My wife and I have an agreement when it comes to caring for our daughter, who’s just entered her second year. When we reach the end of our rope, we shout “backup!” Usually, that involves a squirming baby and an outrageously bad diaper that simply can’t be handled by one person alone… or one of us enduring an epic adventure at the high chair, covered with splattered food and a baby more interested in throwing spoons, bowls and food to the floor than eating…
A number of times I’ve even gotten past the point of invoking “backup” and simply handed my daughter off to her mother without a word–the frustration understood.
All of this, with dinner, bathtime and ultimately bedtime behind me tonight, has me thinking: how do single parents do it? In those moments when I feel myself getting frustrated and lost, when all my great ideas to quiet a child or calm her have escaped me, I think… I’ve got a fresh brain ready to step in. Sometimes my wife works late and I’m on my own to do it all, but even then I know, this is temporary.
But for the single Mom or Dad, it’s not. I struggle to imagine the kind of patience and endless energy it must take to be a no backup–but kickass amazing–parent.
When things have gone wrong, my wife and I have freaked out together and panicked and cried. Is it a fever? Why won’t she sleep? Is something wrong? And in almost every case, while one of us was losing it, the other remained calm. One of us freaked, and the other provided the balance. Sometimes it’s me, other times it’s her. And in those moments–often late at night–I think of the parents who have to do it all, and maybe feel they don’t have the luxury to fall into the fear and lose it. I’m amazed and humbled by them, even though I don’t know them personally.
I think before our daughter was born, I might’ve quickly concluded that obviously I could raise a child on my own. (Much in the same way I foolishly thought working from home and caring for a baby would be no problem whatsoever, even as friends with kids gave me that you have no clue smile) But I had no idea. I never imagined how much I’d worry, how much I’d care, how deeply I’d love, and how amazingly frustrating this little creature could be.
The moments I have before bed, standing cribside and looking down at our peacefully sleeping daughter–all the chaos and screaming and confusion faded away for another night–we rub each other’s backs and say how much we love that kid. And I’m sure it’s no different for a Mom or Dad doing it all. Maybe I have more patience than I realize, since I know I can throw the “backup” card on the table. But maybe, like I learned a kind of love I’d never realized existed until I became a Dad, I’d find tirelessness, creativity and whatever else I needed if I was on my own.
Or, maybe you single parents just have amazing tricks. And if you do, and you don’t mind, would you share?