I had to travel for work last week, which meant that my husband was home solo with all four kids from late Sunday morning through Friday night. This is the first time either of us has been alone with all the kids for that long. If I’m being honest, the idea of solo parenting scares me. Not that I can’t do it, but it’s just nice knowing that you have backup. I give single parents a ton of credit because it’s hard work on its best day.
So I left town on Sunday, and my husband and the kiddos were left to fend for themselves for six days.
There was a time, back when there were fewer kids, when I would have spent days in advance preparing every detail of what needed to be done while I was gone. I would have prepped meals, packed lunches, laid out outfits and gone over detailed instructions with my husband on who needed what and when. But the thing is, my husband is an amazing parent. He participates in the day-to-day functioning of our family. He’s a grown man who is smart, responsible and capable. He doesn’t need instructions on how to take care of his own children. I had full confidence in his abilities and even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew it would be fine.
I did find myself apologizing to my husband that I had to leave for so long. To this he responded that he wasn’t afraid of the children. This made me laugh because, if I’m being honest, there are times when I’m afraid of them. They can be overwhelmingly demanding. And there are four of them, so even when both parents are present, we’re totally outnumbered. But my husband was adamant that he wasn’t scared of them. He’s a better parent than I am.
And I’ve made it a rule for myself not to micromanage their time together when I’m not around. I know they’ll be fed and clothed (and maybe bathed), and that’s what matters. Upon my return I don’t make my husband run down everything they did while I was gone either. I don’t ask what they ate and judge the lack of vegetables. I don’t ask why they’re wearing mismatched outfits and point out that most of what they own is part of a matched set. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter. I think it’s good for the kids to spend time with dad and learn that he does things different than mom. And that that’s OK. We do things different because we’re different. One way isn’t right. I think it strengthens their relationship to spend that time together, free from intervention from mom and her ideas of what is best.
While I was gone I made a point to FaceTime the kids first thing in the morning and before bed each day. They mostly spent this time screaming and arguing over whose turn it was to hold the phone. Because he who holds the phone, holds the power. Or something like that. Then they’d chase one another around, still screaming, so that all I was able to see and hear were blurs of flailing arms and the wails of the upset non-phone-holders.
After a few days of this, my husband made requested that I not call anymore while the children were awake. He explained that they didn’t realize that they missed me until I called, but once I called and they realized that I was gone, they would lose their minds and cry for long after our conversation had ended. So, because I love my husband and didn’t want to make his solo parenting experience any more difficult that it had to be, I stopped calling.
A week is a long time to be away. By Friday I was ready to go home and see the sweet faces I’d been missing all week. And while he’s not afraid of the children, I think my husband was happy to see the end of his solo parenting term.