My friend, Rene Syler (in full disclosure, I write for her every week) started a discussion the other day on her Facebook page. Rene, you see, does an “Ask Rene” column periodically and this particular one centered around an issue that isn’t centrally just for women or Moms, I don’t think.
The woman writing in wanted to know what to do about the fact that she was a full-time Mom, had her own business out of the home, I believe, and her husband worked full-time, often late, and came home and wasn’t any help. That’s my thumbnail gist of the situation.
So how does this apply to me and other parents doing things alone?
Like so many of us, I don’t think we tend to have too much sympathy for the “boo-hoo” situation that this person wrote about. I have to be honest, though, when I was married . . . before my wife passed away . . . I used to have similar worries. This woman thought she was always the “heavy,” coming down as disciplinarian and Dad came home and was the nice guy. I was the opposite. I was the heavy and my wife was always caving in and giving the kids everything they wanted.
So here’s where I chimed in. I don’t have a spouse any more so I can’t in good conscience give that kind of advice, I wasn’t amazing at it when I was married.
But the lesson for me, single Dads, Moms, everyone out there can learn from the advice that was dished out.
First . . . take a break, for goodness sake. I have taken a solo trip out of town. I have gone to concerts. I have had a beer with one of my friends. Hell . . . even as a family tonight we went to a great friend’s house and had dinner and just talked for a long time.
Sometimes, without realizing it, we think the most important things are the appearances we give to people even when people aren’t around to see them. My over-compensation in the weeks after my wife passed away was to clean, rigorously, and try to make the house better than it was when my wife was around. The old “she would have wanted it this way” mentality. The problem is, what she wants doesn’t factor in any more. It didn’t factor even minutes after she died.
Reality for me was that once she was gone . . . and I mean the absolute instant she was gone . . . the decisions and choices were mine. Mine alone. This woman in the article gets to talk to her husband. She could communicate with him and ask for help or go get a spa day or jump in the car with her girlfriend and go on a violent crime spree. Whatever. I don’t get that. The work is there for me, totally, when I get back from whatever I’ve done. I don’t complain. I do the cooking, laundry, bills, all of that because they have to be done. I could sit and bemoan the situation but when I’ve finished . . . I still have dinner to cook, lunches to make, bills to pay and laundry that needs washed.
My point is simple. The daily chores will always be there. So why worry so very much about things being perfect all the time?
Some days my house is spotless and looks like you could eat off the floor. Many days it looks like a police action took place. There are, after all, five of us here.
But those days where I let it go . . . we’re at the park. We go to the movies occasionally. We’ll go for a walk. We’ll record something on video and send it to a friend. We have our own adventures in little ways.
The kids will never remember the fact the house was spotless. They will remember shooting a video or going on a trip or the fact that Dad took off on a whim to do something spectacularly brilliant or perhaps a little stupid. Putting the laundry away and vacuuming every Sunday is just life.
What happens outside those daily chores . . . that’s living!