Sunday, 4 July 2010

It's all in the rhythm

The man is back in the house!

This trip was quite a long one, one day short of 2 weeks, and while I was really feeling the lack of sleep, in most ways I think I handled this one better than most. Yes the kids and I were all sick, I did take one of the weeks off work, it was half in school hols, both sets of lovely neighbors had us over to dinner, as did my mum and I did get organised before D left on the food front, but still. Even Amy said I wasn't as bad this time as I usually am when daddy's away. Ahem.

I am always sad to see D go, as are the kids. It's not just about sharing the work (though I'd be lying if I said doing it all on my own was a burden I assume happily), it's about losing a part of the family. We wonder where he is and what he's doing, we want to tell him our news, show him our stuff, give him a cuddle. The kids ask when he'll be home and when I'm making them do something they wish I wasn't they wish out loud that he was home right now to save them from me. We miss him and I feel keenly what he's missing in our lives.

The thing about solo parenting is that while it is incredibly exhausting (there really is no solution to the lack of sleep I can find) and at times sad, you can find yourself getting into a rhythm. The kids and I developed our own routines, including tania's ten minute tidy, we ate well, the house was pretty orderly and I moved my sewing machine and computer into the open plan kitchen/living room and managed to integrate creative work into the day pretty seamlessly. I step up because I have to and I do my best to fill D's shoes as well as my own and however compromised it is, it becomes normal.

And then D comes home. There's a whole lot of excitement and news to swap and cuddles to be had. Everyone is super happy, especially me who gets to sleep with earplugs again.

But you know, there's another part of this picture too. One that's a little harder to acknowledge with out misconstruing the situation. You see, another adult changes everything. It reintroduces negotiation into the minutia and with it frustration and compromise. Someone else's dirty undies on the floor, someone else's likes, dislikes, preferences and idiosyncrasies. Another person asking questions all the time in a way that is not really so enormously different from the kids - where is something, how do I do something, can't I have something, can't we do something. In some ways it seems like there is another person to whom I surrender half the authority and decision making role, but who comes with more work, more responsibility.

Now I said this was only part of the picture and I don't want to misconstrue, it's not that I don't want D back, but I always forget in the midst of all the excitement that his return is a transition, not a release. The hard bits always take me by surprise. I expect the work load to halve but it feels like for each burden I offload, there's a new one to take it's place. Where before I was chastising myself for every harsh word or slack arse meal option, now there's someone else asking me to pack up my shit off then kitchen bench or needing to approve the dinner options, someone who doesn't want to hang out at the market or who walks out to the car and gets in my driver's seat. [As Wil said suddenly when we were coming home from shopping and I was driving - mummy driving? not daddy? what daddy for? and as D said himself in response, yes, now that mummy can drive no one needs daddy for anything!]

I think part of the rub is because I am by nature a team player on these things. I would much prefer it that he didn't travel, that I didn't have to take on all the jobs myself, that negotiating was the base play. I'd rather he was here and sharing it. This process of adapting to life without him is about me adapting to things I have no choice over. And I could certainly bitch and moan about that until the cows come home. But since it isn't something I can change I do my best to adapt, and part of that adaption is stepping up and managing on my own, and trying as best I can to do it with a smile on my face. And somehow when he comes back it feels like both a demotion to a subordinate role and a loss of independence. Like I had something shoved at me and then snatched back just when I was getting used to it.

My creative life is relegated back to the cold work room and no sooner have I gone there than someone is asking where I am. Friday night football is back on and Glee is gone, there's no hosting crafty lady dinner parties or sewing days on the horizon and now there's the impossible task of trying to keep the kids quiet in the mornings because daddy's sleeping and trying not to get woken up when daddy comes to bed late at night. There's the uncertainty of someone else's totally changeable plans where one minute I have a day to myself today and the next minute I don't, where the calendar is a blank slate but can't be booked or indeed may already be booked but not communicated.

In a day or two the transition will be over and I will be back in the habit of organising things the way D is used to. I won't notice a whole lot of the things I am now and when I get home from work tomorrow night and it's dark and cold and late and there's a dinner ready I will be very glad indeed (or if there isn't I will feel fully justified in having a raging tanty). At some point I will fall into a new rhythm and I will adapt, I always do. But I wonder if over time as I get better at adapting to those periods when I am alone, if the transition back to being part of a team gets harder too. Like there's a certain amount of sadness and difficulty and if it isn't in the goodbyes and coping alone, then it's in the return and the working out how to be together again.

