My husband is away on a work trip/skiing jaunt to the States for eight days. Lucky him. So, me and the kids have been home alone since Thursday and I find myself in sole charge of three small people.
Don’t get me wrong. I am always ‘in charge’, even though it may not always appear that way from the outside. As any parent of multiple kids knows, there must never be any doubt about who rules the roost. Like hyenas, they’d devour you in the blink of an eye if you let you slip even for a moment that you are handing over the reins to the pack. Even in chilled-out, fun, holiday Mummy mode, The Wall is always there in the background for them to hit up against, should they decide to stage a coup and challenge for leadership.
That aside, it is always good to have backup, even if it is absent for the majority of the average working week. My backup is our breadwinner and he commutes to London most days so isn’t often around much to help with the morning or bedtime routines, but the help he does give makes a big difference to me, psychologically. I still feel a sense of relief when he gets home, even if the kids are already in bed: a blessed return to joint responsibility.
Daddy’s influence is strong wherever he is and the threat of “telling Daddy” has a huge impact on my eldest, who is still the kid most likely to fly into an emotional rage and give me trouble. And it isn’t the easily quashed kind of trouble I get from the little two. For all their preschool sulks and toddler tantrums, they are both pretty textbook and manageable. Also, crucially, their tempers are like fireworks that explode dramatically, then just as quickly dissipate. H has sticking power like no other kid I’ve ever come across. He still has the ability to ruin the entire day for everyone, if trouble escalates.
I never thought I’d use the “wait til your Father gets home” approach but it is surprisingly useful with our H. I have no idea why this tactic works as it isn’t as if their father is particularly strict but, in the eyes of my six year old lad, Daddy’s disapproval is devastating. After a tantrum, H practically begs me not to tell Dad, which I find rather embarrassing if we are out in public, and I’m sure we get looks of pity for having this domineering, possibly violent old man at home. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in some ways Daddy is more of a pushover than I am, but the possible disapproval is met with such dread by H that it can be a useful weapon to add to my arsenal, when dealing with my challenging lad.
The “telling Daddy” approach actually carries more weight when he is away as H has been charged with being on his best behaviour and helping me look after the little ones this week, and he knows Daddy gets updates from afar. And, of course, badly behaved boys don’t qualify for the inevitable post trip present from America.
(As an aside, my middle one, M, couldn’t give a flying rat’s arse about Daddy’s disapproval so this tactic has no impact on her at all. Luckily, she is a bright little button and still wants the present so she tows the line anyway).
I do miss my fella when he is away and eight days can feel like a long time when you have no company in the evenings. The first few nights are great and I enjoy having no competiton for the remote control and having no-cook TV dinners, but after a few days, I really miss having someone to discuss the highlights and trials of the day with over a glass of wine. Parenting can be a lonely business without my buddy to share it with.
However, this trip has happily co-incided with a week off work for me, using up my 2014 holiday before I lose it at the end of January. This means my usual two work days are completely mine and I have lots of fun, grown up things planned. My best mate and I may even squeeze in a decadent daytime cinema trip, something we’ve not managed together for the best part of a decade. And I’ve just come back from a lovely weekend away with my family and great friends. So I’m doing pretty well on the social front this week.
So, as weeks go, this one is shaping up pretty well. Discipline isn’t exactly the issue when I’m solo parenting. Neither is the workload and this time I have more social chatting time than you could shake a stick at. So why do I have a white panic moment just as the cab arrives and I wave my husband off?
I’m a pretty capable Mum these days (although that certainly wasn’t always the case) and I can juggle it all most of the time. I think the panic sets in every time he goes because there is always a pretty high chance that something unexpected and dramatic might happen, when you have three kids in the mix. The risk of that unknown factor striking is always there. An illness, a crisis, a minor family disaster. And then I might really be in trouble.
But we muddle on, as usual. And nothing disastrous has happened yet.
Plus, most importantly, all this solo parenting earns me a weekend off when my husband gets back, so I reckon it is worth the odd moment of panic. He may have jet lag but I dare say he’ll cope with his offspring for a weekend. And hopefully he won’t feel that same moment of panic as I kiss everyone goodbye and cheerfully skip out the door without a backward glance.