weekend debrief

Can I start by saying that I breathed an audible sigh of relief as I dropped Grace off at Nana's this morning? That work was EASY compared to four days at home alone with her. Even with huge amounts of family support? I don't know how single parents do it, well not without going absolutely crazy. I guess I would turn into a super-duper-over-organiser-control-freak about some things and Grace would watch even more tv than she already does (finishing breakfast in the lounge room while I have a shower is a new habit). And I would be more tired than I ever believed possible. And some things would slide. Well, they'd have to, because there are only so many hours in the day. But I guess if you have to, for whatever reason, then you just do. 

I've realised a few things this weekend.  Carrying all that responsibility, even temporarily is huge. I felt it drop on to me the day G went away and then again on Sunday night. Just after I fell on a wet patch of lino. Grace had been doing pouring that I hadn't mopped up well enough (obviously) and on the way out to pick some herbs for the soup, I fell on my back. Carrying scissors which I luckily didn't shove up my nose. I started breathing fast with the shock of it; scared to move, scared that I'd really hurt myself, instantly worried about what would happen if I had. Relieved that I hadn't. Grace was watching teletubbies, oblivious. What else? It's lonely. Not that I didn't have lots of people around, I did. More that I missed being part of a couple. Talking about stuff, the domestic minutiae, hanging out, sharing a bed. For so long, I thought marriage like relationships were something other people did. There's probably many reasons for that, but even contemplating a life outside this one makes me feel so incredibly sad. It's so bloody hard sometimes. What with his shit, my shit, our shit. I guess that's what it's like when you've been together for eight, maybe that's the cycle of it.

There have been other thoughts going through my head about work, about being the main income earner. It occurs to me that when I was a feminist rabble rouser back in the early eighties, despite all the hot words, most women with children still had an expectation of staying home. At least for a while. I certainly don't remember there being many working mothers of young children in any of my workplaces. Where I work now, there are quite a few. Most are ten years younger than me and all work part time, but with the expectation of increasing their hours as their children get older. I'm the only one with a stay at home partner. Some of the men have stay at home partners, but not that many (although it's more likely the more children there are). However, there's still something much more acceptable about a woman staying at home full time caring for a child (and doing most of the housework) than a man doing so. And much more in the way of social opportunities (eg mothers group and chats at the park). It's definitely seen as odd to be living off one wage that's not quite full time. I wonder how much what other people think gets to me? And how much harder it must be for G?

There's part of me that's really proud to have this job and all it means. I'm starting to feel whirled up in the world of work again. There's career possibilities down the track and the work I'm doing now is of resume and reference building type. If I want it and work it, that is. And yet... four days with just me and Grace makes me realise anew what I miss when I go for the biggest part of her waking day. It takes me a while to get back into the rythym of where she's at and what she's trying to say; toddler language not always being something you pick up first listen. I miss the little explorations, the funny conversations, the new things that happen and knowing how to defuse the different types of tantrum. By the end of the weekend, she started saying I floor (as in I'm going to lie on the floor for a bit and carry on for a while if that's OK) before a bit of a tanty. Just so I knew, as I pretended not to notice. I miss us being together, even if it's a relief to have a break. Actually, I miss us all being together.

It's hard staying home. It's hard going out to work. I never expected to feel so pulled between the two  worlds. I guess I have a lot of working out to do. And I was going to write about cooking. Sheesh.


  1. Oh boy, you captured that well. Thanks.

  2. Funny, I too was a feminist rabble-raiser but gee I like being a stay-at-home mother. I guess mine is made easier because I do my work / vocation stuff at the end of the day when the kids are in bed. Which of course has it's own problems, like the kids asking anxiously every night if I'm going or staying and telling me they like it best when I stay because they like it when I do their stories and bath.
    And also, I do think what you were doing was made harder because you're slipping in between 2 worlds. When you do the kid all day every day, the thing becomes routine and not so tiring or stressful. IMHO.
    How sweet that Grace announces her mini-tantrums. Just so you don't miss it!

  3. Gee Janet.
    Such a gushing, a bit like falling on the wet lino.
    Besides the work thing, I totally know how you feel about the family thing - that's my everything, and for me, there is nothing else in my universe I truly *care* about. Not as deeply or ferociously, anyway.
    We had a dad come to our MG for a while. It was hard, everyone trying to include him, and being early days, the hot topic was still the horrors of childbirth, which automatically excluded him. He's gone back to work now, and his wife now joins us. I'm glad he made the effort, but I suspect it was an effort. You're right about there being no support for SAHD's.

  4. Yes, I too find the pull between work and wanting to be at home hard. And in terms of what looks odd to other people, it seems to be pretty hard to avoid looking odd in some ways. It looks odd when you work too much as well - and I mean, there seems to be so much that needs to get done both at home, at work, that really, how do you not get pulled into 50 directions? I'm thinking that Allen Ginsberg's advice 'it's never too late to do nothing at all' sounds good, but then, he didn't have a 2 year old at the time!!

  5. This just sums it all up for me, thanks for writing this. One thing: when people hear Al stays home they often ask "Is he good with the girls", which I find so insulting because it's not something they'd ask a man of his female partner. What do they think he might be missing? I often feel torn and tired as the breadwinner but I'm also aware of how much Al is swimming against the current on this one.

  6. Also, I nominated you for a bloggers for positive global change thingy. I've written about in on my blog.

  7. I feel very connected to what you've written in this and your last post, when G was away. I can connect with the pull between home and work, this 'marriage-like' relationship that I didn't think was going to be for me. But like you, it's been 'for me' for 8 years. Thank you, again, for your great, opening-up posts. I really enjoy them.

  8. ahhhh ~ had our twins survived, i would have had a stay at home partner and we were really excited about that. i felt lucky and torn all at the same time though. i think no matter what we do, there is some inclination towards the other .. that push/pull. if we do decide to try again, duke will be the one staying home ~ he wants that so much ...
    i was in uni when had my son and loved that i could live in both worlds but when i starting working full time, i missed the times i spent at school with him volunteering ...
    and the single mom stuff ~ it was oh so hard but i got so used to it that the transition to having someone else around was a bit difficult ...

  9. Whem my husband is away (relatively often) I get a feeling that the whole household/house/kids/everything revoloves solely around me, and it's sort of scary - you captured that feeling so well.
    I wonder if in 30 or so years time it will be much more common for dads to stay home with their kids? Maybe G and the others are the ground breakers? That would be good. Although ground breakers always have to suffer to some extent for being different.
    p.s. - my middle foster daughter (age 8) keeps pressuring me to get a job!!

  10. It is hard for stay-at-home Dad's and single parents. My step-father raised my brothers and this was in rural Tasmania. I am very attached to being at home with my kids, as exhausting as it is. But then parenting is hard whether you are the at-home one or not!

  11. There's nothing like a little time doing the single parent thing for putting other troubles in perspective. D used to travel a bit for work and it used to completely wear me down when he was gone, regardless of the fabulous support I had.
    All options are hard, you are so right. Negotiating and dealing with everyone's shit, doing all the work alone, feeling crowded out or all alone, going to work, being at home, fitting in and standing out.
    The older I get the more I think the problem is not finding the right option, but learning to be happy with the option you have. Such a cliche I know, but it feels really meaningful to me.

  12. Very astute post, why must motherhood be such a difficult trade-off for women? Something is going very wrong in the way we treat mothers.