I am both married and a weekday single parent, and knowing little else, I cannot imagine doing this life differently. I see “the other way” at birthday parties, parent-teacher conferences, on my instagram feed: two parents handling the cake and candles, two parents fielding questions from teachers, two parents touring schools and standing impatiently in the aisles of Fred Meyer, weight shifting from foot to foot while the kids painstakingly select items on which to spend their birthday money. I am uncertain if I would like the “other” way, the two parent model–not so much because it’s unpalatable, but more so because it’s unfamiliar terrain to me nearly ten years into this parenting journey.
There is no right, there is no wrong, there just is–that’s the only truth I know. I refuse to judge either model, because frankly, most people don’t have a choice. Dave is unexpectedly in Israel this week, and I sent him off with my blessing. Because ISRAEL, y’all. (Why can’t I be Dave? The wanderlust never leaves my heart.) I know his going could be my undoing, as tomorrow is Oliver’s birthday party and I’m on my own. But again, not unfamiliar territory. There is strength in practice, a fact learned through soccer and half marathons, careers gone wild, epic life failures, knitting, and parenting, and somehow, I feel like my game is strong going into this weekend. (Although I just realized I kind of forgot about the cake. Whoops.)
I fail a lot as a parent. Like, a LOT (see previous paragraph). I’m late to school pickups, my kids play far too much on their iPads, dinner rarely qualifies as a complete meal, though my kids do eat their fair share of broccoli and raspberries (a small parenting victory, hard-fought). There is an occasional wistfulness for the “other” way; the ability to ping my beloved and ask him to swing by school and pick up a kid or two. The meeting with the head of school. The grocery list and laundry piles that never, ever end.
But there is also liberty in this custom of single parenting, married style. There is guilt-free booking of tickets to Costa Rica for a party of three, while they are young enough to be non-teenagers, and old enough to hold their own on the chicken buses. There is knowing that the hubby will be fine in his lone wolf style way back in Seattle, and that he can join us for the tail end of the adventure. There is meeting a college girlfriend in California next month with the kiddos, just two moms and three boys and one crazy half-planned adventure. There’s the part about doing it mostly all my way five days a week, and not having to check in to make sure my values and these life experiences I create for our kids align with the expectations of their dad. I get to operate under the assumption that they do, and that is so very liberating. Does this always work out? 99% of the time, yes. We are lucky in having found our weekday parenting equilibrium, I suppose.
None of this single parenting I describe would be possible without Dave’s support as the so-called “working” parent. I didn’t imagine myself wanting this gig (ever), and I also didn’t imagine myself loving it as much as I do. Every day is summer vacation. Well, not exactly, but I do pinch myself sometimes to remind myself of our good fortune. Dave works a lot, mostly by choice as I have observed, although there is no question that his job requires an intensity many cannot fathom. He thrives around high-drive individuals, and I cannot imagine him finding happiness without some degree of that in his life. Time will tell, though. You should see him luxuriate in the hot tub and on the slopes at Whistler!
It is possible that Dave could retire in the near-ish future, and this worries me a bit because our weekday parenting boat would rock wildly. The two of us, the four of us, really, would have to relearn the equation. The kids would eat more pizza and french fries and nutella brioche. There would be a lot more weekday skiing, I imagine. Lunch might never get made, and the kids would have to learn to fend for themselves (which at this point usually looks like triple-decker sandwiches with chocolate sauce instead of peanut butter). Oliver’s math skills might just go through the roof. Malcolm would be understood more clearly from 3:30 on, because in some way, he and his dad are kindred spirits in the way their brains see the world. It wouldn’t be bad at all, I suppose, but certainly different, in the same way that newly divorced individuals have to learn single parenting, our family would have to learn the other way. It’s quite possible that more of this:
would lead to this version of me, because she’s in there guys–in all her glory, itching to join the Peace Corps and raise chickens/honeybees/goats/quinoa/potatoes/etc in the Andes. Dave can handle the boys and they will be just fine. I trust his parenting, just as he trusts mine.