Everybody talks about co-parenting like it's a good thing. Get the dad involved! Men are parents, too! Mom works, dad does dishes, woohoo! My lovely husband, he's all-in with the co-parenting. He does most of the child-food-prep and most of the dishes and he's the kids' preferred diaper changer. He's a champ. You see where this is a problem.
He leaves. And then everything falls apart.
He travels all the time for work. And you know I got this, right? I can work nine hours and pick up three kids in two places and feed everyone and lay out tomorrow's outfits and check math homework and bake brownies for the inevitable classroom party and explain magnetism and that when you say out-of-sane, I think you're really looking for the word "insane," and yes, that is how I'm feeling right now. Just a bit. But it's good. Because I'm a modern day superwoman.
(As are you, dear reader. I'm sure of it.)
(Unless you're a guy?)
I can make up for his food prep and his diaper changing but I can't make up for his presence, so this whole balancing act only sustains us through the waking hours.
Here's a fact: my kids are terrible sleepers. They always have been. I'm not the best sleeper, and my dad is a really terrible sleeper, so I'm thinking there's a genetic predisposition to insomnia and light sleeping and maybe this is all my dad's fault? Except my dad was the original professional co-parenter, so maybe I'm not assigning blame well right now.
Maybe I'm too tired to make any sense.
Anyway, back to our story: so during the day, my kids may not want me to take on their father's customary roles, but they deal with it moderately reasonably. At bedtime, though, this one only wants Daddy to read and that one says only Daddy can apply the perfect amount of toothpaste to a toothbrush and the third one? He's shrieking by now because Daddy should change his diaper and you know what I should do? I should go away. That's what he tells me, night after night. Go away! I don't want you in my room I WANT MY DADDY!
None of this particularly bothers me except that for all the collective daddy-wanting, I have no ability to conjure him in front of us so we still need to get to bed -- without him. And I'm down with the being yelled at because I like kids who like their daddies so in the big picture, this is all a good thing. In the here-and-now, could you pass the ear plugs, please?
This is what inevitably happens, in the cruelest snowball known to modern superwomanhood: bedtime takes longer than it should. Kids who've now stayed up too late have trouble falling asleep. Kids who go to sleep overtired don't sleep soundly. Kids wake up tired and are even more cranky by the next evening.
And my three little lovelies, the ones who don't sleep well in the best of circumstances? They're just a mess, all night long. I'm pretty sure that they set their decoder ring alarm clocks to coordinate their wakefulness because SOMEBODY IS ALWAYS AWAKE.
This is tax season: the lovely husband? His biggest work project of the year is unfolding right now. When he travels away from us, those three little lovelies eventually succumb to the numbing desperation that is his absence and fall into a modified acceptance of my single-parenting. But for this past week, the lovely husband hasn't actually gone away, he's just been gone from the house because he's been working 18- and 20-hour days at the office.
Really. He came home at 2:35am
**I know, because I was awake then, because one of the not-to-be-named littles was awake then.
This week is the hardest of the whole year. When nobody sleeps, nothing else happens. Instead of coming downstairs from their bedtimes to tend to the house and the dishes and the laundry and the mail and the uniform that must be washed and the toy that must be glued, I fall asleep in someone's bed at bedtime. I'm not upset at myself about it because if I only sleep from 8:30-11:45pm every night, that's sleep that should be had. Last night I woke up in L's bed at 11:45 and went downstairs. But G woke up screaming from a nightmare at about 12:15. And then he yelled at me when I walked in. But Mommy, you said Daddy is coming home I DON'T WANT YOU I WANT MY DADDY! Sorry, kid. Not tonight. Not yet.
I think every single toy is out and on the floor. Every single dairy dish is dirty (we keep kosher -- if the dairy thing didn't make sense to you, don't worry about it). There are at least two rooms in the house carpeted in tissues because Mr. G has a habit of pulling them out of the box one-by-one for fun.
(Say it with me: good thing he's cute!)
This week is a card catalog of failures, because I can't uphold any personal commitments. It's a horror-story diorama of home-ec anarchy. It's a sanguine confessional: it's all good, guys. Sometimes having it all means letting it all fall apart around you. I boil it all down to its essence: nourishment, shelter, clean underpants, and all the 2am reassurance a child could ever want. Everything else can wait.
This mess, this life, the bags under my eyes, my genetically-sleep-depraved [n.b. not a typo] kids who miss their daddy but are proud of how hard he works? It's just tax season. I step over the toys and wash just enough dishes and maybe everyone gets applesauce instead of fresh fruit with dinner, because I have no energy to chop it (and there's no clean cutting board). But I smile at them extra-much and hug them extra-squeezy and drink larger cups of coffee.
The weekend of the big project has arrived and the lovely husband has moved into a hotel downtown for the duration. He'll come home Tuesday. The kids will squeal. They'll go to sleep faster and happier, post-child evenings will again exist, and we'll put all the messy pieces back together. That's how it goes. Truth: this having-it-all life is hard, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
(Even then, though, they still won't sleep through the night, my out-of-sane nocturns.)