Ive been steering the Burgess ship solo for 11 days now (4 more to go and counting). My husband is schlepping around Germany and Holland as chief guitarist for the brilliant Holly Golightly and her band. He toured a lot before we had kids and has done a handful of times since. Obviously, it’s a whole different experience when he’s away nowadays and over the past 10 days I have developed a heightened level of respect for those who do the whole parenting thing on their own, all or most of the time.
This isn’t a whinge post by the way! I’m not complaining about my kids – they are truly awesome – obvs. One thing that has happened whilst Daddy has been away, is that my girls and I have become a little closer (if that is even possible). They both sobbed heavily when we had to say goodbye at the train station and at ages 4 and 6, the tears were very real and heartfelt. It was difficult for all of us. I had to bring them both home in tatters and my husband did the first leg of his journey afflicted by acute nausea. I felt so bad for their puffy little, red, tear streaked faces and I just wanted to join in with the sobbing and hiccuping but I didn’t. (I did a bit). We had cuddles and chocolate to help us calm down and then I gave them a rhetorical pep talk of heroic proportions. We were going to be strong, we were going to be brave, we were going to get through this together, we were going to talk to daddy every day on the phone, we were going to track his journey on a map, we were going to schedule in lots of fun stuff. We could do this!! Now we will shape up and get a grip!!
Then I put the telly on.
But there has been a sense of us all battening down the emotional hatches and getting through together. They’ve been brilliant – helpful, co-operative and well behaved. There has been a real team spirit amongst us and it’s been awesome. That’s not to say that they haven’t had their wobbles – The eldest’s teacher caught me after school one day last week to say that Daisy had spent the morning very upset and glued to her teacher’s leg. (gosh, that must have been annoying) and that she had explained about Daddy being away for 2 weeks and that ‘I just have a lot going on in my head right now’… Silly/bad mummy hadn’t thought to mention it to school!
I also found the youngest quietly stroking Daddy’s face on a family photograph whilst silent tears rolled down her cheeks. She looked up at me and said, through a bubble of snot and spit, that she ‘will always remember Daddy when I look at this picture.’
I know. It’s too much to bear.
This post is not intended to make my husband feel guilty either! (It is a bit) I don’t feel a whisker of resentment at his going off for 2 weeks to play music, drink beer and have a laugh every night. (I do a bit). But it really IS ok with me. When he’s at home (the other 50 weeks of the year..) our family always comes first, he works his arse off (and there is a lot of pressure as he is the main breadwinner – no mean feat in this day and age!) plus his Dad-skills are epic too – clearly evidenced by the wailing our children did at his departure… We are his main concern and everything he does revolves around making our family as happy and as comfortable as he can.
As we all know, time to indulge in our creative passions (not those ones!) gets drastically cut once you have children (actually, yes those ones too) and for both of us, carving out time to do the things we love becomes an art in itself. So an opportunity to join Holly Golightly on her tour to promote her latest album, which he recorded on, was never going to be turned down. Even if the dates did coincide with……………………… wait for it………………………………………………
Our first wedding anniversary.
I think I might be THE most understanding wife that ever there was. Go me.
*Only people who are in relationships with musicians will understand why this is okay. And why it HAS to be okay.
*Also, this does mean that I have earned a shed load of ‘credits’ which I can use to my advantage for days off, lie ins, weekend spa breaks, yoga retreats etc. I’ve got a little list..
Anyway! Let’s return to the point of the post.. The relentlessness of single parenting.
Even if you’re the one who tends to do the majority of the ‘child care’ on a day to day basis as I am, when you find yourself without the other adult in the house to share the load with, there is a gaping chasm that feels simultaneously horridly hollow and yet, full to the brim with responsibility. Everything is down to you. Everything. It is only when that other person is not there that you truly realise how much they contribute when they are. Even the small things are a massive contribution to the general running and order of things. Take the dinner/bath/bed routine for example;
Dinner is finished and bath time begins. No one is clearing up and washing the dishes whilst you run the bath and wrestle the children out of their clothes.
