My wife Lea has a couple of geographically inconvenient family members, which means she’s out of town sometimes. (Way out of town. Like, New Mexico out of town.)
When Lea’s gone and I have the house and boys all by myself, I don’t even think about her absence in terms of days. I count hours. Every hour is a victory.
Mind, I’m hardly some hopeless oaf of a dad from a swiftly-canceled ‘90s sitcom. I’m not going to send my 10-year-old to school with a dozen Oreos and a Red Bull for lunch. I’m not suddenly going to decide that “more or less” is an acceptable answer to “did you bathe today?” Bedtime shall not magically climb to midnight.
It’s still hard. It’s more than twice as hard, despite what the math looks like.
Logistically, the most valuable thing lost when Lea is out of town is simultaneity. Normally, when I have Aaron at soccer practice, then Lea’s at home with Nathan, who is doing his homework, feeding the dog, and so forth. Normally, when Lea’s at the grocery store, I’m home preparing dinner. We work in parallel.
And that’s that Mom thing. I’d dearly love to produce it in moments like that, but I don’t have it. Wouldn’t that be a great superpower?
Well, obviously I can’t work in parallel by myself. I have to work in series. When I have both boys at soccer practice, there’s a whole bunch of nothing happening at the house. First I do this. Then I do that. I have no choice. Tends to extend the day rather significantly.
The second most valuable thing lost is the intimate knowledge of the boys’ routines. Now I’m luckier than most in this regard. A good part of this is eased because Lea is organized and writes good instructions. I receive email with helpful inclusions like “The boys can do everything else for lunch but like me to make their sandwiches” and “If you miss car line drop off, it is possible to take him to the kindergarten side parking lot but you have to walk him to the door over there somewhere and I’ve never done that – you’re on your own should you have to do that.”
“Over there somewhere”? “On (my) own”? Are you kidding? Not a chance. I just made sure I didn’t miss car line drop off.
Lea was gone for five nights—130 hours total—this past time. I got a bit of a cheat with the Labor Day weekend. That left me only two school days to deal with, and no soccer games. The first weekend of college football was helpful.
We enjoyed novelty where we could. Mom doesn’t like lima beans or salmon, and we do, so we had both. Mom’s particular about where we sit in church, and we’re not. We sent Mom goofy selfies from soccer practice.
Really, though, by that Sunday—day five—we were all slogging. It was like we were all standing up on the pedals on single-speed bicycles, trying to get over the steepest hill in town on the hottest, stickiest day of the year. “I miss Mom,” one of us would say. “Me too,” the other two would joylessly reply.
And that’s that Mom thing. Blogged about that once before. I’d dearly love to produce it in moments like that, but I don’t have it. Wouldn’t that be a great superpower?
Dads, you and your crew can come through Mom’s momentary absence just fine. As in many other situations, the most important thing to do is listen to her. Have a real sit-down before she leaves. Go through, moment by moment. Find the potential choke points. Discuss mitigation. Don’t keep any “what if”s that occur to you to yourself. Ask.
When she returns, get a huge hug from her, and then give her to your children until they have to go to bed. Yes, you missed her. But they are made whole again.