pulling double duty

Work brings Phil to New York for the next two weeks. He left yesterday, so today was day one as single mom. I’m happy to report that I avoided both wine and drugs—aside from the hormones I’m taking that make me want to yank people to the ground and kick them in the labia. It’s actually, and I’ve felt this before, liberating. I feel slightly guilty for having these giddy feelings, enjoying so much not having to compromise. I feel free. I don’t think this is how I’m supposed to feel, relieved. That can’t be good. But it feels like pudding time.

First thing I did when Phil left was sat the beans down for a chat about rules. With Papa gone for two weeks, things are going to change. Mama has her own way of doing things, and one of those things involves “no TV.” I was wholly surprised that I was met with no resistance. I’ve placed all the remotes in a high cupboard and it’s understood that we as a family won’t be watching television. They in no way feel it’s a punishment. In fact, I think they’re excited. Instead of their nightly “just one quick show?” it’s become “you mean I get to choose whichever book I want, no matter how long it is for a bedtime story?” And I love it. I feel like I’m nourishing their souls. It just feels right. It’s night two, mind you. I might want to drop-kick them on night thirteen.

After breakfast, I scrubbed floors and cleaned toilets. Very chic. Wiped noses, packed lunches, wiped an ass, washed hands. Did a French braid twice. Other accomplishments today: I researched kids lunches because they need more variety. Unsuccessfully shopped for jicama (really Whole Foods? Get it together). Fruit skewers. Bento buddies. Laptop lunchboxes. I’m giving Lucas an ice cream cone with a scoop of peanut butter, swirled with fresh sliced strawberries. He asks for peanut butter on everything; he’d eat it off a napkin. Tomorrow, they’ve chosen “Breakfast for lunch,” so we packed their lunches together. Granola, Greek yogurt, strawberries, waffles and the faintest trace of syrup, just enough for them to think they have a “side” of maple syrup instead of what it is: a single lick. Tomorrow night’s breakfast? Omelets and bacon. Dinner? Spaghetti tacos. Also up tomorrow: L&A begin gymnastics classes at Twisters after school. We’re all really looking forward to it. The place is truly kid (and parent, given their weekend drop-off hours) paradise.

I reorganized the fridge. It might not sound like a thrill ride, but I can tell you this much: it had me yodeling. Well, no. But I was likely singing show tunes as I rearranged, not needing to justify why I hauled all the fruits out of their bin, so they could be in plain sight for me (because I always forget shit is in there). With everything in it’s Stephanie-appointed place, I feel like I can breathe. Order, odd bits tucked away. It feels peaceful, and here’s this word again, freeing. No cluttered night table (I moved all of Phil’s stuff off his bedside table, so I don’t need to look at stacks of mail and work papers). It feels restful.

Without him here, I realize that I sometimes take Ambien because I resent always being the last person to fall asleep. What a strange thing to realize about yourself. I get irritated that he can fall asleep so easily, and that I toss and turn, with a day running through my head, thoughts pinging. And maybe I just want to avoid the TV/computer/iPad existence we’ve co-created. There was a time in my life when slipping into bed meant music and talking and sweetness, but maybe that’s just the beginning of things. Because all relationships start that way. Then eventually you’ve already heard their stories and fears and thoughts, or you don’t want to ask about them because they involve you and why they’re frustrated. This sounds sad, feels mean, feeling this. But without Phil here, bedtime feels delicious. I can slip under the covers, burn a candle and read a book. No fcuking sitcoms or channel surfing or basketball game in the background. If I’d like, and I do, I can fall asleep, as I used to do so long ago, to one of my favorite chick films, the ones I watch over and again, to the point where I don’t need to look up to know what’s happening on the screen. I’ve memorized every gesture and eyebrow. And I hope he’s enjoying not having to compromise, that he’s relishing his “Phil only” time.

I composed a kale, swiss chard, white bean chicken chili with curls of Parmesan. And Abigail devoured it without a single complaint of too many greens. Lucas didn’t want dinner−sweet boy has a cold, and he opted for bed, early. He is such a love, just sugar. After reading him his choice of bedtime story—and he did manage to find the longest book we own—he slipped beneath his covers and sighed. Abigail crouched beside him and pet his head before giving him a good night kiss. Then I sighed. Then Lucas said, “Your turn Mama because I could use more kisses.” Swoon.

Then I assembled the trash, yanking up garbage bags, at the ready for tomorrow’s AM collection. And then, quite catastrophically, the garbage disposal crapped out on me, stuffed and swampy, with floating strawberry greens and general nastiness. So I phoned Phil to complain, which no doubt made him sigh, if only to feel needed or useful from even far away. Though, he might say “There’s always something; why must you involve me? Can’t you just take care of it?” Or his favorite line, “Why when I have to do something, I do it, but when you have to do something, Stephanie and Phil have to do it?”  But he said none of these things. He texted me the handyman’s contact information, and that was that. Just shows that my “intuitive knowing”—those back and forth conversations I play at in my head—have to add to the shackled dynamic, the one I feel (mostly) free of when I’m alone. We all play a part, even when we pull double duty and play both of them.



  1. I don’t think there is anything wrong, or bad, or unusual about relishing your “single mom/no hubby time”, it’s completely normal. You can spend all the time you want in the bathroom scrutinizing your complexion, you can cook things that you like and he doesn’t, you can revel in the fact that you get 100% of the love from the twins, etc… and then Phil will come home and you will be happy to see him :)

  2. I will never forget those first few breaths of profound relief – yes – giddiness when I was at last home alone with the babies. And to tell you the truth – I feel that way every single night – and it has been 13 years since the divorce.

