I know I'm not the first woman to parent on her own. I know I'm not the first woman with four children to parent on her own. I know I'm not the first woman with low vision and ADHD to parent four children on her own for [only] a week.
But I know this has been a first for me. It's been a steep learning curve, and I've learned quite a bit from this exercise. So, I thought today I'd reflect on what I'd learned...
#1 I rely on The Grumpy Old Man quite a lot, and I don't mean to do stuff like take out the rubbish or even get up in the morning and get them ready for school (though, he does do that and bless his little cotton socks for it, because quite frankly homeschooling has been at the forefront of my early morning thoughts for many days now).
No, I rely on him emotionally. He's my sounding board for all the billions of thoughts that hustle for room in my brain box every day, and without that sounding board, I'm feel as if my head is crammed with stuff I just can't let go off because I haven't had a chance to talk-it-out. Yes, I have learned I'm a four year old.
#2 Sleeping on my own in a house full of kids isn't as scary as it used to be. Before this week, I was a big old scaredy cat when it came to being alone at night with the kids. Being alone in a house at night doesn't worry me - it's the being responsible for kids bit. Suddenly, having had kids, I worry that if there was an intruder, that person might get to the kids and I wouldn't be able to do much to stop it. Also, if there was a fire, could I manage to get four children out of the house safely on my own? I didn't used to be able to sleep much when the Grumpy Old Man spent nights elsewhere, but a week on my own has cured me of that!
#3 A lot of stuff doesn't change at all. My world hasn't been turned upside down per se. It's more like a slight tilt which can cause dizziness at times, but mostly I'm fairly well adjusted...
#4 Now, this may just be because I don't drive and parents doing a solo act who do drive might have a different experience, but I can't speak for them... When your child has a sore throat and it's getting dark outside and you don't have anything in the house to relieve their pain, it sucks to be a solo parent because there is simply nothing you can do about it. You're it when it comes to making sure you have everything you need.
I'm lucky in this regard, because my eldest is old enough to help out - this morning he had to run up to the servo to get milk because even though I went to the shops yesterday, I didn't get milk and so this morning we found ourselves short. Usually, there is someone to watch the kids while someone else goes and gets stuff, but when there is only one adult it pays to be psychic.
#5 Solo-parenting is a lonely business. Maybe not so much for people with a lot of people in their lives, but I've been so lonely this week I can't even begin to describe it. With four children there is always someone to talk to, but the conversations at always at their level and there is a lot children don't get or don't need to know.
#6 I still hate cooking.
#7 The house is a lot cleaner. I've always had this thing about not liking being watched while cleaning, so I'm not inclined to clean much with the Grumpy Old Man around the house most of the time. I do what is absolutely necessary, but leave the rest a lot of the time. With him gone though, I've become a little obsessed with getting this house clean. Maybe he should go away for a week more often...
#8 It is true what they say about the children of solo parents growing up faster because they take on responsibility earlier. This week I've relied on the older boys to do more. They've always been very capable and the GOM and I are not the kind of parents who molly-coddle out kids at all; they've always had responsibilities according to their capabilities. Even so, this morning I sent Erik and Luey off to school in charge of Bryn. I was always going to do it this year. They only have to walk a couple of hundred metres and cross three fairly quiet suburban roads (the one at the school is busiest but they've crossed it a million times). The only thing that was holding me back so far this year is that old saying, 'Two's company, three's a crowd' - if it was just Erik and Bryn or just Luey and Bryn it would be no issue, but sometimes the three of them together can lead to disputes and in that situation Bryn can become unreasonable. However, this morning I found myself sending them off on their own all the same because I'm not feeling 100%.
#9 Being the only person in charge evokes Murphy's Law. That power cable to the house that has been working fine for 80 years will suddenly blow up the very first day you're the only responsible adult in the house...
#10 I can parent on my own. I can deal with a crisis; such as no electricity at night and no transport or place to go which does have electricity. I can get by without another adult to share the load. I can get up every morning and get them ready for school and keep the house clean, and cook dinner every night, and answer every one of the billion questions that come out of the kids every day, and supervise homework, and organise play dates and so on and so forth. I can do it all on my own with four kids, no car, low vision and ADHD - but I'm ever so grateful that tomorrow night the Grumpy Old Man will return and share the load. I know that in the blink of an eye I could become a solo parent and that the future is never guaranteed, but I know that I sincerely hope that never happens!
My hat is off to all the parents doing it on their own out there!