of work.
After my daughter got up from her nap, the afternoon started dragging a bit. The rain had stopped, so I convinced her to go outside and ride her tricycle as I clocked more steps. The boys played with the Wii. Finally I made them quit and we all went outside to race around the backyard and run some obstacle courses. I never did beat my 7-year-old’s best time, but we did note that my time meant that the baby beat the 5-year-old and the 3-year-old. I have enjoyed seeing how much the kids have already folded him into their little tribe. We came inside around 6:30. I started making the kids dinner as my husband came in.
All was not perfect over the weekend, of course. There was grumpiness and the kids missed daddy. On the other hand, I was reminded of something Emma Johnson (aka The Wealthy Single Mommy) once pointed out. A woman whose husband was gone on a long business trip told her that I don’t know how you do it. Emma replied that she couldn’t imagine co-parenting for long stretches of time. There is something to total autonomy. I wanted a break on Saturday so I hired a sitter. If I wanted the kids in their rooms at 8, there was no other authority to appeal to. I suspect some chunk of weekend stress comes from thinking that one’s co-parent should do X, Y, or Z, which he or she doesn’t do because this person cannot read your mind. On your own, you make your own decisions. There are other stresses (yes, all three of you will be going into the YMCA bathroom with me!) but not that one.
If you do long stretches of time on your own, what are your secrets for happier parenting?
Photo: Stirring cookie batter.