So. Let me start this blog by saying I have never written a blog before! And apologising in advance if its rubbish! Haha! I guess what I’m going to attempt in my blog is to give you a bit of an insight into our family life. And what I’m hoping is that 1) You may find it relatable and feel less alone in this journey that is parenthood and 2) That some of you might have it considerably more together than me and be able to leave me lots of comments with helpful advice after you’ve read it!
First let me tell you a little bit about us. We are the McBean family, or #familybean. Made up of Dad, Ian, Lainey (age 4), Feah (22 months) and me, Lyssa. We have 2 pets, Blue the Cat and Chase the dog.
*Aside – he was Chase WAY before Paw Patrol!
Sounds tedious so far I know but bear with me, the context is needed for you to understand where I’m coming from! We live in a small (ish) town in the North of Scotland – it is amazing! I actually love where we live. Ian builds paths, footpaths. For a living. He’s not actually boring, just his job! The nature of his job means that although he works for a local company, he is away. A lot. Can’t just build footpaths anywhere – you have to go where the work is! This means that during the week and at times for longer I am a solo parent. And that’s what I want to chat about here. Because I’m not actually a solo parent. I have the utmost respect for those people who have to parent alone for whatever reason but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that in some ways juggling having one parent present only part of the time presents similar challenges!
I make all the major parenting decisions, hell all the major decisions full stop during the week. In fact, even at the weekend. Because good weekends are planned during the week don’t you know! I do all the household chores, budget the money, walk the dog, work part time, help run our local tots group, volunteer as a breast feeding peer and make sure we have food and drink in to keep us going! So far, so normal right? Except that at the weekend I have someone walk back through the door and upset the equilibrium I’ve worked so hard to create all week.
It starts with the arrival. Usually at dinner time on a Friday and always accompanied by a shed load of washing that often doesn’t actually find its way to the basket until Sunday! Is then followed by Daddy bed time which takes so much longer than Mummy bedtime because Daddy hasn’t seen them all week and is a soft touch for requests of more stories and cuddles (who can blame him really?). Daddy then returns downstairs to dinner and has some chill time while Mummy cleans up the kids dinner carnage, catches up on washing, life admin, yada yada yada! Mummy then probes Dadddy about what he’d like to do at the weekend and he says hes happy to go with the flow, has no plans. We inevitably sit up far too late watching rubbish on Netflix and checking our phones and then head to bed thoroughly shattered.
The next day thoughtful Daddy lets Mummy get ready in peace, languish in bed for an extra 10 minutes and have shower without a timer. Albeit all this happens AFTER hes let the kids run around upstairs and create carnage for half an hour with promises of taking them downstairs “In 5 minutes” every 30 seconds which means that Mummy has, as well as beds to make, toys and books to put away that wouldn’t have been there had Daddy just taken them downstairs when he said he would originally. Go figure. Mummy then comes downstairs to undressed children, breakfast dishes and unfed pets which she rectifies, then puts on her make up and asks if everyone is ready to go. Whereupon Daddy announces he has to nip stuff to the office/have a shower/go to the toilet which means Mummy is left to entertain kiddos who were all ready to get going for another indefinite amount of time before they can actually get on with their day. Sigh.
For the most part we have pretty active weekends and spend very little time just the two of us, preferring to make sure the kids have a good time – ah the joys of parenting! This means that anything I haven’t managed to squeeze into our evening video chats while the kids perform him songs and daring feats of acrobatics off the sofa or show him the million books or toys in their bedroom, kind of falls by the wayside. It also means that if both of us are feeling a bit meh the kiddos inevitably act out as they are used to being busy and then chaos ensues and we each get frustrated at each other because one of us ends up having to put our big girl pants on and get them out to do something.
When I have conversations about this with Ian they usually end up quite defensive and I don’t articulate what I mean very well which ends up in me sounding like I'm giving him a row which is not the case at all! I am not trying to say hes a bad Dad, or that any Dad who demonstrates similar behaviour is. Nor am I claiming he is the inferior parent – often he does things with and for them that I never would; I like to think that they get something from each of us. I am however claiming that there is a distinct lack of appreciation for what parents, particularly those whose partners work away (for whatever length of time), actually do!
I know he has to go away to work all week and I know he works bloody hard for our money (which I then spend most of). I know the job is physical so he’s tired at the end of the day. But at the end of the day, he goes back to a hotel or self catering accommodation where he can be on his own schedule, eat when he wants, have a shower in peace, look at his phone, read a book, watch a movie, leave the house after 7pm, have a pint…this list is by no means exhaustive. And he gets to do that, usually, 4 times a week. As the parent who is at home, the amount of times I get to do these things is so few that they have become a novelty, not the norm!
