"It’s that time of the year! I’m a single parent again!” I winced as my girlfriend mumbled, “Must be nice.” It was supposed to be an innocent trip to the park with a friend who was newly separated. Time for us to talk while our kids played. That single comment from a fellow coach's wife, meant to be funny, crushed my friend as the reality around her sharpened. Her single parenting days didn’t end in a few months.
As awkward as that moment was, it was a reality check. Even though the season severely limits my husband’s time with our children, I am not a single parent. My friend reminded me it is worth the extra work to include Ordell in as many parenting decisions as possible even in the height of the craziest seasons.
Be honest for a minute here. Without dredging up hard feelings, think about some of the stress points of the season. I’m guessing one of your recent moments where you wanted to pull your hair out involved your sweet coach not helping with the kids. Maybe you had to ask for him to change a diaper while you were cooking when you would have preferred he just realized the baby needed a new diaper?
What about that extra middle of the night shift you had to take because coach slept through the crying again? That moment where you're hauling the kids through the grocery store at nap time because there's just not enough time for everything? Oh, I’ve been there and it’s not fun. You are understandably exhausted as it is, and the season amplifies the stress and loneliness of the amount of time we are alone with the kids.
Those times I find myself wanting to climb into the grocery cart and cry alongside my kiddos instead of disciplining them once again ... I know part of the frustration I’m feeling is from the burden of being in the moment alone. But here’s the thing, at some point later that night Coach will come home, and I have a choice. I can tell him about the day or keep things to myself.
There are many moments through the year that regardless of how much our Coach would prefer to be by our side, it’s just not realistic. And while my instinct might be to plow through alone, I have two choices. I can do what’s easiest at the moment or take the extra steps to talk through the day and the present kid situation with my husband and try to parent together.
It’s a choice that requires extra time and effort, but my husband is not a babysitter. I don’t want him to sit back and avoid parenting until I’m half-crazy and can’t handle things alone. I want my husband to engage with our family every chance he can.
Why do we write him off altogether by embracing the title and the mindset of a temporary single parent? My simple answer is because it seems easier.
When I’m the only decision maker, I get to run things my way. I establish the bedtime routine, decide when we come and go, and determine what activities will or won’t make it on the calendar. The best part is that no one is there to question me.
But there is another side to the story.
As the sole decision maker, I don’t have the benefit of bouncing ideas off someone one else. Bedtime routines are great, but isn’t it bliss to pass the baton a few nights a week? And while it’s great to be able to keep your calendar as full or empty as you prefer, it’s possible your child will thrive in something you are entirely unfamiliar with because it turns out it’s your husband’s favorite childhood activity.
When my sons do something I don’t understand, my husband often nods or laughs because he remembers doing something similar as a child. These moments always remind me our boys are just as much his DNA as mine, and they thrive when parented by both of us.
I know it takes extra time and effort to keep your coach in the loop, and let’s face it, he may not always be listening with rapt attention. But the more engaged he is during the busiest time of the year the easier it is for him to re-engage when those glorious weeks post season arrive.
And that brings me to my final reason I avoid claiming the title single parent. It’s unreasonable to ask my husband to pick up the responsibility of parenting when I see fit. It’s not a light switch either of us can turn on and off, because regardless of the day, we are both parents.