Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Single Mothers, Tip o' the Hat to You

My husband occasionally has to go out of town for work. When he does, it changes my perspective on parenting--by a lot.

We have worked out a choreographed dance of chaos each morning. Our daughter wakes up sometime between 6 and 7. If it's closer to 6, I get her, bring her back to bed with me, nurse her, and then sleepily nudge my husband when I'm done. He takes her and gets her dressed for the day. If it's closer to 7, he gets her dressed first and then brings her to me to nurse. Then she sits in her bouncy chair being alternately entertained by each of us as we whiz by one another in a whirl of toothbrushes, clothes, computers, phones, hairbrushes, letting out the dog, feeding the cats, putting the dog up, making lunches, and bags--so many bags. My husband gets her bottles ready while I pump before heading out the door in two trips to pack all of the stuff in the car. Then we both take off for work, him with a 45-minute commute, me with a stop at the daycare for drop off.

It's not that the evenings are always easy, but the hecticness of trying to get out of the door on time makes the mornings panic-inducing. If we miss a step--say, turn off an alarm and sleep an extra fifteen minutes or forget to put the dog up and only notice him prancing at the top of the steps at the last minute--we're both almost guaranteed to be late.

So when I have to do it alone, I feel completely dumbfounded. I find myself doing things in the least efficient way possible: getting up, nursing the baby, walking down the stairs and turning the monitor on, putting bread in the toaster, going back up the stairs to calm her when she starts crying, carrying her downstairs and setting her in her chair, starting to pump, having to stop when she starts fussing, realizing my toast is now cold, carrying her back up the stairs while I brush my teeth, taking her back down the stairs to finish pumping, carrying her back up the stairs to get myself dressed, carrying her back down the stairs to finally eat cold toast--you get the idea. I'm sure if I did it often, I'd figure out a better way, but since it's sporadic, I always flail about.

Anyway, all of that to say that I have a true appreciation for the women who do it on their own every morning. My own mother was a single mom from the time I was 12, and since my little brother is 10 years my junior, for almost his entire life. She also went back into the workforce after spending over a decade as a stay-at-home mom. She and the thousands of women like her deserve some applause.

Later this year, when my daughter has started solids and breastfeeding is a little less daunting (fingers crossed), I'm going to be going out of town for a conference or two. Maybe my husband will be able to give me some tips on how to do the morning tango alone. Or maybe he'll call in sick; I know I've been tempted.

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