At the weekend, whilst I don’t want him to step into my shoes exactly, what I’m looking for is (I think) for it to be less of a cancel the work ethic time and more of a shoulder the responsibility time. To realise that he could get the kids dressed and take them out to walk the dog before I am ready to go, that he could break out some paints or playdoh instead of turning the TV on and that (shock, horror) he could tidy it all away afterwards! I sometimes wonder if it feels a little like he needs my permission to do these things because he’s away so often and that makes me really quite sad because I want him to feel he has as much right to do these things with them as I do.
I know that the kids can be little toads too. They are by no means angels for me. But, unless their behaviour has been REALLY bad, its not something we spend time discussing so it may to his eye, look like they’re far more angelic for Mummy! What I need is reassurance that we’re not alone in this – that plenty of kids do what ours do. However, because he spends so little time around kids unless they’re our own, he can’t really do that. All our time is spent together because that time is so precious so he has little time to do any Dad socialising. I almost feel really sorry for the fact that he, as the away parent misses out on all this. Because actually, I think Monday to Friday evening, I have it pretty good! We have a pretty cool routine, stuff usually gets done, the house stays relatively tidy, the kiddos are mostly happy and I have the most amazing mama gang both in real life and as an online presence that I can chat to and generally have a laugh with.
The thing is, I know that because I’ve written what’s above, I’m coming off in a good light here. I also know I’m far from perfect. And chances are if my husband was to write his version of what happens at the weekend it might sound completely different. I’m thinking maybe a bit like this.
Arrive home Friday dinner time. Kids have eaten, house is a mess and Lyssa looks harassed. Quickly usher girls upstairs for bath and bed. Relish hearing them playing together and getting all the cuddles and kisses I’ve missed in the week. Feah standing at the top of the stairs shouting her Mum. I can hear that shes busy downstairs but I don’t have the boobs to get the kid to sleep. How annoying! Back downstairs now, wish Lyssa would just sit down for 5 minutes but I’m so done in I can’t even figure out what I could do to be helpful. Insert mindless youtube video here. Now she sits. What shall we do this weekend? Whatever you want babe, I’m just happy to spend time with you all. Bedtime. Zzzzzzzzzz.
I’ll let Lyssa lie in this morning, she really deserves it. Girls are awake, bringing me toys and books, I can stay in bed, this is nice. Damn I love these guys. Right, hustle, they need breakfast, Lyssa is giving me the stink eye. Lets go! Getting breakfast ready is bloody carnage, lets turn the TV on - what do you want Lainey? Paw Patrol? Great. Forgot I have to take this vehicle back to the yard. Mention it to Lyssa. She’s doing her hair. I’ll just hang about till shes done. Right they’re all ready I’ll go now. Is she annoyed at me? Why?
These kids just don’t listen to me at all. Lainey will you….Feah don’t hit your sister. RIGHT! Chaos ensues. Lyssa is annoyed that I’ve shouted, I’m annoyed I’ve annoyed her and done something wrong yet again. Feel like a bit of an outsider here sometimes. I wish I had time to spend with the girls and my friends. Lyssa is so lucky to have that. I wish she got more time for herself. I need to make that happen.
Gets to Sunday night and I’m off again tomorrow. Should have put this wash on when I got in on Friday; that was stupid. The weekend has gone far too quickly and I haven’t really managed anything round the house or to help Lyssa like I was going to. Will be more productive next week.
Now this is merely conjecture…! His mind may not work like that at all but I’m hedging my bets I’m not too far off. We talk, we really do but you know that saying that life just gets in the way, well living life really does for us. Especially when we’re living our whole family life in 2 days a week. Where are we supposed to find time to get stuff done, to give each other space, to have time just us? What suffers? We don’t have people just to take the kids at the drop of a hat and even if we did, I personally would feel a lot of guilt for sending them away in the only time they get to see their Daddy too.
So who does have it worse? Or better? And how do we find that balance when he is home so that he doesn’t feel like he goes from one work during the week to an albeit completely different but nonetheless still a type of work at the weekend? A weekend where a break is something I get without having to pick up the pieces afterwards? Where its not easier not to take the break because you know you’ll inevitably pay for it later? Or is this just life? Is it the way it is and I just look at other people and think they have their ducks in a row but really they’re legs are kicking crazily under the water just like ours are?
Parents of the world. Solo, part time or otherwise. Help! Answers in polite form, preferably not on a post card appreciated!