    When the babies were little, our evening traditions were all about homework, writing, reading, relaxing …dinner together…clean kitchen…everyone in their own space by the nine o’clock chime of the grandfather clock. Lullaby played by me on the piano.

    Now, it is just the two of us in this big house – littlest daughter and me. And every evening after work and visiting with the aged peas (mom and dad who live six houses away), I come home for dinner with her after she’s home from the library, and to that giddy, free, amazing feeling of knowing the darlings are safe and sound, kicking butt and taking names, and I don’t have one person that I have to listen to, compromise with or get tired of. I love it. In a very few months, youngest will move out to college, and I will – for the first time in my entire life – truly have the profound gift of being alone. I am more excited than is rational. People say…”oh, you must be so sad that the kids are all going to be moved out”…I try to put a serious look on my face, but without fail, my delight burbles through…”er…nope! I’m so happy they’re strong and happy and independent!” What I really mean is I’m so f-ing excited to just be. Just be completely and utterly what I want to be.

    Enjoy your freedom. I bet the darlings are adoring your undivided happy mom attention…they will blossom in this happy atmosphere.

  3. I just got engaged to my bf of 4 years and can honestly say that I’m looking forward to his work trip next month. We live in a tiny studio, and I really can’t wait to just be able to hit snooze a million times in the morning without feeling bad, or be able to just have a protein shake for dinner (trying to lose weight for the wedding with someone who puts a lot of value on eating the same dinner together can be annoying). But I still really like him, so I’m hoping that this is just a natural part of living in cramped (or not so cramped) quarters with the same person for a long time. :) :)

    1. You have a very strange hatred towards/obsession with Stephanie, don’t you? It’s almost funny. I hope that you have to work at it- that it doesn’t come naturally. Otherwise your real life must be very toxic.

        1. Why, Anie? Is it not quite as humorous when someone is critical of you? Hmmm…..interesting point. And very funny.

  4. I have my refrigerator organized right down to the order of the condiments in the door. I love being able to open the fridge and know exactly what I have and what I need. This is especially true when I get home from work late and I am ready to chew my own arm off, at least I precisely know where the apples are for snacking.

  5. My husband, whom I adore, goes away on work for months at a time…people say I am a saint, but I reply that I must not be that much of a saint, since I don’t tell him not to go! I enjoy not having to compromise, not having to consider one more picky eater for dinner, not having to share the remote/the laptop/the blankets. I also miss him terribly while he is gone. And while being a single mom is cool in that you get to make all the decisions, it is tough not to have someone to share the duties…(Arrgh! 2 kids, 2 years apart, bedtimes at the same time! One wants a chapter book, the other a picture book!) So I say, enjoy guilt free because at some point in the next 2 weeks you will probably feel incredibly frustrated …

  6. I am dying to know were you friends with Stephanie before? Or you knew her? The glasses icon is mildly ominous which shouldn’t make me laugh but it does.

    1. Author

      It’s from Giada at Home. If you google her chicken chili, you’ll find the recipe. I just used half kale. Also, the parmesan is non-negotiable. It isn’t good without it. With it, it’s perfect.

  7. Am I the only one who is sad when husband goes out of town? Sure, I enjoy alone time, in the form of an hour yoga class or day at the spa but by the time I get home from work all I want is to see him and baby!

  8. My husband left town for three days this morning, and I am going to enjoy every second of it! The added responsibility allows me to appreciate what he does when he is here, but it’s so nice to make decisions based solely on what sounds good to me right now. As long as you don’t spend the entire time thinking how much you prefer the single parent lifestyle (which I often do, but that’s for another post altogether), there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the freedom.

  9. I love nights when my fiancée is away, time alone on the couch to watch Pan Am, paint my nails and have a facial are times when I truly relax. This doesn’t mean you love them any less it just lets us enjoy our own company and to indulge.

  10. Wowzers. Ambitious/productive day. Keep up the good work…I especially like that you’re digging being on your own and making the most of it. You’re a real grown up lady….very good. (seriously!!)

  11. Hubby away to the city 4 days out of 8. Been 16 years now and truly cannot imagine what life would be like with a full time husband ;) Breaks GOOD!

  12. I’m 6 days from my wedding date, and nearly 4 years from the anniversary of my divorce from of my first marriage. When I read your blogs, my first reaction is that they are going to get a divorce. Right now, you are existing in your marriage, with moments of day-to-day life that feel normal, until the next moment when you are both so angry that you feel resentment, hatred ( if you’ re being honest) and a sense that the marriage is never going to work.

    I felt exactly that same way in my marriage, and I had a moment of clarity that I needed to get divorced. It was the best decision of my life. No regrets.

    Your marriage is a bit different in that you were once crazy about Phil. I barely tolerated my husband when we exchanged vows. I still remained married for 10 years because all of the other components of my life were fulfilling. Friends, career, kids filled the gaping holes of my marriage.

    There is virtually one reason marriages fail. You are the bumper sticker for this reason. Your spouse doesn’t make you feel special. However, I guarantee he isn’t feeling like he is special in your eyes.

    Affairs are considered the ultimate betrayal. Yet they aren’t about sex. They happen because someone makes them feel desired, important, and special.

    Imagine a single day passing when you didn’t express to your children how unique and special they are and how much you love them. Your husband lashing out about your focus on your kids is because he feels unappreciated. Yes, he is an adult, and should understand what you are providing to both of your kids. But adults really aren’t that different emotionally from preschoolers and he is simply jealous.

    From someone who has an amazing relationship and has learned from my bad marriage, and the bad marriage of my fiancé, make your husband feel special. Look for an opportunity each day to DO something nice for him. Expect nothing in return. Be creative in your gestures, at least as creative as the learning activities you recreate for your kids.

    Try it for a month and then examine your marriage. My hunch is the love and kindness will begin to be returned.

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