Gone Daddy Gone

On the second to last day of our great road trip adventure this summer, we were driving to Enderby, a small community in the Okanagan. It was a very hot summer day and we had stopped for lunch and water and running-around time. We piled back into the car and everyone closed their eyes for some sleep.

Everyone except me, because I was driving.

It was a pretty, winding road close to the lake, through canopies of heavy, green trees. I had the window rolled down and my arm hanging out, collecting its Vitamin D in advance of the rainy seasons to come.

I remember it so clearly because at the time, I felt like superwoman. I was piloting a several tonne vehicle down a highway, a vehicle that was filled with my entire world. I felt incredibly responsible and in awe of the trust they put in me that would let them sleep while I drove.

It’s a compelling thought, that of giving yourself to sleep and so, to the person in charge of the car. It was like having a baby fall asleep on my shoulder.

It was also so incredibly, blessedly silent for that 45 minutes. I smiled the whole way.

I am now piloting a different ship; the home ship. Saint Aardvark is gone for 10 days (actually you have to say it like this: TEN DAYS?!) and I totally support him going and developing in a career-like fashion, he is, after all, the Uber and the Leet, and the bread and bacon winner of the household, but the airy hand-wave of “of *course* you should go” that I did in March is quite different from the frantic hand-flap of two days before he leaves: “oh god what am I going to DO.”

I did it last year, too. The first thing I thought, last year, was, how do single parents do it? Then, I thought about it some more and realized what an insult that is, to imply that what I am doing is at all comparable to what a single parent does.

I am not doing what single parents are doing. I am not also working outside the home to pay for my mortgage, phone bills, groceries, and clothes. I am not completely fucking exhausted because I am doing two jobs, at least one of which requires me to be present, emotionally. I am not completely responsible for everyone in the house, even when I can’t move a muscle because I have already worked a full 8 hours plus commuting plus daycare pick up and drop off plus dinner plus plus plus.

Just as Motherhood is not, I submit, the Hardest Job in the World (executioner? army general? Toys R Us employee on Boxing Day?), a person who is looking after her kids without a partner for 10 days has no idea what it is like to be a single parent.

Case in point: when my partner goes away, I pretend I am on holiday. I don’t go out of my way to make supper, let alone have it ready for when he gets home.* I don’t bathe the children every night. I use the same plate over and over and over again. I save a lot of money – on dishwasher detergent / water, on coffee definitely, and because I don’t have to grocery shop for four people with a varied, interesting diet. I only have to shop for me because the kids will happily eat noodles and butter and peanut butter sandwiches and apples until they resemble those items – and we already have all of those things.

* I am compelled to add here that I am under no obligation to “have supper ready for when he gets home,” which reads like a phrase from a ’50s magazine article, thus offending my eyes, but if we don’t eat at 6:00 when he gets home, then we eat at 8:00 after the kids are in bed and that cuts into our valuable drinking time.

I get the bed to myself.

I get to watch horrible shows on The Learning Channel (for learning!) without having to justify myself.

And I can enjoy all of this freedom (and with it, endure the ache of missing him) because I know that in ten days (TEN DAYS!?) – fates willing there is no train derailment or earthquake – it will end and my love will return and I will be glad to make him food he enjoys eating and let him steal the covers. I have that privilege and security.

Until then, though, I might just eat mozzarella sticks and not change my underwear.

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