Perhaps next time I should plan to take off the very second he arrives home - do you think I could trick that readjustment phase by running away when it hits? Would a few days away on my own somewhere else give me the sense of release I so crave after I feel like I have been on the front lines? Sometimes I think it's thanks I want, for D to return home and to simply marvel that I kept us all alive and sane, to applaud my willingness and capacity to pick up when he leaves off, but perhaps what I want is really truly a break. After 24/7 duty maybe I want R&R with no responsibility whatsoever - so the transition to family life feels more like a middle road I am comfortable to travel down. Hmm, some food for thought there.

A quick community service announcement for those of you with the yarnie leanings - if you can possibly help out putting together knit and crochet blanket squares, there a bunch of people who would be very very grateful (and I would think you were seriously ace, if that's anything).

And a quick plug for this lady, who has been running art classes this school hols. Amy has been to a couple and she had a ball and produced some great work.

I am hoping she offers them next hols and I hope those of you on the Northern side of town will give them a look in - because she's ace and also because then we can have coffee in the cafe together while our kids are having fun!

And the really useful swap is all done and dusted. A big thanks to those who took part, and I hope they all enjoy their goodies (I am enjoying mine!).

As an organiser I like this swap format, despite the effort involved in receiving, sorting and sending out parcels I like that the postage costs are reduced and swap signer uppers who don't fulfil their commitments don't get stuff for free (though seriously, those people shit me because you know, we all have problems and issues and demands on our time, like, hey, organising the swap and chasing all you who can't be fagged, and sending me an email to say I'm out takes no effort at all and not even answering my hey what's going on emails really really shits me). What I don't like is seeing just how many people can't adhere to a deadline. A third! In the end I held the swap up by nearly a week and still one parcel didn't arrive. I know I am a little anal about deadlines, and am more likely to be early than late, but between the leaving it to the last minuters and those who actually believe the post offices most optimistic delivery timeframes as a certainty, I'm overwhelmed. Next swap I'm going to take a different kind of tack about lateness...

And today's photos are a slice of what's been going on round here on the making front this last week and a bit. (1)Amy's tiny tea leaves cardi finished and loved (details over on ravelry if you're keen), (2)my new wrist bag for carrying the ball of yarn when I am knitting on the move (to prevent bag tangles and add style - Lotta Jansdotta I love your fabrics!), (3)mandarins off our tree are getting eaten in large quantities and with great delight, (4)I finally refashioned the circles skirt by reshaping the yoke, reducing the side span and slightly shortening it and added a new vest to the wrap vest repertoire this time in a remnant of wool and cashmere suiting in a great shade of red (and sporting my fab brooch my darling sister gave me for my birthday - LOVE!), (5)new book!, (6) and (7)gingerbread with our new cutters care of the Flemington market, (8)hats by Amy thanks to this great tutorial (this lady's blog is so full of good ideas and things to learn!), (9)new hand dyed posmerino, this time in an aran or 10ply weight, ready for Ingenue. I used a graduated dip dye in black and I'm crossing my fingers it knits up nice or it all goes back in the dye bath and comes out plain black, (10)new aeroplane jeans for Wil - black denim outside, gorgeous car fabric inside and trimmed in red top stitching and plane motif ribbon. I had to pump out some lined jeans as the little man seems to be really suffering from the cold, but is very reluctant to rug up - hates all jumpers, multiple layers etc. I had to pull every embellishment trick in the book to get him into these and the other new pair of (11)blue denim lined jeans with car pocket details. A good making week it's been!


kim at allconsuming said...

So I caught up with two dear friends this Monday just gone. One has a husband who routinely travels overseas for work and works ridiculous hours when home. One has a husband who has just been in the US for a month on a CEO leadership course thingy. (She and the three kids are meeting him over there for a month travelling around the States which I think would alleviate any assimilation issues. Yes, an international sojourn! That's the answer!)

Both were talking about exactly what you have discussed here.

