It’s the new kind of single parenting.
While my son was young, I was fortunate to be able to stay at home with him for longer than expected. It was an amazing time that I feel privileged to have had. But it was also exhausting. I had a child that didn’t sleep well, that didn’t feed well and that needed a lot of attention (don’t they all?). With no family around there was no time out.
For my husband, the time I was off work was stressful too. He bore the brunt of the financial responsibility and felt the pressure to put in longer hours to pay the bills. He also travelled a lot for work and would spend weeks on the other side of the world doing his best to increase business.
We were like so many families struggling with the rising cost of living. One of us, me, holds down the house and kids. And one works extended hours.
Need parenting advice? Or just fancy listening to others to stay sane? Check out our parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess.
Of course, he wanted to be home with us more often but the cost of living is simply so extreme that as a sole income family, we needed to accept that he would be doing a lot more than the typical nine to five. I felt for him. He was always exhausted and stressed. Most days, he would be up before five and wouldn’t be home until long after the dinner, bath, bed routine was over.
Some of my friends didn’t understand the situation. They expected their husbands to be home around five every night to help with the children and got annoyed when they weren’t. When I said my husband would be working that weekend the responses would be “Again?!” Yeah, again and not because he wants to.
It was hard. For him, he missed out on seeing his child for the whole day, having to make do with sneaking a kiss on the head while he slept. I think that got to him the most. For me, it meant being responsible for every single aspect of my child’s care from the minute his eyes opened to the time he went to bed (and all through the night).
I was blessed with an early riser for a child. That didn’t bother me so much, it was more the constant night waking (every one-and-a-half to two hours to be exact). Given that my husband was working so much, I saw it as my job to attend to all the night antics. It wasn’t fair that he had to get up in the night and front up at work the next day. I’d held professional jobs before children and I appreciate how hard it would be to look “together” at a 9am meeting when you’ve been up all night.
I also considered it my job to attend to all the house matters. Before, it was shared. Now that I was at home I wanted to prove that I was contributing to the house as much as I could even if it was no longer financial. The result of this was that every second I wasn’t with my son doing ‘mum’ stuff, I was cooking, cleaning, washing, tidying.
When my husband started working weekends I wasn't happy. Most of all I wanted him home with us to enjoy his company but part of me was annoyed that it meant more of my 'single parenting' lifestyle. It meant that for another day of the week it would just be me and my son. From sun up to sun down, just us. At times I longed for more of a shared parenting partnership. One where he would be there for some meals or to help with the nightmare hour at night but I knew what the situation was. I remember him saying to me once, "Sometimes I feel like the family exists without me" and I knew exactly what he meant.
I just want to simply acknowledge that many parents are finding themselves in the "work widow" situation. The new 'single parents', the ones raising the children on their own simply because that how it has to be, need some recognition too.
At the end of the day we are all just doing what we feel is best for our families, despite how hard it can be at times.
Are you a 'single' stay at home parent?