Two months later. Husband has pretty much been home since my last post. Now I am getting re-adjusted to married life again. And capable, opinionated Me is having a harder time adjusting. Marriage is not the same as roommates, and it’s not actually a right-or-wrong situation. It’s a give-and-take while still being a part of one another’s lives kind of thing. Ugh. It’s so much more difficult than roommates. But that’s not why I’m writing. Let’s hear about the cost of being at home alone, with kids.
First, there is the obvious: being alone . . . with kids. I have yet to meet a mother who does not occasionally have the desire to leave a child crying in a crib, or maybe propped in front of a tv while she escapes for some fresh, quiet air. And usually this desire multiplies until she perhaps needs not just 10 seconds alone, but perhaps an entire hour alone. And being the good mother that she is, she does not leave a crying child alone while she takes a joy ride down Main Street. But she will hand off the little demon to Daddy the second his feet cross the threshold, and disappear before he can come up with a legitimate reason why he should not be holding the child.
When Daddy is gone, this cannot happen. And listening to the crying, the whining, maybe even just the innocent (but still very annoying), constant chatter can start to fray any sane person’s nerves. Added on top of that is the knowledge that there is no escape, and let’s just say there are times where Zombie Mommy takes over (until even this alter-ego gets worn down by the incessant repetition of “Mommy, why won’t you talk to me?”). This is bad all-around, because the kids only get mothering attention, which is typically the manners-enforcing, life-learning, book-reading, quiet time; versus fathering attention, which is typically tickle-festing, body-wrestling, mess-making, and your basic ruckus-raising time. So the kids are going a little stir-crazy, and Mommy checks out, and now they’re really going stir-crazy, which really doesn’t help Mommy, so it’s quite a vicious circle until Mommy eats some chocolate or something and musters the enthusiasm to play with the kids and get them to bed so that she can finally get a break . . . which, in my case, turns into quite a few hours of doing whatever I can think of that involves not going to bed because it is oh-so-quiet while they are asleep and if I go to bed then I will just wake up again and have to listen to all the noise for another whole day alone. Oy. Next thing I know, it’s 5 a.m. and now on top of my little patience, I will also have little sleep, which saps even more of said little patience.
Don’t worry; this wasn’t an everyday occurrence. Maybe like every other day. But what I’m trying to say is, it can be exhausting taking care of two small children without any adult interaction, or assistance. There were certainly some times when I became Zombie Mommy, so I can certainly appreciate Daddy’s presence now, despite all those little beard hairs in the sink. Being alone is great as long as things are going along smoothly; it’s when the troops are restless and there is no immediate reinforcement that it gets a little sticky. I am sure this was an obvious outcome for all of you, though. And it was mostly remedied by going to see a friend, or just getting out of the house. There are other costs that I didn’t quite realize at first.
Touch. Apparently, touch is ridiculously important. I was at a children’s museum today and one piece of information was that the hand has like 15,000 receptors in it (don’t quote me on this; I’m feeling too tired to look it up). The sense of touch is amazing. Babies–animals and humans–all thrive when touched lovingly, but do not do so well in isolation. Having my children around me, I never imagined I would be lacking in touch; after all, III was still nursing and pretty much clinging to me any waking moment. But it’s not the same.
The summer after I graduated high school I went to stay with a past foreign exchange student for a month. The third week I was there I had fallen asleep on the beach and had completely burned my back. Obviously it hurt, and I couldn’t reach to spread any lotion on it, so my host mother spread it on for me. And I realized as she touched me, that I had not touched another human being beyond the cordial handshake/kiss of first meeting someone since I had arrived. My mother wasn’t forcing a hug out of me every night, I wasn’t slouching against anyone on the couch, or even giving a friendly back rub. So when my host mother touched me, I almost began to cry. The touch was so much more comforting than the lotion itself. It is a basic human need.
So I may have had the entire bed to spread out on while Lloyd was gone, but I had no one to hug me good-night. I may have been able to watch all chick flicks, but I had no one to lean on, or even share the jokes with. Lack of touch disconnects you (and I feel for anyone in a long-distance relationship!), and it’s not the big intimate acts of touch, but the small ones that make you feel alone. After all, don’t we get excited when watching a movie and the guy reaches over to push a stray bit of hair out of the girl’s face? Or reaches to slip the strap of her dress back on her shoulder? I missed the simple things.
I had my own schedule, but no one who wanted me to be anywhere (well, not entirely true; I did stay somewhat busy, but at the end of every day my friends all had their own homes to go back to). There were times when everyone I knew had plans with family or close friends, and I the best I could get was a phone call. At meal time I had to help both kids get fed before I got a chance to eat . . . alone. Instead of having someone help clean up the kitchen with me (not that this is a frequent occurrence), I got asked a hundred times when I would be done and could come play.
I guess what I’m saying is that there are two sides to every story. It is difficult being a parent alone. But that doesn’t mean I have to be miserable. And if I’m not miserable it doesn’t mean I would rather be alone. I think it’s ok to recognize a situation for what it is, but not to wallow in what it isn’t. And when I figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know!