Whenever anyone talks to me about my single parenting and then says to me “I don’t know how you do it” I feel a little bit satisfied. I kind of plump my feathers a bit and explain that I do it because I have to and think: “finally! Someone’s noticed all my hard work and thinks I’m amazing!” But it’s actually not really that simple.
I’ll tell you exactly how I do it; I do it because every fortnight the children go off to their dad’s house and I get two days and two nights all to myself – time that I can do whatever I want with. In all the parenting I did pre-divorce I never would have had this time to myself, precious time to rest, recuperate and do whatever takes my fancy, ALONE. I do it because as hard as it gets being the sole parent in the day-to-day of my children’s lives I have that precious time to take a step back, miss them terribly and realise why it is I work so hard for our little family.
In truth I usually spend my time catching up on sleep or work I’ve missed when I was sleep deprived but the option is there: FREE TIME! I can go to Paris! I can drive around ALONE after dark! I can go for a swim without my companion pooing in the baby pool! The world is my oyster.
As a sidenote I have to say that I have every respect for those I think are the ‘real’ single parents of this world. The mums and dads who don’t have their children’s counterpart parent involved in their lives, those who do it alone 24/7, 365 days a year. Those are the people you need to look up and say: “I don’t know how you do it”. Compared to those amazing people I am Single Mother Lite.
Yesterday the children went off in the car to their dad’s house for six days. SIX DAYS. I cried first, then ate half a box of After Eights, felt weird and wondered what to do. Then I took a two hour nap because sleep, sweet sleep, and now I have five more days without my little buddies to fill. I predict I’ll get bored of napping by tomorrow – nobody can sleep that much.
Just kidding, I can totally sleep that much. But I probably shouldn’t.
It’s an odd one, having your children go away for such a long time. If it wasn’t for the sleep thing I wouldn’t want them to go, I really wouldn’t. I know it’s good for my sanity to have a break and do some things just for me and of course is great for them to spend the time with their dad but it still doesn’t feel nice. It feels like when you go on a long trip for the weekend – a few hours away so you can’t return home easily – with that weird feeling that you might have forgotten something. And then when you get there you realise you’ve missed something crucial, leaving your phone charger or toothbrush at home. That’s how I feel – completely normal, but like there’s something essential missing.
I always have BIG PLANS with my time off (I don’t). I find pleasure in the tiniest things: in our day-to-day the children go to bed at 7pm so I don’t like leaving the house after 5.30pm because this upsets our bed/book/bath routine. So one of my favourite things to go out at GASP 7pm to buy Fish and Chips (the one takeaway food that I wish did deliveries), or nip to the supermarket to pick something up before they close at 10pm. There’s just something super liberating about driving around after dark when you’re normally tied to your home from a particular time. STOP THE PRESS THESE ACTIVITIES ARE WILD.
I also like to go to the gym at different times, like 8am when I’m normally scrabbling for P.E. kits and book bags. And when I go swimming I go at the grown up only times. Liberating.
I did go through a period of time when I thought it was a good idea to go on dates when the kids were away, squeeze in as many as possible. But I’m kind of at that stage now when I’d rather spend time with my friends or those deep fried fish and chips rather than making polite conversation with a man.
Unless you’re Jamie Dornan, then I will always have time for polite conversation with you.
So off I go today – the world at my feet. I’ve started with a morning of work which will be followed by a gym trip, a bikini wax and then the afternoon, evening, morning and boozy lunch with one of my favourite ladies in the whole world. Then a Friday evening with another wonderful woman and a Saturday morning of – ooh I don’t know – maybe buying the papers and taking them back to bed. I might push the boat out and go into London on Sunday but then again I might just enjoy the silence… because of course there’s the important matter of fitting in all 4 seasons of Girls somewhere.
Whatever it is I do though I bloody miss those kids. Hurry back to me, babies. Sleepless nights included…