5 Jun

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?


5 Responses to “Backup!”

  1. LoriNKY June 6, 2011 at 1:23 am #

    I always wonder how single parents pull it off without totally losing it. My husband and I see parenting as a team sport, and I’m certain I would be a horrible mother if it were any other way. I definitely tip my hat to all the single parents out there.

  2. Nana June 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    my kids are all grown now but I can remember the days of being a single mother with 3 kids under 5 a newborn a toddler and a 5 year old …and my “backup” would be putting the baby in his crib and giving the other 2 kids their favorite treat and I could either go outside and sit on the step and breathe or to my bedroom and shut the door…either place I could only manage 5 minutes before I had to be mom again ..but it was what got me through the rest of the day…and there was also those days when bedtime came just a little earlier than normal…as all parents do you find your way to make it through whatever is happening have backup I had a 5 minute timeout for do what works…I remember reading a story about Marie Osmand and her timeout was taking just a little longer in the bathroom than needed and I can admit doing that a few times also lol

  3. Michelle June 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Just to let you know that I really love your blog and your wife’s 2 blogs, because every time you write something about your daughter it’s like you’re taking the words out of my mouth. I have an almost 1 year old baby girl who does a lot of the exact same things you describe, and every few days I have the fleeting thought “how do single parents do this?!” At least my husband and I can double-team her if need be, or take turns should she ever get really frustrating. I spent all day alone with her for the first time in a long time the other day, and it felt like an entire workweek + 10K marathon all rolled into one at the end of the day.

  4. carreanne June 9, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    t 20 im the second oldest of five and i have no idea how my mum did it and still dose it alone with my youngest brother (10) after two failed marrages, all i know is that she is the most amazing mum in the world and even though she was a single parent i never wanted for anything. 🙂

  5. Leila July 20, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    I was very fortunate to not be a single parent during the early part of my daughters’ life (not that my ex was much of a parent, but I did get a little much needed break now and again) but the last few years have definitely been a challenge as a single parent with no financial support from the ex. I relied heavily on the emotional support of my family and friends, and my network of online friends to carry me through the really tough times. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but seeing my daughter and son happy really makes it perfectly clear that it was the right one. Single parenting is definitely not for the faint of heart!

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