I don’t know how you do it — all the time, day in and day out, for years on end — those of you who are single parents. Most of us with partners do it alone some of the time, but those of you full-timers, by choice or circumstance, are true saints.
I consider myself a part-time single parent. That’s because, although I’m married, my Enviro-spouse has to travel a good bit to do the work he loves and so he can help support our life in Asheville.
People often ask me what E-spouse does for a living, then stare blankly when I say, “He’s a system dynamics scientist.” Basically, he builds humongously intricate computer models of systems (environmental, public health). Then he uses these models to examine and project trends and to teach people how to modify them for the best leverage.
So, while E-spouse travels around the world talking about reinforcing loops and doing calculus equations on bar napkins, I stay home with our two beautiful and feisty children. Which, as those of you single parents know, can be both the height of fun and the depth of despair. Here are two beings with the brainpower of a blue whale, but the reasoning ability of a Chihuahua, the energy level of a chimpanzee and the self-control of a raccoon. Did I mention that I attended school until I was 28, and that nothing I learned there prepared me in any way for raising children?
On an E-spouse non-travel day, I think I handle the chaos fairly well. Around 5 p.m., when I start telling the kids in clipped sentences to clean up their messes and finish their homework, E-spouse comes to my emotional rescue. He’ll drag the kids outside while I resume breathing. But when he’s away, I’m typically reduced to guzzling a beer and letting the kidlings watch a video so I can make it through what some idiot called “Happy Hour.” As most parents know, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. should be dubbed “Hell Hour.” Tired, hungry, cranky kids with the above mammalian traits are definitely not happy this time of day. Nor are most tired, hungry, cranky parents.
Then I start feeling guilty because the kids are surpassing their daily one-hour of screen time, so I prepare dinner and try to engage them in a “tell me the best part of your day” discussion. On really difficult days, I call one of the four local pizza delivery places that I keep on speed dial and pretend to forget the screen time rule.
Next comes the dreaded bath and bedtime. I’m not even going to go in the paroxysms of pleading, debate and whining that this induces in both the kids and in me.
Once the kids are asleep, I start cleaning. I then realize that I have yet to feed myself, but at least I’m pleasantly buzzed from Mommy’s Little Helper, otherwise known as Highland Gaelic Ale. I usually decide I’m too tired to care about eating. This, I think, is why single parents are so thin. Maybe there is an upside to being unpartnered in the kid-rearing game.
But is exhaustion-induced weight loss worth it?
Only full-time single parents can answer that question. If I had to, I could do what they do, but I’m thankful for the emotional support and kid entertainment skills of my partner. I admit to great admiration for those who single-handedly raise feisty but healthy, cranky but smart, messy but beautiful kids, and I hope that my part-time singly raised kids turn out as well.
— Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville. She covers a number of topics (including parenting) on her blog, EdgyMama.com.