Work Life Balance

What To Do When A Two Parent Home Goes Temporarily One Parent

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The first thing I thought when I gave birth to my oldest child was: How do single mothers do this? It was unbelievable how much I relied on my husband. I knew he’d be a great father — it was one of the traits I loved in him — but I didn’t realize just how great he’d be. I’m not saying he’s perfect or that we don’t have our struggles, but I’m richly blessed. He changes diapers without complaint — literally, he’s never complained about that duty (something I can’t say for myself). He helps me feed the kids, bathe them, get them to sleep. He enjoys rough-housing with them and never pretends he’s incapable of doing something basic like dressing them. Seriously, I have friends who are married to men who pretend they can’t do this.

Our children adore him and cheer when he gets home. I work from home so I never get that treatment, but I feel like cheering, too. That’s because I get a lot of my work done in the hours he’s at our house.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I am slowly and steadily freaking out about what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks when my husband heads off to Israel. And yes, I realize he’ll only be gone a little over a week. And yes, I realize I’m ridiculous. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, had to raise two of her three children while her husband was off on lengthy tours in who knows where. He was a career Marine officer and hardly ever at home. I have cousins with deployed spouses and they’re in the same situation — fully raising multiple children while one parent is gone for a year. Or what about the aforementioned single parents who miraculously get it all done on their own all the time?

But here’s the deal: I’m used to relying on him. He’s always here and always wonderful. And somehow now I’ll be expected to juggle everything on my own. This Israel trip was unexpected and so my best laid plans are going all awry. My weekend in New York City to celebrate a friend’s impending nuptials? Guess what, I’m bringing the kids along and looking for babysitters in Brooklyn. I’m a freelance writer with three different half-time gigs. This setup is a delicately balanced design that is only feasible with my my husband’s impressive support. Where am I going to find the time to get it all done?

I’m elated he gets to do this trip. I went a few months ago, in fact. We’re both journalists and both had the opportunity to go there for reporting trips. But for my trip, I took our kids to their grandparents in Colorado. Dropped them off and then continued on to Tel Aviv. In fact, I do something like that every time I travel for an extended period of time (Word to the wise: once you begin procreating, make sure you live closer to family than I do.).

But while he’s gone, it will just be me, the kids and their tantrums. There won’t be anyone to help me handle the middle of the night accidents or the screaming sibling fights or providing the necessary attention and love to our girls.

I may be the primary care giver during the day, but at night and on the weekends, he provides so much help that I can’t replicate. It would involve me being awake and competent 24 hours a day. And that’s just for childcare. What about my various jobs?

Frankly, I’m worried about my mental state. But also, I’m worried that I’ll just totally fail. (Note to Mommyish editors: I’ll make it up to you, I promise.)

But seriously, what am I going to do? We have a part-time nanny, so we have that going for us. What else? I’ve called a friend and she’s agreed to help me on the New York trip. I’m worried my husband will come home and see some sort of unhealthy situation: screen door swinging open, our oldest on the porch with a rifle, and me whimpering in the corner. Maybe my toddlers will miraculously rise to the occasion and take care of me while he’s gone. Short of that, any tips for how I can endure?