Bath time finishes and bedtime begins. No one is emptying the toys out of the bath and hanging up the towels and loading up the toothbrushes whilst you wrestle the children in to their pyjama’s and help them choose storybooks. Bedtime is done and no one is transferring laundry from the washing machine to the tumble dryer, pouring you a large glass of wine and getting netflix set up, whilst you lie patiently with each of your children for as long as they need you, before you give them one last kiss and leave the room with a whisper of ‘love you lots’ as their eyes close with pre-slumber heaviness. No one is there to take it in turns to run up and down the stairs four times to two suddenly wide awake children who are now demanding drinks, a wee, a lullaby CD, more cuddles and possibly even a slice of bread because it’s been an hour and a half since dinner and their tummies are rumbling.
Needless to say, it’s a bit of a mission trying to do it all. By the time I’ve run around doing all of the above it’s 10 o’clock and I’m done in. Forget the wine, forget netflix, forget writing, ‘blogmin’ or even a cuppa! Basically forget any ‘me time’…
Let’s throw in to the mix possibly the most stressful week of work I’ve ever had since I started my business 16 months ago. And when I say stressful, I mean panic attack stressful, I mean lying awake every night for three nights in a freezing cold fit of anxiety stressful, I mean having the vision in one eye go squiffy half way through bathing the children one evening. THAT kind of stressful.
Let’s also throw in to the mix a poorly daughter who wakes every night for three nights with a honking croup cough that scares the living shits out of me.
Let’s throw in, the realisation on a Sunday evening as I’m putting my whimpering, feverish daughter to bed, that I have run out of Nurofen for her and the Calpol has not reduced her temperature one jot. After making a few phone calls to friends and family who are unfortunately unable to assist with obtaining and delivering Nurofen to me, I make the decision to get both girls out of bed, put them in the car and drive to the shop, which did not have any nurofen, then driving to another shop a bit further away before going home to administer the medicine and do the whole bedtime thing all over again.
Let’s throw in a little holiday for the car, to the garage, because it keeps losing power when I drive up the hill to school.
And let’s, for good measure, make sure that I leave the hazard lights on for 4 hours so that the battery runs completely flat and so that I have to call out the RAC at 11pm on bank holiday Monday to re-charge it so I can do the school run in the morning. This involved leaving the car running for 50 minutes on the driveway in order to charge it up as much as possible. I set an alarm on my phone in case I fell asleep then sat and watched it out of the living room window, paranoid that someone would drive off in it.
For every one of these incidents I just felt like screaming ‘I can’t do this on my own!!!!’
But any and all of these things could have happened and do happen, when my husband is at home but we just deal with it, life’s little challenges that we just sort out together. When there is two of you, they are insignificant but when literally EVERYTHING is down to one of you, it’s super hard. I have total respect for anyone who has to do parenting solo. It really is quite a different animal. You have to be super organised, cupboards stocked and life planned to the last detail. There is no room for error or forgetfulness (my forte), no room for anxiety (my specialism) and no room for needing to nip out for supplies late at night. Imagine if i’d have run out of wine!?? Awful.
Let’s not forget the emotional support that comes from being a two pronged team, which is perhaps more significant than the practical advantages.
So I do hope my darling husband of one year (and boyfriend of 20 years) is having the time of his life, truly, because I wouldn’t want this 2 week marathon of shit-wading to have all been in vain. (Tone of this last sentence: lighthearted and Jovial. Just to be clear..)
Bradley has expressed concern that this post might make him come across as a total arse, so I have agreed to add that he has done his best to make up for his absence on our first anniversary by booking a romantic weekend away later in the month. Plus he did leave a surprise anniversary card tucked in our wedding photo album. Then there was this moment when Holly Golightly dedicated the song ‘Your Love is Mine’ to us onstage in Berlin on our anniversary.
I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I saw it the following morning. It was just the ticket. (Although, I have to agree with Holly – he should’ve said…)
But I’m lucky of course, two weeks really is a short amount of time (on the parenting calendar it’s a fudging AGE) and a husband going on tour isn’t as distressing as say, a husband going off to war (actually it’s worse, he’ll be having fun and there are groupies).
Now we are nearing my husband’s return and I’m just starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on things – I remembered to put the bins out this evening and I’ve resuscitated the plants in the greenhouse (turns out you have to give them water sometimes). The children have moved on (Daddy who?) and I’m self medicating the dregs of my anxiety by working my way through the wine rack.
Huzzah! It’s all under control.