The anticipation of life when they're gone and just how you're going to get through each and every day flying solo.

The achieving that and hell, actually doing it well. Finding that rhythm and finding how well that rhythm works for everyone living it.

The independence even though you're still responsible for others.

And then they return. And act as if they were never gone. Not only do they not see or consider that things have been done differently it doesn't even occur to them that things may have changed in their absence that they now have to adapt to.

Instead we - with stamps of feet at varying velocity - just slide back to how it was and try and explain away that frustration and resentment as adjustment.

Now I am all about the pre-empt so that they are doing some of the changing while I am doing some of the adjusting.

It seems only fair for it to cut both ways.

I am also constantly incredulous that your sewing world is not entrenched in the fabric of your day to day life be being a physical part of your living space. Sure, you have a whole room - something I can barely imagine me ever experiencing - but that room is separate form everyone. Isolated. Cold. And somewhere you are constantly called from rather than drawn to. I'm not happy about that on your behalf.

And that comment by D? In the car? Says a lot about where he is coming from too I think.

You got your parental tones at me a few weeks back that things in my world needed to change - as opposed to me just coping and getting through it yet again and thereby raising the stress/coping bar even higher for future incidents/life events. Well I'm using those tones with you now young lady.


upfordebate said...

Can you believe I am shedding a tear here, reading your post and then Kim's comment. In just a minute it will pass, but allow me a minute of self pity as I imagine what it must be like to have someone to share the load, at all, ever! And then to marvel as I remember women I know, who are sole parents to families of four or five!

I woke up this morning with strong, calm, clear internal direction to just get some space for me in my life... The direction to go away somewhere and get that feeling of release you mention. This was different from the usual way I receive those types of messages, ie accompanied by feelings of rage, despair, or just a plain old breakdown! Maybe I am growing up. I had forgotten all about it until I read your post, so - thanks. I'm going to take those marching orders seriously.

And of course I also empathise with, and take nothing away from, both those states you describe, the going it alone and the re-adaptation phase. If anyone can do it with grace I imagine you can! Life ain't perfect for anyone I guess, even those as unbelievably lucky as you and I.

Kym said...

Let me just say that I'm not good at explaining myself. I find eloquent wordy posts (and comments) a little intimidating as I don't do that well. Amy's cardi is so cute though that I had to comment. I wish I had one in my size! And now I'm going to put in my two-cents ...

I find that our household experiences a similar rocky shift in balance every weekend. Monday to Friday, as a stay-at-home Mum, I've got a semi-sole parenting role. The Dad of the house rises, walks the dog, showers, eats and leaves. When he returns home, if it is before our daughters are in bed, the girls are usually ready to be tucked straight into bed. Fortunately I don't have the additional burden of having to work outside of the house to earn an income, on top of the parenting role.

Then the weekend comes, with the expectation of an easier time. Ironically everything seems to take twice as long. Different rules and expectations are placed on the girls by their Dad, without thought of how things were run for the previous five days. It should be easier ... I am relieved of cooking and kid washing duties, along with a random assortment of other parenting tasks. So why doesn't it feel easier? There seems to be twice as much mess. The imagined daylight sewing time is often non-existent. Husband has little patience for the noise of two small girls, after a working-week of relative peace and a couple of late nights. Two small girls seem more demanding of our time and attention (although this may be imagined since both the parents are just seeking some quiet time to themselves). And then the weekend is over before any of us have quite adjusted to the change in dynamics.

Ali said...

We suffer the same re-adjustment pangs after long Daddy-absences. I have no magic answer - it's hard on everyone. These days, I even notice the eldest bristle at the removal of his man-of-the-house status.

But now the boys are not tiny, I am not as fearful of sole-parenting. I know I can manage (even though being constantly the only one on call is exhausting). But I am in awe of parents who do it alone all the time. And I miss the adult company dearly.

Nikki said...

I wish I had something to contribute to the discussion here.... and all I can think to say is I LOVE THE HAT PHOTO!!! :)

Leonie said...

