Saturday, October 9, 2010

"This Single Parenting Is HARD!"

On the last day of my last Super Solo stretch with NJ, I was IMing with a co-worker, B, and complaining about getting up so early that day. I was thinking about the past three days and all the work I put into them, but at this point in our text conversation I had only mentioned that day's waking hour, then followed with "this single parenting is HARD!"

B, who has a daughter in college and a son in high school, responded: "laughing"

Well, yeah, I thought as I saw that she was typing more, I am pretty funny! Then she followed up with a short story about her friend who left town with one of their kids and left the other with her husband. B offered to help out, and her friend replied, "Oh, one is nothing."

"if you had 2 you could do this in yr sleep"

Ah. Not laughing with me, but at me. Got it.

So yes, perhaps I'm a little bit of a wuss for complaining about juggling a job, day care and a 13-month-old kid for THREE WHOLE DAYS. But I have no frame of reference for multiple children -- this is all I know, and all I will know. So I will lay out my experiences here and you feel free to snicker away. I've had a taste of single parenthood, and to me it looks like a pretty tough gig.

NJ's health. Her smoker's cough roared back with a vengeance the first night The Wife was gone. Exactly four minutes after I switched off the television and double-checked the alarm clock, she started hacking up a lung downstairs (Note to self: The baby monitor doesn't have to be set at maximum volume.) I booked downstairs and rocked her for a while, and after singing about half of the "Born to Run" album to her, all was well and she was nodding off again, cough-free.

NJ's sleep. The little girl who sleeps like a lamb and never has night issues, the one who was the envy of all the other parents we know, is gone and did not leave a forwarding address. Putting NJ down used to mean a kiss on the forehead, handing her one of the eleven stuffed animals, and leaving the room. But or the past few weeks, no matter how tired she is, putting her down is immediately followed by her rolling over, crawling to the side of the crib, standing up and shout-crying. A rocking-to-sleep session is now mandatory -- again, the Springsteen songbook was invaluable -- and middle-of-the-night wake-ups are common (although they usually don't happen after midnight, huzzah).

My sleep. The Wife gets up before I do and takes care of NJ in the mornings -- because she gets up earlier than I do anyway, and also so she can spend as much time as possible with her daughter before leaving for the office. So getting up early was a change, and a challenge -- particularly when I couldn't manage to fall asleep early at night to compensate. I ended up doubling my coffee intake, and anyone who knows me and the strength and amount of coffee I like knows that is a big deal. My innards are still reeling.

My job. It was a lot easier back when I was at home. The Wife would leave, but my day was already tailored to fit NJ's, so the adjustment ended up being not all that huge a deal. And hey, her nap time was my nap time if need be. Now, I've got a big chunk of work in the middle of taking care of NJ, so I'm expected to be sharp and active and alert and not napping or doing other mentally unchallenging things like building tall stacks of blocks and knocking them down. Add to that the sleep issues above and it wasn't pretty.

My time. I had none! Well, check that: From 8.30 p.m. to whenever I could manage to fall asleep, that was Dad Solo Time. The morning was all about NJ. The day was all about the job. The evening was all about NJ. Once she was in bed, I cleaned up her various messes, packed her next day's lunch, and performed a couple dozen similar tasks before I could sit down with a free mind. And then I was too tired to do anything except go to bed (and then fail to go to sleep). Oh, there was the one evening I worked late: Woo-hoo! I had no opportunities whatsoever to sit and stare at the wall, or inspect the hairs on my forearms. No Me Time at all.

NJ's whining. Still rocking her cold -- or, more likely, rocking a brand new cold -- and not napping long enough at day care, most evenings NJ was as whiny as I am in this blog post. As described here -- I used the phrase "a little irritable" to be polite to the kid. She turned it on and off like a spigot.

Oh, for crying out loud. Don't make me break out the world's smallest violin.
This is all a long-winded way of getting around to a shout-out to all the single parents out there. I don't know many, actually, but the couple I do know are raising beautiful, smart kids. To the previously untrained eye it looked pretty effortless. It was impressive enough then, but now that I've had some first-hand experience with it, I'm in awe. Kudos!

Also: The calendar tells me that today is the 70th birthday of the World's Greatest Househusband. Happy birthday, John. I haven't baked bread with my kid yet, but she's only 1 year old. Hopefully, there's time for that.

(In his last interview, Lennon said: 'I don't believe in yesterday. Life begins at 40, or so they promise. And I believe in what's going to come." Three weeks later he was assassinated. So maybe "Hopefully, there's time for that" is exactly the wrong message to be taking from the whole thing.)


  1. one of the causes of coughing could be underlying wheezing (u probably checked it out? )

  2. Yes, we've checked that out. In fact we've hauled her in to the doctor's office twice about the cough and both times have been assured that it's just a lingering cough.