It's amazing how we change when sole parenting short term and how the whole situation does not fall apart either then or when our partner returns. I went through a similar thing when my husband went away when I was 7 months pregnant with our third and then again 6 weeks after third's birth. I took the angle of "this is what happened while you were away" and detailed everything so that he at least got some idea that we hadn't been standing still in his absence. It helped a little, bit I was still resentful at times of having to include him in parenting decisions that had been my sole realm for a while. It think it's a natural response and just try to limit it. I am going away for a short stint 3 days 2 nights in a fortnights time and can't wait to see how he goes :-)

Leonie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
telfair said...

My husband travels about half the month and we go through exactly the same adjustments and readjustments - we experience the same kind of pros and the cons - and although I've never been able to verbalize it, I have the same feelings when my husband comes home. It was so nice to read your post and have a lot of my own feelings and frustrations validated. Thanks for putting words to it.

Di said...

It's all about change and adapting and time and adjustments and trial and error. Life in a nutshell.

Stomper Girl said...

I was talking with a blog friend about the missing Dad situation - I'd been idly speculating about whether we ought to send Fixit off to Dubai once he's qualified so he could make a quick shitload of money - and my friend remarked how it was the worst thing you could do as a couple because of course, you adapt and get used to their absence and you do feel annoyed when they come back and muck up all your routines and snore and fart.

I'd say some reciprocal time off for you is most definitely needed, and I hope you take it.

Melanie said...

I had the other half away last week as well. And the sick kids. My bloke wasn't away for as long, but it is becoming a more frequent occurrence, and I can't say that it's what I signed up for, or that I'm enjoying it. With my littlest one still requiring a *lot* of mummy time, especially at bedtime, it can be a real strain. So by the time my husband rolled back in on Thursday evening, he could tell I needed a timeout. Usually it's craft night, but since that wasn't on, he booted me out to go shopping while he did bedtime. I know shopping isn't really what you're after, but I can vouch for the 'taking off' being an effective release. Even if it isn't for a few days. Dinner with a friend? A movie alone maybe?

As one of the guilty 'last-minuters', I am truly sorry to have added to your pressure with the swap. Must do better next time! Thankyou for the brilliant organising, and thankyou as well for the oilcloth pouch that came from you in my parcel of goodies. Loved it all, and the swap was a great idea :)

Anonymous said...

I also experience moments of quite intense irritation each time my Breadwinner returns from his regular trips away. We still haven't entirely figured this out...he returns jet lagged and tired. After the solo parenting of twin now 4 year olds and handling the entirely different needs of their 10 year old sister,without the support of family, I too am tired in albeit in a different way. Physically I am as tired as the household's current sleep pattern will cause me to be, which at times can be close to exhaustion, and other times not to bad. Emotionally I am exhausted from not having another adult to speak to, to tag team with. It depends on how long the absence is of course, but when it approaches the two week mark we have of course settled into a routine. The lack of a partner to share the parenting load has been replaced by a sense of independance and control. And then he returns to spread dirty laundry, leave things for me to trip on and to diassapoint the girls by being too tired to play or listen to all they want to share. I have been guilty of requesting that my husband not actually return home until he is ready to hit the ground running, to stay a night at a local hotel to recover from his jetlag. Why? because our desperation for his return combined with his failure to be the person we missed, is a huge disappointment to all of us. It ends up in such confused feelings, there will be anger in the air...and of course guilt for being seemingly indifferent (or worse) to his return. One thing he knows for sure...he'd better sleep on that plane and NEVER tell me that he watched a movie LOL.

myladyabercrombie said...

I applaud you for your honesty and willingness to lay it all out there. The good & the very difficult of having a traveling spouse. I like your idea of taking a break! A real break. My hubby doesn't travel, but I still feel at times like I am the one who does it all, all the time. And when I don't have time for crafting I think quickly that someone is going to have to pay! But I have been fortunate enough to take one weekend away by myself to a really great spa only a few hours from home. I spent the weekend in solitude (aside from other spa guests who thought I wanted to talk!). But all in all, I read a book....did the spa thing...sat by the pool...and just layed on my bed in pure beautiful peace and quiet. And I ate when I was hungry and if I didn't feel like it, I just didn't! And when I wanted chocolate, I just ate it...ALL! Every last lick to myself. So I say GO FOR IT!!! Take the break you need before you come unraveled! And if you want to come to the states, let me know! ~m